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Finding Your Game’s Audience

You’re far enough into development to start marketing your game fully- great! …But who are you going to market it to?

Sometimes when people are sad that a game didn’t do well, they mention “it was marketed well”, yet it didn’t do good. The sad truth is, more often than not if a game doesn’t do well, it actually wasn’t marketed well. Marketing frequently is a good start- but if you don’t know who to market to, then you’ll force yourself to do way more marketing just to make up.​So, who do you market to? How do you figure out your audience that will buy your game?

1. Who will play your game?

This is a seemingly basic question but is actually a difficult and precise question, and in order to market efficiently, you must answer it as best you can. The answer shouldn’t be something generic such as “teenagers” or “visual novel fans”- instead, it should be rather detailed so you know where best to spend your time marketing. Because this answer varies wildly per game, let’s go over some examples with made-up games as well as some of mine own towards the end.
Sherlock Holmes – Finding the Clues
Description: A woman finds herself in London on a work trip when she uncovers the beginnings of a mystery. This is a point and click hidden objects game, with semi-realistic art.

So, in our first example we have a point and click hidden objects game. Let’s think about the typical playerbase for these types of games- they’re usually middle aged women. A female protagonist, semi-realistic art, all of these are further bonus points for this playerbase as that’s what the typical game type that this playerbase plays has.

Rocket Rapid Relay
Description: A multiplayer fast-paced action racing game with a stylized art style.

For our second example we have a racing game with an interesting style, but with a catch- it’s multiplayer. On this fact alone, your fanbase will consist of mostly multiplayer fans of racing games. The mood will help narrow down the age group- if it’s more corny with low realistic violence, kids can be the target market; if it’s more crude, adult humor with higher amounts of realistic violence, adults can be the target market.

With made-up game examples we can only get so far, so now I’ll delve into two of my own games and how I figured out the audience for each.

That Which Binds Us
Description: A young woman down on her luck meets a man who can change it all. It’s a romance & modern fantasy visual novel with an anime semi-realistic art style.

At first, I thought my target audience was otome fans and called it a day. That was easy! …No, it’s not that easy, because my audience wasn’t otome fans. Otome fans are used to anime styled dating sims with multiple love interests- that wasn’t my game. Mine only has one love interest and isn’t fully anime style, so just targeting otome fans wasn’t the approach I should have taken. Instead, I should have targeted visual novel fans who like GxB romance with a solid story. This shifts my audience into more of a ven diagram- some otome fans are still targeted but now I’m targeting many other people.

I Saw Him Today
Description: A short kinetic novel (a visual novel without choices) about dealing with the after affects of suicide.

With this game I was able to get creative with my marketing (and I would have been able to get much more creative had I put in choices, but I did not as a narrative design choice). I didn’t tell the story in a typical VN format as there’s no sprites and only CGs, so I could mask it as a “”full game”” easier (and again, I would have had an even easier time doing so if there were choices in it). I marketed it more as an “emotional experience” which suddenly sounds more interesting to a lot of more typical gamers than “sad visual novel”.

2. How do I know who will play my game?

Alright, let’s say you read through those examples above but you still don’t understand how to find your target market. Never fear, this editorial isn’t done yet! There are a couple more ways to figure out who to market to.
1. Find games similar to yours.
This is probably one of the easier ways to find a market for your game- find games similar to yours and see who’s playing them. For That Which Binds Us, I looked around for people who played more indie otomes rather than just Japanese otomes, as most JP otomes have multiple love interests and thus wouldn’t quite be my target market. This is also a great research tool for finding reviewers for your games- find people who have played and liked games similar to yours and bam.

2. Look around in your genre.
Hopefully if you’re far enough into development that you’re ready to start fully marketing you’re also in a few dev circles for your genre- in that case, ask and look around. This is similar to the above step but less detailed and works if you really can’t figure out any games similar to yours.

And that’s about it! Marketing to the right audience helps relieve a lot of stress caused by throwing a lot of marketing out there and hoping it stick, since the more niche your game is the less effective that will be. However, finding your right niche fanbase will not only help your current game but will help your games in the future and make marketing easier.

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