Tuesday 19 January 2016

RPG Research

I am conducting research into the audience, market, and production of a new RPG game based in the Harry Potter universe. Through my research, I am planning to answer these 15 questions:

Audience Research
Form of Research
Who is my target audience?
Internet research (comparing fans of similar games and HP products), questionnaires.
Comparing the fans other products using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will enable me to get a rough estimate of the size of my playe rbase. Questionnaires will enable me to directly ask who in the audience would be interested in the game.
What do they want from the game?
Directly asking the audience what they want from the game will give me straight answers that I can compare and evaluate to make the best decisions about what to include in my game.
How do they feel about other RPG games?
Questionnaires, popularity/sales/reviews of other RPG games.
Asking the audience what they liked/didn’t like about other RPG games will tell me what sort of gameplay and features I should and shouldn’t include in my own game. Comparing the popularity/sales/reviews of other RPG games will also enable me to see what is most popular, and will also tell me my competition.
What platform do they play video games on?
The platform on which gamers play games on is very important when deciding where and how I am going to distribute my game, and the easiest way to gather this information is via a questionnaire.
How do they feel about Harry Potter, and do they think that the universe would make a good setting for an RPG?
The target audience for the game is fans of Harry Potter and RPG games, though some fans of Harry Potter may have never played this sort of game before. Finding out what they like about the Harry Potter universe can enable me to include what they would like in my game so that I can attract non-gamers.
Market Research
Form of Research
Are there any similar products already on the market?
Internet research, content analysis.
Analysing similar products (other RPG games) can give me an insight to their codes and conventions and help me work out what I can do to make my game stand out. Internet research can also give me an insight into who is my competition.
What is the best price and distribution method for my product?
Questionnaire, internet, considering previous research.
This will allow me to ask the audience directly how much they are willing to pay for an RPG game and what platform they would rather play it on (this question will have already been asked as part of my audience research). Knowing what platform my audience prefers will enable me to make an informed choice of distribution methods.
What is the best way to advertise my product?
Content analysis of other products’ advertising campaigns.
Analysing other products’ advertising campaigns will enable me to see what works and what doesn’t work, and what I can do to make my product stand out.
Is there a gap in the market for my product to fill?
Internet research.
The internet is a good place for me to find out information about other products. My previous research should also help me to see whether there is a gap in the market for my game.
What current trends are affecting the market?
Internet research.
Internet research will enable me to see what games are most popular at the moment, what is getting the most recognition and awards, and will enable me to see whether it is the right time for a new Harry Potter game to be released.
Production Research
Form of research
What content will be in the product?
Questionnaire, content analysis
A questionnaire will allow me to directly ask the audience what they want to get out of a game, and content analysis will help me understand what codes and conventions are popular in other RPG games that I could transfer to my Harry Potter universe game.
How much will the production cost?
Internet research to work out the budget.
Could look at similar products to find out what their budgets were, but overall I will be working out the budget myself.
How can I demonstrate the USP?
Internet research looking at what other products are doing.
Internet is a good source of information and inspiration. I could look at the USPs of previous games set in the Harry Potter universe and what other RPG games are doing.
How long will it take to produce?
Internet, planning, observation.
It is important for me to consider the length of time that this project will take so that I can choose the best time to begin the advertising campaign.
What is the competition doing that works?
Internet research, content analysis
Using internet research to look at what similar products have done will enable me to get a large overview of who my competition is and what they are doing to be successful.

For my primary research, I created a questionnaire and asked twenty people from my target audience (fans of Harry Potter and/or RPG games) to answer it. To do this, I shared it on a forum for RPG fans (reddit.com/r/rpg_gamers). This ensured that I received valid responses as the questions were aimed primarily at finding out what it was about current RPG games that already existing RPG fans liked so much, and helped me gather qualitative and quantitative research data.

