Video Game Market Research: How to Get Insights for Console, PC, and Mobile

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To reach your audience, you need to understand who they are and why they play.

As of 2021, the video game industry is an $85 billion dollar business in the United States alone. Consoles like the Xbox Series, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch are flying off shelves, and gaming PC components are constantly out of stock. Meanwhile, mobile games make up more than half of all total gaming revenue worldwide. It’s a great time for gamers, but for publishers and developers, capturing market attention has never been harder.

To truly connect with gamers, you first have to understand them. That’s why video game market research is so critical in this industry: Without an understanding of what people are playing and why, your marketing efforts may not ever reach the right audience.

In this post, we’ll cover why video game market research is necessary to rise above the noise in an increasingly competitive industry and how to make sure it’s done right. Here’s what you can expect to learn:

  • How to segment the gaming population and hone in on your ideal players
  • A better understanding of the PC, console, and mobile market research ecosystem
  • The best ways to get player feedback

Let’s dive in!

Step 1: Segmentation

Segmentation is often one of the first steps in any marketing strategy, so it’s probably not surprising to see it here. However, on top of the traditional segmentations you might use — geographical location, age, gender, and so on — video game market research requires industry-specific considerations.

Here are a few ways to think about video game segmentation:

  • Platform: Where can people find, buy, and play your game? On which consoles will it be available? Is it on PC or mobile?
  • Genre: Is your game an RPG? Strategy? Puzzle? You need to be able to define its genre and look at insights from comparable games to get an idea of where yours fits in.
  • Size of publisher: If you’re a growing studio with a small team, you’re going to have different priorities, resources, and expectations than multi-billion-dollar companies. That doesn’t mean you can’t dream big, but you must be realistic about your goals. From AAA publishers to tiny indies, there’s a place for everyone; you just have to find it.
  • Type of player: Are you hoping to appeal to a “hardcore” audience that plays for hours at a time and spends thousands on games every year? Or is your catalog more focused on casual and social experiences, often meant to be played in short bursts?
  • Monetization model: Monetization is always relevant, but the way video games make money is rapidly changing — and so are player expectations. Subscriptions, games as a service, play-to-earn, and free-to-play titles coexist alongside those with a standard “pay once and play” monetization model, so you need to figure out what makes sense for you.

Step 2: Compile data from similar games

Segmenting your audience will make it easier to compare your game to existing games to see how they’re performing both critically and commercially. Look at review scores on aggregate websites like Metacritic for an overview of the top critics’ opinions. User reviews from Steam or app stores can also be useful; you may find common issues or themes from regular players.

Naturally, sales data is very important, but it can be harder to find an accurate picture. SteamSpy and NPD can help fill in the blanks for PC and console games, but you should also look for confirmations directly from the publisher, whether that’s in the form of a press release, blog post, or news report. Sensor Tower is a terrific resource for a high-level look at mobile sales data, but going deeper requires a membership. Newzoo bills itself as “the world’s most trusted and quoted source for games market insights and analytics,” and its extensive resources include infographics, trend reports, and more. App Annie is also useful for mobile games research; check out the reports on market data and mobile trends. To get an accurate picture of game sales, you’ll likely have to compile information from several different sources.

Finally, track social media sentiment to see ongoing conversations about what players think about games. Twitter is a great place to start, and Reddit can also help with sentiment analysis, as many games have their own dedicated subreddits. You can also explore subreddits by game genre and get an idea of what fans want to see (and what they’re tired of seeing).

Step 3: Ask the right questions

If you really want to know what your target demographic thinks about games, just ask them! Running surveys allows you to collect first-party response data to complement your third-party marketing data. There are several ways to go about doing this; you can use Twitter’s built-in functionality to appeal to your followers, direct people to an external survey site that lets you ask even more questions, or even insert them directly into ads.

The mobile ecosystem is particularly helpful for survey projects. The rewarded virtual currency model turns a survey request into a value exchange in which users are incentivized to give more thorough, honest, and useful responses. Using rewarded surveys in games is the quickest way to get high-quality gaming insights directly from players.
At Tapjoy, “market research video games” is embedded in our lexicon. Our own market research solution, MobileVoice®, uses a mobile-first rewarded survey model with a global panel. The result: Authentic insights that are critical in conducting mobile game market research in an easy-to-integrate format. To learn more about how MobileVoice® can help with video game market research, set up a free consultation!

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