The Values behind the games we play

Where the value of a game is concerned, most players have four concerns relating to pay models:

  1. How much can I afford to spend on games per month?
  2. How much of that am I willing to spend on a specific game?
  3. Are there other games out there that will provide the same level of satisfaction but cost less?
  4. Am I invested so heavily into a game now that, “I have to keep playing it”?

These are questions developers should be asking about their players, too. There are thousands of games out there representing every pay model permutation possible. Each has its own level of financial investment to fully experience.  Money, while very important is only one element in the equation.

According to Scott Rigby, author of “Glued to Games”, there are three core reasons why people play games:

  • Competence – The potential to show progress and achievements – better stats, better equipment, more achievements, more gold, better skills.
  • Autonomy – Having choices, ability to make decisions and have control over the outcome – the option to try different things, decide moral dilemmas, etc.
  • Relatedness – To feel like we matter and are making a “contribution” to the world and to things to which we associate ourselves.

This correlates closely with findings from a Survey of over 6,000 people from 2007. Their survey indicated that when it comes to work, people’s “dream jobs” are more concerned with having fun (39%) and being able to make a difference in society (17%), than making money (13%).   “Having fun” is functionally a combination of Competence and Autonomy, under Rigby’s analysis.

Games provide a means to fulfill the things that we may not be realizing in other areas of our lives.  That is, if we are not having fun at work, when we are on our free time, we are likely going to seek out “whatever it is” that we call fun.

When it comes to game design, one of the first questions a developer needs to ask is, “Why is someone going to play this game?”  What will it provide that the player really wants, or even needs?  Game theory and psychology plays an important role in the success of a game, and it is directly demonstrated when “virtual vanity items” such as a +5 Tome of Epic Uper Strength in one MMO is available for US $24.

Games that offer a strong social or competitive environment depend upon the Internet, while games that focus on solo play generally don’t. Players are willing to play more and pay more when they have a strong social connection with other people playing it. Their investment in the game is no longer just measured in monetary terms, but social ones, to friends, teams, guildies, and sometimes even responsibilities within a guild or team environment.

Where Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness apply to all games, it can be generally said that most hugely successful games that do not rely upon an internet connection depend upon delivering an immersive experience – in play, graphics, etc. Most that do rely upon an internet connection rely upon a variety of strong social components. It is hard to get both via a mobile app today, but that will not always be the case.

This is all important as it relates to defining your position within the market. This does require some competitive analysis and surveys of your beta-team and players, alike.  Compare your app against what other games of a similar nature offer players.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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