Alex Birlo on April 13, 2019
This time around I would like to share a hypothesis with you “Gamers are some of the most conscious customers in the world”. It struck me not long ago when I was trying to explain to someone – who is not a gamer – how gamers are different from customers in other industries. Why should gamers be treated any different, how do they respond to being deceived and how educated are their buying habits.
First, why should gamers be treated any different than other industries’ customers? Let us begin with the bottom line, in every industry there is marketing, every time marketers are positioning a product they use psychological and behavioral classification to identify target audience and thus specify to what sort of imaging, to what sort of desires and preferences to appeal. These classification methods are differing from company to company, from product to product and their respective customers. So it is safe to assume that the videogame industry has some classification of its own, it is correct and most classification methods in the industry are probably – in one way or another – rooted in the very first and basic on called “Bartle taxonomy of player types”.
Richard Allan Bartle is a British writer, professor, and game designer, who was one of the first to study video games with the seriousness and at the scale of proper science. He was one of the authors of the “MUD1”, which was one the first ever Multi-User Dungeons. It was a text-based dungeon game for multiple users. And so Bartle began studying – among many other things – also the psychology of how players interact with each other in the game. It was and is relevant because if you break it down all multiplayer games are artificial universes, platforms for user interactions which are accompanied by various gameplay elements. As I later found this classification also applies to single-player games which are about the psychology of the player interacting with the environment of the video game.
The classification breaks the behavior of each player into varying combinations of behavior patterns spread across four psychotypes: Killers, Achievers, Socializers, and explorers with conscious and subconscious levels. More on each type in maybe a future article.
But this brings us to the understanding of the first difference that sets gamers apart from other consumers in other industries. Those psychotypes actually represent the desires and behaviors of individuals in an artificial universe where they can do anything they want – well, almost – and will not be harmed fiscally. As in an example of your character being prosecuted for robbing a bank in game, but not ‘you’ the player behind the controls. Video games are a playground for imagination and dreams which are impossible in reality. And thus, in comparison to other industries, marketing for video games has to appeal to those desires and preferences hidden in the virtual world that the gamers engage in and not so much the ones they exhibit when they participate in mundane, everyday activities.
Next, how do gamers react to being deceived, is it any different than similar situations regarding other products in other industries? Well, let us operate on the assumption that ‘no one likes to be lied to’ – of course, there are acceptations, so no judging there – but when it comes to the entertainment industry, people receive a product which is an experience, a memory, an adventure. Thus people become emotionally attached to video games and movies, but there is a catch there! A movie is a completely pre-written experience beginning to end, whereas even heavily scripted single-player games provide you various degrees of control over the looks of your character, the actions and the sequence of actions that are performed by the character. This creates much stronger emotional bonds between a gamer and a video game experience than between a viewer and a movie they watched.
So it is easy to assume that gamers become more frustrated – than other types of customers – when their expectations are not met and more so when artificially inflated and then presented with a much more inferior product.
All the above mentioned – in one way or another – points us at the whole point of my thought, the most fundamental difference setting the video game industry and the gamers apart from most other customers in other industries, this being the buying habits of gamers.
Gamers tend to do extensive research both each on their own and by opinion makers – which are extremely popular and influential in this industry as well as in others – who conduct comparisons of demonstration versions and later builds of each game, study patch notes and lines of in-game code to bring out differences in quality and performance of the product. Almost in no other industry – besides the ‘tech’ industry – have I noticed such obsessive attention to the product’s changes, details and performance.
Of course, a point can be made that when you are buying a computer you would research it a lot as well. All the various PC builds and component performance stats. But the product itself – the computer – is perceived as a tool, to play those mentioned video games or for creating them or for working with enormous amounts of data, difficult computing software and etc. It has no emotional value – of