Forums Kongregate

What Users Want vs. Owners

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I’ve noticed a trend in the time I spent lurking around the game reviews and forums here, and that is that the majority of users seem pretty young. Now, I’m not surprised by this at all as online games are becoming more and more popular with each new generation of humans. I’m also not surprised because free games are more likely to attract young people with no jobs who can’t buy every new $40-$60 console and PC game hitting the market. This is not a knock against you, if you are in this position. I understand completely, it is where I was 10 years ago and where I’m about to be after I leave the Air Force and stop getting a regular pay check for a while.

What does this mean for those creating content here, however? If you want to win contests based upon the site user base’s reaction to your game, it is in your best interest to cater to them. While in the sponsorship FAQ it states the creators only want a good idea, not something designed to target a “casual gaming mom (or anyone else) audience” (paraphrased), it goes directly against the fastest way to gain popularity on their own site. The way to win weekly and monthly contests (and advertising money) is by user approval, so, the smart designer would recognize this (and their target audience) and take advantage of it if they desired to win the cash prizes and get money from advertising.

On a separate but related note, ever since I joined in September, Desk Top Tower D has been a highest rated game and I see it is on the list twice now at #1 and #3 in the category at the time of this writing. This illustrates that while the site creators may not want more of the same, the audience doesn’t mind at all. This is the same behavior which forces the big companies to stagnate the market with sequels and clones. Even on Kongregate it has been shown that “proven effective” works in favor of those developing for them.

By attaching a cash prize and sharing advertising money Kongregate has made itself potentially feasible to act as a primary source of income for an independent developer. I appreciate what they’ve done and hope I can try my hand at being a game smith for a living with their help to get started. However, I know my first game released here (if I get that far) will definitely be keeping in mind who frequents the site and what they like.

So I’m curious, what do you think about these observations?

 
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Nope, that’s Desktop Tower Defense you saw there. Desktop Tower Defense 1.5 is the real game. Kongregate told the creator to upload a new game instead of just updating the current one.

 
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I’m surprised no one else has commented yet. Does anyone else think Kongregate could be perceived as a miniaturized and self contained parallel of the gaming industry itself?

 
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Andrew, first of all, Sonny has a higher rating than Desktop Tower defense (but as the challenge game, Greg didn’t want to put it ont the top games).

Second of all, most of the audience of the site is statistically middle aged females, from Kong surveys.

Finally, the admins are extremely open to ideas and listen to the users, not go against them.

 
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i wasn’t going to say anything but now i am. The site is no longer “middle aged females” in fact, 30-40% users are under the age of 18, maybe even more. and as to open to ideas, i won’t even go there.

 
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I don’t see how using a new game’s popularity for an example disputes the fact that the same Tower D game has been #1 for almost a year now in that catagory and has spawned a lot of forgettable clones. edit: More importantly, it has spawned popular clones as well. That is really the point here.

Thank you for the information about middle aged females, I will keep that in mind while designing my game. I guess the younger folks are just the loudest. I know I sure was.

Finally, when did I say the admins were against new ideas? It is the user base that rewards those rehashing familiar concepts, not the admins. That was my entire point, there is not much more incentive to make something completely new and unheard of here than there is anywhere else in the industry if you can make a living with your version of Tower D. That is not what the site owners want. Hence the topic title “What Users Want vs. Owners”.

 
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free games are more likely to attract young people with no jobs who can’t buy every new $40-$60 console and PC game hitting the market

I would be very careful with this assumption. Major companies typically refuse to release figures however it’s a somewhat accepted truth that with PC games, for every 1 person who buys a game 9 people get an illegal copy. PC gamers are on average probably less casual than console gamers and more tech savvy. Anyone can install utorrent and download ISOs for 3 cracked major games a night for free at minimal cost, and I imagine it’s students in particular to whom this would appeal. When people play games on kong I doubt it’s a matter of whether they can afford any other games. Or that they morally object to piracy.

Here’s something David Sirlin’s posted which relates specifically to Kongregate fostering creativity.

Cheers to Kongregate for doing a great job implementing this design, they’ve been terrific to work with, and you know I don’t say things like that unless I mean it. It’s actually incredible how this game started out. Kongregate asked me what a good game for them would be. Usually companies say, “we’re making this platform game with the Spongebob license or whatever the heck, and can you fill in the details?” But Kongregate actually asked a game designer what an interesting game would be that would let people earn cards or game pieces by playing other people’s games on Kongregate.

Getting tired so I’ll stop posting but here’s some links

Interesting link comparing mainstream and brower-based, with an emphasis on start-ups.
http://paulgraham.com/road.html

Another relevent post, by grassroots gamemaster. This guy doesn’t have the clearest prose but does have interesting ideas.
http://grassrootsgamemaster.blogspot.com/2008/01/lottery-ticket-videogame-company.html

one source for my claiming 90% of traditional pc games are pirated.
http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17350

 
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Andrew, first of all, Sonny has a higher rating than Desktop Tower defense (but as the challenge game, Greg didn’t want to put it ont the top games).

Yeah, it seemed silly to have it on the front 3 times, including the genre area below. I hope that didn’t confuse anyone, but it’s back on top now that it’s not the challenge anymore.

Second of all, most of the audience of the site is statistically middle aged females, from Kong surveys.

No, I’m not sure where you got that information, but our surveys revealed that about 92% of our audience is male. I think we beat out Playboy or something with that statistic. Some sites might list our female audience as being higher, but I suspect this is more from using family computers or something. The survey might be biased too, though. Who knows?

