- Damien Yoccoz
A Guide to DIY Market Research for Indie Game Devs
Ah, market research. Just seeing those words probably sent shivers down your spine. Market research for indie game devs is often your worst nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be!
There are plenty of free resources available online for indie studios that can’t afford to hire a professional market research team and need some DIY guidance. Follow the guide!
1 - The role of market research for indie game developers
2 - What market research tells you about your localization needs
3 - DIY market research strategies for indie devs
4 - Free resources for video game market research
The crucial role of market research for indie game developers
If you’re still unsure of what defines market research, it can be summed up as a compilation of data about games, trends, player interests, and forecasts for the industry. It’s basically everything you need to ensure you’re making the right game for the right people at the right time.
As an indie game developer, your best route to success in this increasingly saturated market is to find a niche audience and then leverage this niche.
It’s no longer good enough to make a great game that just anyone will like and then launch it in the hope that it will make waves.
Does a market opportunity currently exist for the game you want to make? And how can you leverage this opportunity? If an opportunity does indeed exist, you need to know the size of your potential audience and understand what they’re interested in.
That’s what market research is for.
Doing market research mitigates the risk that’s often associated with indie game development and allows you to identify the needs of your audience - so that you can deliver the kickass game that they crave.
It takes the guesswork out of figuring out the unique selling point of your game.
Plus, if you’re looking for funding, as Robert DellaFave explains in his guide to funding indie games, you’ll most likely need a market analysis just to be considered.
But most importantly, market research is the most reliable source of insight for your localization needs. And when starting a new indie game project, you should always have localization in mind.
What market research tells you about your localization needs
Your game’s localization should be carefully planned - don’t just localize in a certain language because you feel like it’s a good idea!
First off, market research will help you figure out where in the world your audience is located. Do the players from these areas prioritize localization in the games they play?
For instance, Brazilian players list localization as the 4th most important criteria when shopping for their next game. This means that if your key audience is in Brazil, you’ll probably need to localize for Brazilian Portuguese.
Source: Pesquisa Game Brasil 2016
Secondly, you need to know the English level of your players. If this level is low, they probably won’t buy your game unless it’s localized in their language. And if they do end up buying your game, this could result in negative reviews.
You should also note that not all languages have the same localization costs. Let’s take Scandinavian languages as an example - they’re quite expensive to localize, which means you should be 100% sure you have a large audience in these countries before planning to localize.
This is especially important when you consider that the Scandinavian market is relatively small and that English proficiency is generally excellent.
Source: English Proficiency Index 2018
As another example, consider the Japanese market, which is much bigger than the Scandinavian market.
Even considering the relatively low English proficiency and huge audience available in Japan, the language is relatively expensive for localization, so your market research should help you work out whether your game meets the Japanese gamers’ preferences or not.
By figuring out all these key facts, you’ll know which languages you should include in your localization plan. Proper market research helps you plan out localization in advance and establish an accurate budget.
Market research strategies for indie game developers
Now that we’re pretty clear on the importance of market research, how do we get started?
Here’s what we’ve found to be the most helpful for indie devs.
1. Find out where your community hangs out online
Most gaming niches have vibrant online communities. Do some research and find out where your chosen community hangs out.
Reddit is a good resource for this. With endless sub-reddit forums available for discussion, there are all sorts of nooks and crannies to help interact with your potential community.
Once you’ve found out where this community hangs out, get to know them! Spend some time reading through forum comments and get to know their style. What features do they like in a game? What don’t they like?
Often, you’ll see passionate community members discussing the drawbacks of certain features of a game they would otherwise enjoy. These discussions provide you with valuable insights into what your market does - and doesn't - want.
2. Poke the forums
Of course, you won’t necessarily be able to find out everything you need to know by reading what’s already on the forums.
Asking open-ended questions on these forums will help you gain a sense of your community’s opinion(s).
For instance, you could ask them what they would improve in their favorite game, or what localization options they feel are missing from other games in this niche.
3. Read through the Community Hub on Steam
The forums found in the Community Hub section for Steam games are an excellent source of market data - especially considering those forums are chock-full of early access games! This means you can look through Steam to find games that share some points in common with yours, and browse through the community discussions to view feedback quite early on in the development process.
Most online forums harbor discussions surrounding games that have already been released. This is what sets apart the Community Hub on Steam.
Be sure to check out game reviews as well - they can tell you a lot about what elements of a game work or don’t work for a particular set of players.
4. Send surveys
What better way to find out specific information than to send surveys?
There are plenty of free tools available, like SurveyMonkey and Google Forms. Surveys can provide you with both qualitative and quantitative data to help you analyze your market.