8 key customer feedback points every game developer must consider
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
Research and yet more research is what gaming production houses are conducting whenever developing a new feature or a whole new product. Player feedback is what their research is based on as they try to minimize their risk of investing time and money in the game as well as secure their new product’s success. How video games are developed usually involves three main phases, and customer feedback is key for each and every one of them.
The three phases of game development
In phase one, the pre-production, the game’s concept is being developed, answering such questions as what’s the game all about and who are its target audience. There are discussions regarding which platform the game will appear on, is there a market for it, and whether to release it as totally-free or to include in it some monetization. There are initial story synopsis and character development work as well as first designs of characters and scenery. Last but not least is the time, budget, and personnel concerns required to produce the game.
Deciding on all of the above leads a company into phase two, the production of the game. Assuming that the game has passed the initial general prototype testing, it moves into a “first playable” mini-phase when the “look and feel” of the game is further developed. Then a “vertical slice” is developed, referring to a few minutes of the game running. Such a “mini-episode” is intended for pitching it to studios and/or investors. This is similar to producing a television series pilot episode.
Once the “vertical slice” has received approval, the production team moves into the “pre-Alpha” content development mini-stage. The majority of content decisions take place here, as characters or even story arcs are further developed but may also change. Then comes “Alpha” and the announcement that the game is “feature complete”, meaning gamers can play it from beginning to end. Changes may still take place but the game is fully functional including all QA checkups. Following “Alpha” is “Beta”, which means the game’s content and assets are fully integrated. Changes and optimizations are still possible but, if the game is a success, would probably be kept to a minimum. Finally, “Gold master” declares that the game is complete and ready for publication.
For phase three, there are team members taking care of fixing bugs while others may be preparing some game bonus features or some other additional content. Other considerations by the company behind the game would be to measure its success and to decide whether to produce more features for it or even a sequel. This is the “looking back” or “post-mortem” phase where conclusions are made about every aspect of the game.
The eight key customer feedback points to consider for every game developer
Every aspect of the game, in each of the three phases, is bound to be reviewed and criticized, as gamers start to play it and then discuss their experience all over the open web. Ultimately, such factors as how many times a game has been downloaded as well as its “gaming stickiness” factor serves as the bottom-line, but customer feedback is key for all improvements and future productions. There are things gamers love to complain about and once the production company collects their feedback, it can better plan on how to fix and improve the game. It’s key to understand the following key points as they are relevant for each of the three phases mentioned above.
1. Content: this covers every aspect of the storyline and characters. Players react to just how interesting the plot is and if the animated action figures are relatable and likable. Then there is the attractiveness of the story and the obstacles in each of the game stages. Gamers would converse also on the difficulty level of certain stages and their opinions fall into this category but may also be related to design issues (see comment #2). In addition, dialogue is being judged and players may find some or all of it boring. Content also covers the essence of the challenges, although this may have more to do with the design. Finally, there is the “fun and humor” factor which is determined by the script. Even within the more violent video games, fans and players may look for some degree of humor, so the writers and the developers must not forget that.
2. Design: all graphic features, including scenery, how the characters look, the way the challenges are featured, and how movements and actions are portrayed, are up for the players to like, feel indifferent about, or hate.
3. Technical issues: buggy areas or levels are on the line here. The game must move as smoothly as possible with no faults and no characters getting stuck. A lot has to do with the rendering (the creation of a picture from a model thanks to computer software, or the computer graphics flow).
4. Costs: while this type of feedback may be related to the marketing and executive territories, a lot relies on the development of the game and the brand, and what is the company’s strategy behind it. A highly sophisticated game with lavish graphics and designs may be priced in the high figures and maybe in line with offering it to a more sophisticated crowd. Then there are the competition considerations which, simply put, relate to how a company positions its product against the games of its rivals. So the pricing of the game would also signify how it is being marketed and what spot on the gaming huge map the game tries to capture.
5. Downloadable content: otherwise known in the gaming industry as (its short name) DLC, this refers to the monetization of extra features to an already existing game. Negative conversations from gamers not only refer to the actual extra payments they need to make to purchase those “extras”, but also to the fact that if one player has purchased those and the other one hasn’t, they may be able to play against each other anymore and complete their competition. Sometimes players complain that some of the new features that cost extra are only “cosmetic changes” and do not affect the entire game, but they feel pressured to own every aspect of the game and therefore feel compelled to shell out the additional payment.
6. Annual sequels: the release of a sequel to a successful game, on an annual basis, is a “dream come true” for its publisher but may be a costly proposition for the gamers themselves. Every publisher dreams of having its game turn into a “cash cow” and a steady profit-maker but for gamers, having to purchase a new version of their favorite game every year, sometimes with very little changes from the previous year, or even worse when likable characters have changed or even disappeared, serves as a ground for complaints. In other cases, games may stagnate even when having new annual versions, since the market never rests and players are always looking for hot new games. So sequels present some interesting issues to ponder about for both the publishers and the gamers.
7. Console exclusives: an Xbox hit game (Street Fighter 5) and a PS hit game (Rise of the tomb raider) are enjoyed by millions of players worldwide. The only problem here is that they are exclusive to their respective platforms. Players who purchased Xbox usually do not also own PlayStation and vice versa, so these two worlds run apart. Fortunately, some games do enter their rival consoles at a later date, which minimizes the issue somewhat, but when a new and exciting game hits the market, the player is lucky to start enjoying it only if he already owns its platform.
8 Pre-order bonuses: publishers try to tempt players to pre-order new games by offering them bonuses. However, experienced players tend to wait out such temptations in order to find out how well these new games were received by the ones that did buy them. But publishers continue with such practice because competition is getting tougher by the day and they want to ensure that as many players purchase their games as early as possible, and of course, prefer them over their competitors’ offers.
The actionable insights for game publishers as delivered back on by Affogata
Affogata makes the key connection between players and publishers via its product enablement platform. The platform delivers a comprehensive and real-time collection and analysis of players’ conversations from all over the open web and directly affects publishers' decisions since they analyze the customer intel for actionable insights.
How customer feedback complements measurement of gaming stickiness relates to what players are saying regarding the different aspects of the games they are playing and how they converse about their experience using them. They may give feedback on each and every related topic such as content, design, pricing, overall usage, and their “stickiness” to the game, among other things. And as the gaming industry booms, so does its customer feedback, as millions of touchpoints for players need collection and analysis, such as from specific review boards and game forums.
Players, in fact, are key in all of the three phases of the game development and may impact heavily already in the initial pre-development phase with comments and remarks about characters, challenges, and designs. The relationship between players and publishers continues full steam ahead in the development phase, as the game already runs in full, and collection and analysis of customer feedback are done by Affogata and gives the publishers insights about the ins and outs of the product usage. Finally, the post-launch and post-mortem arrive and complete the customer feedback cycle for the new game.
Understanding customer feedback in each of the three-game development phases reduces problematic areas and issues and brings new games closer and more accurately to their customers. Customers impact games every step of the way as they look to maximize their game satisfaction and value.