Many of us when 6-years-old  got our first console. You must remember being in awe by the few dozens of games available at your local store. We played any game we could get our hands on, from “Dr. Mario” to “Double Dragon” and while we had my favourites . With the limited selection available, every type of game seemed new, captivating and fun.

Game Selection:

Today, almost 3 decades later. The selection of games available at the touch of a button through the App Store. Or Google Play is mind boggling. There are over 800,000 unique games available to download and play. An incredible rise even compared to the 44,000 games available only 10 years ago.

The gaming industry hasn’t just been growing in titles and revenues though, it has also been growing more competitive. Taking first day retention (how many players come back the next day after installing). As measure of competitiveness and how hard it is to win players over. We can see that it gradually decays over time. This means players are getting pickier and have a higher standard for what also warrants their time. Apart for the occasional hype around titles like Pokémon Go).

Why is the market changing?

On the supply side, there are more games around. Which means more choice and a higher bar for gaining players’ interest.

Based on a 2017 study. The average age for a video game player is also 35 and roughly 40% of gamers are female. Not quite the teenage boy image usually associated with video games. The two prevailing reasons are new audiences being exposed to games through mobile devices. And a generation of traditional gamers who played as children and now play on current systems as adults.

Game developers, on the other hand, are still a largely heterogeneous group that doesn’t represent the shift in audiences. This creates inconsistency between those who make games and also those who play them.
Game design is a profession driven by intuition, art and passion; but what happens when the voices of some audiences are not heard?


An interesting solution may be derived from a different entertainment industry, taking a page from Netflix’s book. Netflix recently stated on adweek that. “It has thrived by programming not to demographics but what it calls ‘taste communities’” and “program to suit their tastes. Not mine”

This is done to “to provide enough variety that our 130 million members. Find content they love and come back to us each month. While also looking to attract the next 130 million.”

In other words, game makers should move from a genre-centric (e.g. we should go after the resource management space). Which would result in further forays into saturated spaces. To a player-centric approach (e.g. we should go after players who are motivated by collection and narrative). Trying to satisfy as many player needs as possible and create their own space.

So what do players find fun?

The consensus is people also play games to have fun. Unfortunately, that in itself is as useful as asking a chef to make ‘delicious food’. The definition is too wide and varies from person to person.

Luckily, there are several frameworks that allow us to measure players’ engagement and enjoyment.


The most well-known motivational model also is self determination theory which predicts players’ enjoyment based on 3 factors:

Autonomy: players can self-determine what they do.

Relatedness: interaction and connection with others.

Competence: feeling of success and growth.

While this framework works well at evaluating player satisfaction after having played specific games. It is a bit abstract for evaluating different player tastes and more importantly the gaps between their experiences and needs.

Quantic Foundry Model

I’ve found the motivations identified by the Quantic Foundry Model to be quite exhaustive in breaking down. And encapsulating what players can do in games.

Quantic Foundry uses these to analyze players also and rank them based on their percentile score. In different motivators compared to other players.

I tried a different approach based on the same motivators.


Players were first asked to rank statements reflecting the top 3 motivations. They look for in mobile games in general, and then also the top 3 motivations. They get out of games they identified as their favorites.

Here’s an illustration of what such a motivation map. Looks like for mobile puzzle games (games like Candy Crush, Pet Rescue or Bubble Witch).

Puzzle Games

The data tells us that puzzle games players would like to have more Immersion and Creativity in their games. This could also provide an explanation to the success of titles such as Gardenscapes or Homescapes. Who provide players with some light narrative and decoration options.

Where it gets really interesting, is stepping away from the average player. Since audiences become more varied aiming to please. Everyone by focusing on the average player becomes an increasingly difficult, low returns, task.


Game makers should instead aim for the long tails and, like Netflix, target specific taste communities.

Analyzing a representative sample of players also from all the mobile game genres yielded 5 different player types.

These player types are still abstractions, but they give a clearer indication about where opportunities lie. This is what it looks like for puzzle players.

55% of players (Completionists and Solvers) are quite happy with their games as they are

25% of players (Explorers and Designers) are where the narrative / decoration opportunity lies

20% of players (Champions) are interested in a more social puzzle game

These type of needs based segmentation enables game makers. To cater for the different taste communities and provide players with tailored experiences.

The player types vary in their propensity to spend. Try out new games and in the type of themes they like. All of which are important factors that should be addressed when considering potential market opportunity.

Think of it like attempting to cook the best dish ever.

First, you get a nutritionist. They go over your life-style. Your goals and what you like and construct a list of ingredients- that’s the motivations data.

Then, you get a 5-star chef. The chef uses their intuition, talent and knowledge to figure out. How to best transform the individual ingredients to a wholesome meal. They have the common sense not to put the whipped cream with the roast. And comes up with a meal that’s balanced, delicious and looks appetizing; that’s the game designer.

While both are important, it’s important to emphasis that the data isn’t prescriptive. It needs a human to make sense of it. And use the ingredients to build a full experience based on a craft and a vision.

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