Agile concept testing—best practices for gaming and entertainment

Steve Evans, Head of TMTE, Harris Interactive UK

We have seen a surge in NPD insight needs for our entertainment, media and technology clients since the ease of the lockdown. Many of our clients in this broad sector, who may have had their research budgets frozen towards the outset of the pandemic, are now seeking to appreciate consumer demand and preference to steer the launch of their new products and services in the right direction.

A notable area of growth is in video gaming. Harris Interactive are experts in video game research, driven by a team of skilled researchers who are themselves gamers.  We regularly conduct concept testing and other NPD work for leading publishers and developers. When paired with Toluna’s digital platform and global panel, our range of NPD services can be an invaluable tool in helping you to maximise the potential of your concept, from the earliest ideation stage to pre-launch optimisation.

Taking the guesswork out of video game development

Video game development is a costly and risky enterprise, especially when introducing brand new IP. Production costs for AAA games rival that of Hollywood films. We help many clients in the sector to mitigate the risk by appreciating and diagnosing which development-stage concepts resonate with the target gaming audience. It helps publishers make decisions with confidence.

The ever-increasing cost of development, as well as an upcoming surge in releases for the next generation of consoles launched later this year, means it’s never been more important to make the right decisions. This is how we help. And we work with a whole range of clients, from small, boutique developers to some of the biggest names in global game publishing.

Whilst many sectors have been hit hard by lockdown restrictions, gaming is one of the few to have seen an upturn, as people look to fill their time at home. The surge has driven an upturn in our concept testing work.

Concept testing to maximise your research

No matter what developmental stage a game is at, whether it’s very early with just an idea and a handful of sketched images, or very far down the process with a polished trailer, we can help you make critical decisions to take the next steps.

You can test multiple concepts to narrow down to the best performing, test different variants of the same concept, or you can do a deep dive on a single concept. It’s flexible to suit all needs.

Our concept testing service has several tools to help you get the most out of the research:

Protecting your IP:

We can test any text, images, or videos but first and foremost, we want to protect your IP. At the start of any concept test, we require respondents to agree to a confidentiality agreement. We also use our industry-leading ‘Safeview’ watermarking on all images and videos shown. Each image or video is watermarked with a unique respondent identification, without compromising the quality or impact. This is a key preventative measure for guarding against potential leaks.

 Targeting your audience:

Leveraging a panel of 30m+ members across 70 markets, we can reach your target audience, whether it is a broad sample of gamers, or those interested in a specific genre.

KPI testing:

Our KPIs, based on best practice, provide standard measures for benchmarking including overall appeal, purchase propensity, uniqueness, and many more.

Game diagnostics testing:

Diagnostics are a key part to enable you to identify what is driving the appeal of your concept, and crucially what would encourage maximal appeal. It helps define what should be pronounced when messaging, and what, potentially, needs to change to increase target audience resonance. We can go deep on the diagnostics, especially if the detail is available to test, for example, showing early gameplay footage. It’s not just the “concept” we can test, it can also be an evaluation and reaction to gameplay mechanics.

Game messaging optimisation:

We can test the premise of your concept or any messaging through our bespoke “Text Highlighter” questions. Text is displayed to the respondent for them to select any keywords or phrases they find appealing/unappealing or confusing. This helps you to identify what is having the most cut-through, to give focus to your messaging to ensure the optimal description.

Pricing analysis:

Games pricing varies considerably. Considering whether a given concept is AAA-value or a lower value tier is a critical decision to optimise sales potential. Van Westendorp and Gabor Granger are two models that can be used in surveys to establish optimal pricing, and both can be incorporated into our concept testing services. Van Westendorp is used to identify an acceptable price range for the concept, while Gabor Granger is used to generate a demand and revenue curve. Should you require pricing insights for a concept, we can advise on the best approach to take.

Bespoke questions:

In concept testing, we can always offer a ‘flex’ option, allowing you to add custom questions to the survey. This can be anything you need, whether it is a deeper dive into what is driving the appeal of specific characters, or the type of game-world respondents would be most interested in playing.

Actionable insights for faster decision-making

Our comprehensive reporting package will provide you with actionable insights to take your next steps. On completion, typically you would be provided with an easily digestible PowerPoint report. It will include a full exec summary, highlight important differences and key findings, as well as our recommendations.

You also get access to our easy-to-use, web-based data visualization and analytics tool, that puts your completed survey results at your fingertips. It allows you to conduct custom analysis of the data, including charts and tables for quick ad-hoc queries, create simple tabulations which can be exported to excel and building cross-tabulations based on questions of interest.

Most importantly, we give you what you need to take the next steps with confidence.

Not in gaming, but like our NPD services? Get in touch to see how we can help you. Contact Steve Evans, Sector Head