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Study Claims Gap Between Developer, Consumer Game Engagement
Study Claims Gap Between Developer, Consumer Game Engagement
June 11, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

June 11, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

Game developers targeting a specific audience might be missing the mark in some areas when it comes to keeping those players engaged, claims a new study based on bio-sensory feedback.

Consulting firm Absolute Quality commissioned bio-sensory testing on both GDC 2009 attendees and a larger sampling of target customers for Gears of War 2, and made a number of relevant findings, including the fact that men and women experienced the same game differently.

According to the results, game developers surveyed at GDC who were familiar with the shooter genre were more highly engaged with key game elements like story, cut-scenes and scripted encounters.

But in nearly two thirds of cases, the target consumers showed higher levels of engagement during simpler aspects of the game, like run-and-gun periods.

Absolute Quality says the schism between the experience of the player and the experience of the developer is important because it can help developers better tailor their games to meet the needs of their target audience.

"This study clearly shows that these elements of games tend to reflect the preferences of the developers themselves and not the preferences of the target consumer," claims the firm.

The sample group of GDC attendees included game developers, testers and other professionals on the industry side. For this study, the "target consumer" group consisted of players not employed in the games industry who own or have access to an Xbox 360 and who play the shooter genre on a regular basis.

All of the tested participants wore a wireless headset from EmSense, a technology previously covered by Gamasutra which uses sensors to measure a variety of physiological, cognitive and emotional responses, including player brainwaves and reactions like blushing, continually.

One key finding from the bio-sensory study, which is available in full via the company's website, says Absolute Quality, is that women reacted differently to storyline and cut scene elements -- women showed "above average" engagement with those elements, while men were engaged with them only 37 percent of the time.

Production elements such as video cut-scenes, which focus on slick graphics and well developed characters, can carry significant costs for game developers. Additional elements like complex vehicles and weapons can also run up the expense of creating new games.

Developers can use data like this to reduce risk by investing in those elements most desired by its target audience and avoiding those with less compelling engagement results, says Shirish Netke, president of interactive entertainment for Absolute Quality parent E4E.

"A rigorous analysis of user data throughout the development cycle can help mitigate the risk associated with the publishing and marketing of games and improve predictability of success of new titles in the market," says Netke.

[Update: Name of specific game added.]

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