I gathered the quantitative data in an excel document and created bar charts to make it easier to compare the data. According to this data, the primary age group that I should be aiming at is people aged 18-22 as this is the main age range that has answered my questionnaire. However, the issue with this is that as I only asked people on an RPG fans forum, the pool of responses was quite thin anyway. If I was to repeat this research, I would widen my options for results, which would give me a more accurate understanding of who my target audience is. The results I have at the moment only indicate the age range of the people that use the forums, and while this does help to give some indication of the age range of my target audience (as well as confirms my own expectations), it does not take into account the fact that there are probably many other potential fans of the game who are not searching the forum. There is little difference between the genders, which supports a previous study that tells us that there is a fairly even distribution of male and female Harry Potter fans (54% female and 46% male)[1]. This means that I should ensure that the game is not aimed primarily at one gender as this could reduce sales. The majority of people said that they prefer the Harry Potter books to anything else - and very few people said that they preferred the video games. This suggests that there is both a gap in the market for my game, but also that I may have to work hard to please my audience. The reason the films were less popular is due to the fact that they do not follow the books as well as the audience would have liked, and with the video games primarily following the films, this led to them also being fairly unpopular, particularly later on in the series. Therefore it may be an idea to try to stay true to the books (without following the same storyline, of course). This involves following the descriptions of locations and any original characters that may feature in the game, and a storyline filled with a mixture of character and action-driven narrative. At the same time, the game should feel immersive like a film, with interesting, smooth cut scenes that the audience can react to with emotions. However, video games can go beyond this, as they actually pit the player against the threat in the game - the player isn't just watching the action roll out, they are deciding what happens. According to Media Magazine, this factor has helped video games overtake films in the "storytelling stakes, but also in atmosphere and immersion." [2]
My target audience is a group of people that play video games very frequently, every day in most cases. To keep this audience interested in my game, it should be extremely engaging, from the storyline to the gameplay, and must heavily feature elements of the Harry Potter universe to keep the fans' attention. Most people also said that they prefer to play games on PC, though PS4 and Xbox One were second and third most popular. This tells me that I should aim to get my game released on PC primarily, however a console release would help sales and boost my audience. The majority of my audience felt that £20.01-£30 was a suitable price for an RPG game with as much content as I plan to input in my game. The most recent games in The Witcher and The Elder Scrolls series both sell for £50, but The Elder Scrolls Online was also originally released with a monthly subscription price. The Elder Scrolls Online, however, was considerably unpopular in comparison to previous Elder Scrolls games like Skyrim due to its 'hollowness' and lack of customisation[3].

When asking what my target audience's favourite RPG is, most people answered that the series The Elder Scrolls was their favourite, with Fallout and The Witcher coming close second and third. The Witcher and The Elder Scrolls have fairly similar fantasy settings, with The Elder Scrolls having full character customisation, and slightly different settings in each game. The Witcher, however, features the same setting and same character throughout, allowing the audience less customisation. I asked the audience to explain what their favourite feature was in their favourite RPG (which provided me with qualitative data), and a large majority of people said that they liked the character customisation in The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, and others said that they loved the fantasy setting of The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher. The ability to use magic was also a popular feature, which tells me that this audience would love a full-character customisation Harry Potter RPG set at Hogwarts. A huge majority of the audience claimed that they value the storyline of the game most, saying that this is what attracts them to the game and keeps their interest. There was also a few responses that said that they prefer an interesting setting and side quests to keep them playing the game. I think that a Harry Potter universe RPG offers me endless opportunities for a gripping storyline, as well as an enticing setting, that differs from the usual fantasy/sci-fi/wasteland setting that is common in recent RPGs. Whilst Harry Potter does have a fantasy setting, the game will be featured at the wizard school Hogwarts, and will follow the same lore from the original Harry Potter books, which has not been seen before in another RPG game. This, again, helps to fill a gap in the market.

