Some game developers have the mindset of creating their game precisely in their own creative vision, and not that of anyone else. This is fine, whatever works to get the game shipped. The problem, however, is that some of these developers also believe that said game is a good fit for the market, and that these players should play and support it. Unfortunately, this won’t always be the case. If you want to create a game for the player, you have to first define what type of player you mean and determine what they would want from the game genre as a whole. You must learn as much as possible about your target audience, and find out exactly what they’re looking for in a game. Otherwise, you’re leaving a lot of your success to pure chance.
If you plan to make your game and sell it, and start production before conducting any market research, including the basic “ask the players what they want” type, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. This means that the game is being made for yourself and anyone close to you such as friends or your development team. When you do this, you’re simply winging it and hoping that other people like it enough to buy it. That’s awesome, and I hope that they do! Unfortunately, though, this is unlikely to bring in consistent revenue to pay for the living expenses of you and your development team. It’s a shot in the dark. You might have the perfect combination of talent and luck to hit the target in a dark room, but your odds are much worse than if the light had been on.
Allow me to be a bit cheeky but sincere. If you want to fix that, you have to conduct market research or extrapolate from someone else’s. This should be done often. Conduct it during pre-production to make sure there are people who would actually buy your game, and determine who those people are. Don’t make too many assumptions — make sure to back up the claim with data, then continue to conduct research while creating the various sections of your game such as game mechanics, characters, and the art.
If you aren’t confirming that your audience actually wants the game you’re making, you can’t reasonably go into it fully expecting to succeed. Basing your development decisions on data doesn’t mean that your game “true to you,” or your style. The choices you are giving your fans during the development process should be well within your creative vision, and as a result, your style. You are just listening to what choices your audience deems most appropriate and creating those; this doesn’t mean you couldn’t have went the other route. As a result, you should never test an option you would hate to put in your game. Therein lies the artistic integrity in for-profit art.
Our perspective of our own art is colored by a lifetime of experiences, past projects, and very obvious bias in one way or another. In an industry where development costs can hit six-figures and beyond, you cannot afford to leave anything to luck. The people who love your game as a result of your willingness to listen to their input will appreciate the effort you put in to make a title that is truly for the players, and this helps pave the pass to true success for your indie game. Building a loyal community is a strong benefit to a company, particularly in providing a buffer for mistakes. Build that community, and design a game with a focus on prioritizing your ideal playerbase.
Important Takeaways: A lot of times game developers will design a game for themselves and the people close to them. Unfortunately, this also means that the game is not truly for the players, and its success is left up to luck. If you ever plan on selling your game, make sure you’re conducting market research and guaranteeing that there is an audience for your game. Starting the production on a game without doing market research is like throwing a dart at a dartboard in the dark; you might hit it or you might not, but your chances are much worse than if the light had been on regardless.
Do market research consistently throughout development and make sure that the players have a voice in some critical decisions in your development cycle; this will build up a loyal fanbase that appreciates your willingness to listen, and in turn you’re much more likely to build a successful game due to it being for the players. Do this consistently and you’ll build a loyal community that will forgive the occasional mistake as long as you fix it; if you don’t have a loyal community, a single mistake or two can ruin your game’s reputation permanently — even if it gets fixed later the damage will have already been done.