Buyer Personas and Why Your Indie Game Needs Them

Buyer Personas and Why Your Indie Game Needs Them

Buyer personas are an essential part of marketing strategy used by major brands around the world. Why? Because they’ve been proven to increase one’s chances of developing high-ROI products. In the video game industry, companies like Electronic Arts have used buyer personas to produce cash cows like Plants vs. Zombies, Battlefield and more. As an indie game developer, you can use them to influence your game’s success in the same way.

How and Why Indies Should Use Buyer Personas

First, what are buyer personas?
Before we can get into why indies should use buyer personas, let’s define what they are. A buyer persona is a research-based representation of who your target buyer is. It includes both demographic and behavioral information that should answer the following questions:

  • Who is your buyer (age, race, occupation, etc.)?
  • What type of games does he/she buy and why (e.g., strategy games to compete with friends)?
  • How does he/she play those games (session duration, location of play, device, etc.)?
  • How does he/she buy games and what influences those purchases?
  • What frustrations does he/she have with games that may dissuade him/her from playing them before or after a purchase?

buyer personas
An example of a who buyer persona by Munro.

How to build buyer personas?
Buyer personas are built on a foundation of solid research. Where you gather this research is dependent on time and budget constraints. If you’re looking to put something together quickly and have cash to burn, there are several reports available that will give you all the information you need in one place. New Zoo is an example of a research company that provides such reports. If time is not an issue, or perhaps budget is, most of the information you need can be found free online with careful Google searching.

After you complete your online research, it’s recommended that validate it by conducting real-life interviews with people who fit your buyer persona. In addition to validation, interviews provide further insight.

When and how to use buyer personas?
Every decision you make regarding game development or marketing strategy from concept to post-launch should be weighed against your buyer persona. I.e., if your idea does not match your buyer persona’s needs or behaviors, then it shouldn’t be included in your game. It’s that simple.

So…why use buyer personas?
At their essence, buyer personas are lists of requirements for making your game sellable to a particular group of people…based on fact. As an indie developer struggling for success, what better tool could you have to increase your chances?

Emmy

Emmy Jonassen is a marketing pro who helps indie developers build adoring fanbases. Marketing people who love buzz words call this "lead generation."

2 Comments

Roger Levy

about 4 years ago

I would argue that Buyer Personas are exactly why some games suffer and won't stand the test of time. Skyward Sword clearly panders to the "casual gamer" by front-loading a ton of tutorials, holding your hand at every step of the way, and making gameplay very superficial and emphasizing cutscenes. As a result it's possibly the worst game in the series. On the other hand it's a good idea to have an audience in mind when developing a game, but concept and design should be rooted in the wants and needs of the creator. Bringing a game to completion and preparing to market it could benefit from narrowing down the intended audience of the MARKETING using this "Buyer Persona" concept.

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Emmy

about 4 years ago

Hi Roger! Thank you for your comment and perspective. This is an excellent comment because you bring up a good point "...concept and design should be rooted in the wants and needs of the creator." This is a concept very familiar to us indies. In fact it's why we design games. They are an artistic expressions whose value is not always measure in sales. My post on buyer personas is to educate indies on the way that most successful (in terms of sales) products are created...starting with consumer research to identify and satisfy consumer needs. That said, not all companies do this successfully (your Skyward Sword is a good example).

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