Overall, from my questionnaire, I have been able to gather a good grasp of exactly what my target audience would like to see in the game. Their answers about their current favourite RPG games suggests that the Harry Potter universe would be a setting they find interesting due to its similarities to other fantasy games, while also having it's own lore and enticing setting (a wizard school). Most of the responses agreed that the opportunity to create their own character and control them in Hogwarts would be a lot of fun, as long as the storyline takes off into something beyond just simulating school life. I think that with the size of the Harry Potter universe, this would be easy to pull off. A school setting also provides me with lots of opportunities for side quests, something that has actually already been implemented in previous (although less popular) Harry Potter games, including Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. These common conventions from RPGs are often what can make or break the game, as an interesting storyline and setting is vital to the audience's enjoyment.

RPGs are an incredibly popular genre of video game, that come in many styles, but most of which revolving around a fantasy setting. There are some exceptions to this rule, namely Bethesda's wasteland world Fallout, and Bioware's sci-fi Mass Effect. Both incredibly popular games, with the recent release of Fallout 4 in November 2014 having "1.2 million PC players on the platform in just one day of availability."[4] The upcoming Mass Effect game, Andromeda trailer has racked up over 5 million views on YouTube since its release in June 2015, and gained great levels of hype from the game's presentation at E3 2015, despite the developers giving only small hints about the premise of the game. It is undeniable, however, that fantasy settings dominate the RPG genre. This is proven by the 5.5 million World of Warcraft subscriptions[5], the ratings of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (including six 9/10s and two 5 stars) and the on-going success of the Final Fantasy series from its first release in 1987 to its latest release in 2010. The majority of these fantasy games feature magical elements, and enable players to choose between taking a magical route or sticking to more traditional styles of battle, such as swords or archery. In my game, the player would be restricted to using magic for battle, which stays in line with the lore of the wizard world of Harry Potter. However, like The Elder Scrolls and World of Warcraft, players will have completely control over the customisation of their characters; what they look like, what skills they possess, and what they excel best at. Despite multiple Harry Potter games (one for each film, and spin offs like Quidditch World Cup and Lego Harry Potter), there has never been an RPG that focuses on a whole new character, which immediately gives me a gap in the market to fill. According to my questionnaire, my target audience was also not very impressed with the previous Harry Potter games, meaning that these games do not pose much competition to my work. However, the RPGs previously mentioned pose a strong threat to my success. It is important that I emphasise my unique selling point (primarily the Harry Potter universe) in the marketing of my game.

A huge trend that is growing within the gaming industry is the introduction of virtual reality. With the development of headsets like the Oculus Rift, VR is soon to be a huge player within the industry, and whether or not a game supports VR could affect its sales. Therefore, it is potentially a good idea to invest in developing the game to support VR. There is a large development community already developing, including mainstream publishers like Ubisoft. Developer Ian Baverstock said, "From an investment point of view, oh my God, virtual reality is the place you want to be."[6]. Virtual reality for an open world, RPG Harry Potter game could become extremely popular, seeing as the Harry Potter world is a fictional world that thousands of people worldwide long to be real. Therefore, the high levels of immersion that can be achieved with VR could be a huge selling point for the audience.


