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Choosing a Game Development Platform to Reach the Right Users

Last Friday, I attended the Media for Social Impact Summit at the United Nations headquarters in NYC. Aside from the awesomeness of attending a conference at the United Nations, the summit was a really enlightening experience crammed into a single day’s worth of sessions. Each group of panelists focused on the most effective way to run an issue-based campaign with a social change in mind on a particular type of media. Of particular interest to me was the talk by Asi Burak of Games for Change, whose Half the Sky game was designed to raise funds to empower women and girls.

Half the Sky is a Facebook game, a medium that I had admittedly often dismissed due to FarmVille and the like. I knew there were a ton of players on Facebook - 40 million monthly active users on Facebook for Farmville 2, for example - but really, why would I consider Facebook when there’s so much interesting stuff to be done on Steam or Xbox Live? Why would I tie my game to the constraints of a web browser when I could harness the entire power of a computer instead?

I had forgotten an extremely critical thing for a game of this nature. This was not a typical game that wanted its hands on every single possible user, but a game with a specific theme that needed to target a particular type of user. This game was designed to empower women and girls, and thus it needed to be on a platform that had a lot of women and girls playing games. That platform isn’t Xbox Live, or Steam, or PS3.. it’s Facebook. This game needed to reach a target audience at the lowest possible cost, and that meant Facebook development.

This was jaw-dropping for me as a developer who had never considered aligning the users I thought would be most interested in my game with the platform where those users hung out. And I’d also forgotten that the type of game (whether it’s strategy, turn-based, shooter, etc., etc.) is also going to be important to attract a certain type of audience. Let’s take a look at some examples:

I Want to Target Women Between the Ages of 35 and 50

According to research by Apptopia and Flurry Analytics, you need to take a look at slot machines or a “social turn-based” game (think FarmVille) if you want a game that’s going to appeal to women between the ages of 35 and 50. Think back to every time you’ve walked through a casino and wondered who actually played all of those slot machines - if you saw customers, they were likely right in that demographic. And you might consider a Facebook game - 72% of female U.S. Internet users are on Facebook - and you’re likely going to want to promote it on Pinterest as well. Go after ad partners who are targeting this demographic and show them the numbers.

I Want to Target Men Between the Ages of 20 and 30

Let’s go back to that Apptopia piece. You’re talking shooter games, RPGs, strategy games. If it’s an absolute requirement that you have regular return visitors, you need to put that strategy cap on.. but if you can get by with casual players, go for the shooters instead. You know that Pinterest isn’t worth your promotional efforts, but Twitter might be. And given the type of games that are popular on Steam (shooters, RPGs, and strategy), you certainly might want to take a look at launching there to promote to a heavily male audience.

None of this is an exact science, of course. You’ve still got to make a quality game and promote it the right way for it to take off. But you’re going to start off behind if you don’t take these things into consideration, and after developing a game for months at a time - you definitely don’t want to flop because you chose the wrong place to put your game.

TL;DR:

If you promote a first person shooter on Pinterest, you're gonna have a bad time