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Guitar Zero

Marketing questions for industry professionals

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Guitar Zero    122
edit: **Sorry about not being clearer, my questions are not game development related, but can probably be answered accurately by anyone who has worked or is working in the video game industry.** Hello, my name is Matt, and I am in dire need of some advice from people in the video game biz. I just graduated from North Texas with a degree in psychology with a focus in industrial/organizational psych and a minor in marketing. My interests lie in consumer psychology. I am also an avid gamer, and I have known for quite a while that I will never really be content with my career unless it involves video games in some way. That said, I have tried programming and have tried graphic design, and my talents don't really fit those fields. I am much better at compiling and analyzing statistical data, and would like to make a career of it. So here is the meat and potatoes of what I am trying to figure out- I am thinking about starting a sort of marketing firm that runs focus groups aimed specifically at gamers, and caters to the video game industry. I know many studios have their own in-house QA testing teams that do the same sort of thing. I am wondering if there is actually a market for such a 3rd party service, and if so, how big it might be. Would a studio consider outsourcing projects like this? Do you think a studio would invest in market research to add to their own in-house efforts? I'm just looking to pick some brains, and decide whether or not it would be a good path. Any advice, opinions, or feedback would be much appreciated! [Edited by - Guitar Zero on July 8, 2007 10:47:13 AM]

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Tom Sloper    16040
Matt wrote:
>I am thinking about starting a sort of marketing firm that runs focus groups aimed specifically at gamers, and caters to the video game industry.

In Denton?

>I know many studios have their own in-house QA testing teams that do the same sort of thing.

No. Their marketing people do that. QA does not run focus groups. What a bizarre thought.

>I am wondering if there is actually a market for such a 3rd party service,

Sure.

>and if so, how big it might be.

No idea.

>Would a studio consider outsourcing projects like this?

They do it all the time.

>Do you think a studio would invest in market research to add to their own in-house efforts?

No. It's publishers who do market research.

>I'm just looking to pick some brains, and decide whether or not it would be a good path.

Can't tell you if it would be a good path or not. If you want to do it, maybe you ought to start by working at some game companies' marketing departments, or for some firms that do focus group research, to get your feet wet, before starting your own firm.

Question for you - why did you entitle your marketing post "looking for game dev pearls of wisdom"? The post isn't about game development at all. A bit misleading, don't you think? Or is that just good marketing practice? :rolleyes:
Tom

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Guitar Zero    122
Quote:
Original post by Obscure
I think there are several companies out there offering marketing data, stats analysis etc.
Strange Agency is just one http://www.strange-agency.com/


Thanks for the link, thats a really impressive program.

Quote:
Original post by tsloper
Matt wrote:
>I am thinking about starting a sort of marketing firm that runs focus groups aimed specifically at gamers, and caters to the video game industry.

In Denton?


Well, yes and no, Dallas/Fort Worth area (which Denton is a part of)or perhaps Austin would be the starting locale.


Quote:
Original post by tsloper
Question for you - why did you entitle your marketing post "looking for game dev pearls of wisdom"? The post isn't about game development at all. A bit misleading, don't you think?
Tom


Yea, sorry about this. What I was trying to ask was do studios ever release a piece of a project, like say something that isnt even to the beta phase yet, to a 3rd party group that would do focus groups and compile information that the studio could then feed back into the development pipeline? Or is the majority of the market research in this industry done towards the end of the game's development.

My original thought was "what if we got a piece of someone's game, grabbed a sample of a population of US gamers- probably a few hundred or so, have each one play through it, pay them a couple bucks, sit them in front of a camera (or in a group in front of a camera) and let them tell the devs what they would like to see, or more importantly what the devs could add, change, or take away to make them interested in buying said game. All this as opposed to doing marketing research to see where advertising dollars should be spent after the game has already entered beta testing, does that make sense?

Theoretically, if random sampling were possible for this sort of study, then you could take the suggestions and opinions that are repeated the most during interviews, and put them on a scale, and then the devs would see exactly what they could do to their game to increase sales come launch time. Of course random sampling isnt possible, but the results would still have some statistical significance.

The reason I pose this question to game developers is because I don't know enough about the game creation process to know if this sort of strategy would be possible, cost-effective, or even desired. I know if I were leading a team of game developers I'd be like "screw the polls, lets make it this way", but for some studios, especially smaller inexperienced ones, it may be quite useful.

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therealremi    110
I don't want to discourage you in any way but from my experience I know that developers pretty much know what feature would make the game more appealing, playable, beautiful etc. but they operate in an environment full of constraints (time, money, talents etc.) and they constantly have to sacrifice ideas.

Also think about the target audience and the polling sample. E.g. if you showed to people a game like IL2 Sturmovik, which is a very difficult, realistic flight sim I bet most would tell you that this game s**ks and they would like it to be more fun, easy, less realistic. But should the developer listen to their opinion? No! The target audience for their game is very small but at least they have virtually no competitors in this segment and can still earn lots of cash. But you probably know that already:)

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Palidine    1315
Quote:
Original post by Guitar Zero
Yea, sorry about this. What I was trying to ask was do studios ever release a piece of a project, like say something that isnt even to the beta phase yet, to a 3rd party group that would do focus groups and compile information that the studio could then feed back into the development pipeline? Or is the majority of the market research in this industry done towards the end of the game's development.


Yes they do it all the time. It's called "focus testing" and it's handled both internally and externally. The external testing is seen as necessary to ensure unbiased results.

We typically do it near the start of first production and far enough before alpha that there it time to react to feedback. After that we run focus testing every week (90% of that internal).

So the short answer to this whole thread is: Yes people do it. Yes it's an established industry. The latter suggests that unless you have contacts internal to the industry you're probably better off joining up with one of those firms than starting your own (it's hard to break in to an industry that you don't fully understand and which requires a network of contacts to be successful)

[EDIT: I should note that the firms which provide focus testing do not restrict themselves to games (the insustry's need for this service isn't enough to support a business). They do focus testing for all kinds of software (some firms don't even restrict themselves to software). Their skill is gathering objective feedback; that's not a video game specific skill set.]

[EDIT2: just as a response to the above poster: Not looking outside your team for feedback is pretty naive. When you are close to a thing you are often ignorant of otherwise obvious problems. Focus testing is also amazing for situations in which a lot of the team is against a feature but the core team loves it. When the focus test says "this feature blows", often it can provide the pressure necessary to make the core team aware that the problem actually exists and isn't just political infighting.]

-me

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Guitar Zero    122
Quote:
Original post by Palidine
Yes they do it all the time. It's called "focus testing" and it's handled both internally and externally. The external testing is seen as necessary to ensure unbiased results.


Thanks for this informative post. I feel like I have a much better understanding of what to look for now. I will look into companies that do focus testing and see what my options are. External focus testing would be a fine profession, but my dream job would be an internal focus testing position. I would assume that that job is carried out by game developers, or people higher up on the ladder of production teams. Who knows...maybe I'll look into one of those game design trade schools.


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Tom Sloper    16040
Quote:
Original post by Guitar Zero
I will look into companies that do focus testing and see what my options are. External focus testing would be a fine profession, but my dream job would be an internal focus testing position. I would assume that that job is carried out by game developers...

Then you need to learn how the industry works. DEVELOPERS don't do this sort of thing - that is a task normally done by PUBLISHERS. See the Game Biz Glossary (FAQ 28) at http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson28.htm
Just get a marketing degree, then apply to game PUBLISHERS for jobs in marketing. You'll eventually find a way to do the thing you're trying to do.

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