Overall, I believe that a Harry Potter universe RPG would be extremely successful and my research has been very useful in coming to this conclusion. I believe that the setting, combined with an engaging storyline (the two most important conventions of an RPG, according to my questionnaire), would keep the target audience interested in my game. The majority of my research was conducted through my questionnaire, however my internet research has also been valuable in enabling me to find other, similar RPGs and compare them against each other, the feedback I have received from my audience, and my own ideas for my game.
Through the questionnaire, I have learnt what demographic my target audience is, what media form they preferred the Harry Potter series in, what platform they prefer to play video games on, their favourite RPG and why, and what they consider to be important in an RPG. This information, I believe, is very important to consider when planning my own RPG. The fact that the majority of the audience prefers the books suggests that they are very well-read and understand the universe of Harry Potter more than say, a casual fan whom has only seen the films. This, combined with the knowledge that most people valued storyline in RPGs tells me that the story for my game must be engaging and exciting in order to be successful. Knowing the rough demographic of my audience (age/gender) also helps me understand exactly who I should be marketing this game to. The slightly older audience enables me to work more freely with darker themes like horror and violence. I should, however, consider the fact that the Harry Potter films never went above a 12 rating, so my game should not exceed a 15 at the most, if necessary. While it is true that the original Harry Potter audience will have grown up by now, this does not mean that younger generations are also becoming fans of the series, much like new generations are still fans of the original Star Wars films. If I isolate this younger audience (as in, 12-15) I may reduce sales.
There are many different styles of RPG, fantasy being the most popular setting, which gives me endless opportunities for inspiration. The already existing Harry Potter video games and films can also give me visual inspiration, while ensuring that my game surpasses the audience's expectations in order to get better ratings than previous Harry Potter games. The conventions I have identified in existing content that I have analysed (settings, characterisation and customisation, fighting styles etc) have been useful in identifying what is popular with the audience so that I can implement these features into my own video game, which will then ideally make it more successful.
The questionnaire was definitely the most effective form of research, however the internet was an invaluable source of secondary information. The internet enabled me to find out information about other video games and trends in the gaming industry that is vital to the success of my own game. It was important, however, for me to ensure that the webpages I used for information were valuable sources, so I made sure to only use news articles and similar, trustworthy sites. User-generated content sites like social networks and Reddit also enabled me to read the discussions between members of my target audience. The internet is an obvious choice for researching a video game audience, due to the fact that naturally, a video game fan would spend a lot of time on the internet. Therefore, other than my questionnaire itself (which was distributed through the internet), the internet was the most invaluable source of information for this project.
If I was to start this project again, some things I would change include the questionnaire. Firstly, I would try to get a larger amount of people to answer it, as twenty does not seem to be enough to give me a good overview of what the target audience wants. The Harry Potter "fandom" is huge, as are the fandoms for various different RPGs, and asking only twenty people limits the answers I could get. I also originally planned to ask audience members who had not played RPGs or had limited experience in playing video games to see what would make them decide to play one. Finally, I would have added a few more questions to the questionnaire, particularly a question to do with what the audience likes most about the Harry Potter world. This is one of the questions I had planned to answer using the questionnaire but overlooked at the time of making it. I did solve this by reading fans' discussions on sites like Tumblr and Reddit, but having the question in the questionnaire would have allowed me to get more direct answers.

[1] Sragow, M (2011) The Secret to 'Harry Potter's' Success. [Online] Available from: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-07-18/entertainment/bs-ae-potter-succcess-20110713_1_deathly-hallows-harry-potter-steve-kloves. [Accessed: 17th January 2015].  

[2] Ewins, M (2012) War of the Worlds: the Convergence of Films and Games. Media Magazine. [Online] Available at: https://www.englishandmedia.co.uk/media-magazine/articles/16862. [Accessed: 19th January 2015]

[3] Herndon, N (2015) The Resounding Whimper of The 'Elder Scrolls Online' Release. [Online] Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/archenemy/2015/07/20/the-resounding-whimper-of-the-elder-scrolls-online-release/#2715e4857a0b2fc4c4295ce9. [Accessed: 17th January 2015].

[4] Smith, D (2015) 'Fallout 4' Has Already Made History. [Online] Available from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/fallout-4-breaks-steam-records-2015-11. [Accessed: 18th January 2015].

[5] Statista, (2015) Number of 'World of Warcraft' Subscribers from 1st Quarter 2005 to 3rd quarter 2015 (In Millions). [Online] Available from: http://www.statista.com/statistics/276601/number-of-world-of-warcraft-subscribers-by-quarter/. [Accessed: 18th January 2015]

[6] Stuart, K and Webber, J, E. (2015) 16 Trends That Will Define The Future of Video Games. [Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/23/16-trends-that-will-change-the-games-industry. [Accessed: 19th January 2015]