Does your game’s player experience fall short?

As a developer or studio, you serve your audience by providing them with an experience.

Making sure your game provides the best player experience possible is essential. 

This is something all developers are constantly mindful of and improving upon.

However, with so much time and energy devoted to the in-game experience, we forget that the first experience players have with your game isn’t playing it. 

In fact, their first and many other interactions happen well before they pick up a controller. 

Think about that for a moment. 

Now if you’re only focusing on the in-game experience, are you providing your audience with the best experience possible? 

It’s an interesting question, one that pokes at the idea that your marketing also creates an experience for your players.

Let’s dig in a little more with what that entails.

Relating to the players journey

When your main focus is creating the best in-game experience possible, it can be challenging to think about the paths players take to reach the final product.

Unfortunately, not knowing that information can cause a lot of issues to arise. 

So it’s helpful to know what your player’s journey is like before they play your game. 

One way to identify this is called your marketing funnel

A marketing funnel is basically the paths players go on that lead them to take a specific action. 

But I like to use the term “the player’s journey” for several reasons as I feel it takes things a step further. 

For one, it offers a different perspective to marketing in a way that is more human and relatable for people. 

After all, most if not all developers are players themselves. 

This makes the idea of marketing more approachable and exciting too.  

Another way to look at the player’s journey is by using it as an extension of your game. 

How you incorporate elements of this extension will vary, but providing different contact points for players to interact with your game can create impactful moments for them. 

This can create engaging and memorable experiences for players that go well beyond the game itself. 

I’ll give you a personal experience of mine as an example that may relate to some of you.

Resonating with players

I love video game music. It really doesn’t matter game (while I have my favorites) but I’m genuinely very fond of a majority of all video game music. 

It’s to the point where listening to music helps me discover new games that I already feel attached to prior to playing them. 

In other instances with games I’m already familiar with, I feel like the music can provide a better experience than the game. 

It’s because it encapsulates the feelings and emotions I have already established when I played the games. 

Knowing I don’t always have the time to play those titles, the music allows me to relive those experiences. 

The music may even help me create new experiences not associated with the game itself either. 

(ie. Like having your wife walk down the aisle at your wedding to Nobuo Uematsu’s piano version of the Final Fantasy theme). 

That can be pretty impactful. 

While the latter example loosely relates to the focus of this article, the point I’m making is this. 

By taking one of many components of your game, such as music, you can help form a positive experience with players that will likely reinforce their feelings towards the game. 

One developer that took a similar approach to this concept was Game Bakers with their boss-rush title Furi. (You can learn more about their approach in my podcast interview with Audrey Leprince.)

When making the game, they were very particular in their music choice as they knew that would have a significant impact on the player’s experience. 

It was even a goal of theirs to get Daft Punk involved. 

You can probably imagine what type of experience that would be for players, especially fans of Daft Punk. 

That’s the bar they set for themselves though as they knew the overall impact that could carry beyond their game. 

While relatable, this conversation goes well beyond the impact that music can create. Not to mention, the first time most players will hear your game’s music will be in-game. 

So what are other ways to resonate with players, providing them a game experience that’s…out of the game?

Creating relatable content 

Chances are, there is something that inspired you to make your game. 

Regardless of where that inspiration came from, it’s more likely than not that other people can relate to it. 

Calling out those moments as it relates to your project is one of the best ways to produce relatable content and create an experience for players prior to playing your game. 

It could be something as simple as mentioning how a particular mechanic was inspired by your favorite childhood game. 

But to be even more relatable, you may want to go a little beyond your game too. 

Talking about personal experiences, a particular topic, interests, advocacy, values, and more will only make your studio more relatable.

At face value, some of these ideas may not seem like they relate to your game.

However, there’s also a good chance that these things also inspired your work. 

And deep down, they may be more relatable to your players than you think. 

Here’s another example in a Reddit post I commented on recently that can give you an idea of how relatable these ideas can be. 

Apparently, Spring is a popular time for people to play Chrono Trigger.

It’s these approaches that can create a deeper experience and connection with players as opposed to just sharing GIFs, video clips, and screenshots. 

Don’t get me wrong.

Content that has visual context and clear messaging is absolutely necessary to properly set expectations for your players. 

But here’s the thing.

Too often people rely only on the above method alone to create awareness.

There’s nothing wrong with this by the way.

In fact, you likely want to lead with this method when starting out. 

But we’re discussing how we can provide the best player experience possible, and just setting player expectations with content isn’t always going to do that. 

The reason is simple. 

The intent of setting player expectations with content is more focused on results as opposed to leading with empathy.  

Again, there is nothing wrong with that. 

But leading with empathy will allow you to create a greater experience for players and form a connection with them. 

When this happens, their support and loyalty can go well beyond a specific action and likely amplify your results. 

Gamify the experience 

I’m sure we’re all familiar with gamification and how it has been applied to work culture, apps, and beyond. 

Applying this concept to your game isn’t necessarily the main thing that will form strong connections with players. 

However, it will help you create more excitement, impact and stand out more than others. 

An example of this strategy was implemented by Hyperkinetic Studios when they released their game Epic Tavern. 

In conjunction with the game’s release, they launched a complete stand-alone comic that provided multiple experiences for players and readers. 

This gamified the players’ journey while making it much more engaging and impactful for players (and readers of the comic too).   

You can get more details about their process by listening to my podcast interview with Shawn French

Implementing this concept doesn’t have to be challenging or over-ambitious and in most cases can easily be implemented to your marketing funnel. 

Events and competitions are fairly common, especially in Discord communities, which can help gamify the experience for players.  

However, the above is generally limited to your community and only a component of the entire player journey experience. 

But incorporating different ways players can obtain information about your game can be implemented at various touchpoints of your player’s journey. 

This can be in the form of getting something of value in an email marketing campaign, finding a hidden page on your website from a clue somewhere, or a variety of other ways. 

I understand that this may sound like more work than it’s worth, and in some cases, it very well could be. 

It really depends on what works best for you and to what degree you feel it is necessary to create a greater experience for players. 

Creating the best experience for players

As you can see, the experience you create for players can come in all shapes and sizes. 

Though creating the best in-game experience should be your main goal, it’s important to understand how the player’s entire experience can go beyond your game. 

Doing so will help you create more meaningful connections with your players.

This doesn’t just impact results or sales. It also makes creating games more fulfilling

Because at the core of creating an entire experience for players this way, you’re leading with empathy. 

When you do that, you’re marketing and game development becomes more impactful and rewarding than you ever thought possible. 

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