However, I know my first game released here (if I get that far) will definitely be keeping in mind who frequents the site and what they like.

You’ll go a lot further just focusing on making a good game. The top-rated games on Kongregate are all over the place in terms of style and whom they appeal to. Take a look at our list.

The top-rated game is a combat RPG with amazing artwork and music. Then you have a real-time defense game with hardly any of either. Go down a bit more and you’ll see a game about doing tricks as a dolphin. Then a platforming game where you control a fast-running stick figure. Then and old-school dungeon crawler. There’s a top-down, ultra-violent zombie shooter, then a 2D puzzle platformer based on a console/PC game. Then there’s a game where you use your mouse to fling enemies into the air.

Seriously, what can you even draw from this in terms of targeting?

 
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greg, you are certainly correct that the quality of the game takes precedence over everything else. My favorite console after all is still the Super Nintendo for this reason. However, it can’t be denied that there are choices every designer makes (or should be making) with their audience in mind if they are doing more than just making a game THEY would like. This is why even the big names make a stinker once in a while (Daikatana, anyone?). They forget not everyone agrees with what they think is a totally awesome concept or gameplay mechanic.

For someone in my position, who will be trying to transition into game development as a primary source of income, it would be the epitome of foolishness to spend my time making a game without trying to make it as appealing as possible, and that means knowing my audience and what they like. Maybe when I’m as wealthy as Richard Garriot I can forget what everyone else likes and make a game about cats in space battling for their right to the nip mines on the moon. Actually that isn’t a bad idea…

 
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One point to make that backs Andrew’s case is that within the top5 listing for the genres, you have 2 versions of DTD, 3 Boxheads, 2 SHIFTs, 2 3D Logics, 2 FPAs, and 2 SCGMDs. That shows doesn’t show that re-doing any game is going to make it a hit… but it would seem that IF you already have a hit, then making a sequel is a damn good idea.

 
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I think there might be more adult users than you think. They just don’t participate in the forums and comments. People play web based games a lot at work too. And I just read in the news paper that a lot of the gamers are “old” these days!

It’s the community and chatting part that are dominated by kids. Not so much the gaming itself.

 
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Phooltk, nice links. I agree that web based is the way of the future. It is kind of convenient for me that Flash based games can still be made with 1 man teams, and are already the premier format for easily distributed online games. Grassroots Gamemaster seems to know more about the inner workings of the industry than I do, but what I already understood was that no one is going to pay me for my ideas.

As for piracy, something not many consider is that most people, even pirates, are willing to pay for something they think is worth the price. An example of this would be Sins of a Solar Empire. Stardock (their publisher) does not try to protect their games from piracy. You can bittorrent the iso and install Sins without a cd key or crack, however, you need a Stardock account with key to update the game and connect to multiplayer on their matchmaking service. Stardock has the right idea here, stop wasting developer time and money trying to prevent the inevitable, and use it as a form of free advertising. The Sins forum had posts from people saying they originally were just going to pirate the game, but fell in love with it and went on to purchase it and recommend their friends to do the same. This is why Kongregate’s hopes of micro-transactions in Flash games is not so unrealistic. If the product is worth the price being charged, people will pay it.

How long have people been able to record songs off the radio on a cassette tape? The record industry thought that would be the end of them, yet when the compact disc came out… you know the story. The product was worth the price, you could get hours of enjoyment out of a $10 compact disc. I think perhaps it was easier to make the connection of supporting the band by purchasing a cd than it is for most people to think about supporting the hundreds of people in a game’s credit roll, but that is another topic for another time.

The biggest reason piracy is so huge is because publishers charge too much compared to what their product is actually worth. Not every new release on the shelf at Best Buy is deserving of $40-$60 but most companies just assume they deserve that amount because in the 4th F.E.A.R. expansion you fight ghosts… of ZOMBIES! Please, no matter how much work and money went into a product, if it is shit, it isn’t worth the price on the box.

A final note comparing music discs to games: The average PURCHASED game has about a 2 hour life span before the user gets bored / a new game / busy with real life / etc… The bottom line is, people hardly ever get their money’s worth out of games they buy to begin with. Do you think people pirating games spend any more time with them on average? I would imagine they spend less. Now think about how much time you’ve spent listening to your favorite $10 music cd from the 1990s. This is what I meant by “worth the price”.

WHEW! I should start a blog or something!

 
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The top-rated game is a combat RPG with amazing artwork and music. Then you have a real-time defense game with hardly any of either. Go down a bit more and you’ll see a game about doing tricks as a dolphin. Then a platforming game where you control a fast-running stick figure. Then and old-school dungeon crawler. There’s a top-down, ultra-violent zombie shooter, then a 2D puzzle platformer based on a console/PC game. Then there’s a game where you use your mouse to fling enemies into the air.

Seriously, what can you even draw from this in terms of targeting?

I’m not trying to be deliberately contrary here, but suffice to say: lots.

You may still not believe me, perhaps, but certain people can see patterns in chaos. I’m one of those people, and I can extract a whole lot of market research data from the games (which I ultimately process as concepts, or concepts within concepts, and so on) you mentioned.

How is this possible? It has to do with a specific talent theme.

Interestingly, certain talents can make some things people do seem almost magical to people without those talents. (I.e. They just can’t understand how some people can do the things they do because it just seems so unlikely, but really, it’s all about how your brain is wired in terms of synapses.) Eg. For me, some people’s ability to relate to people is just amazing. I just don’t understand how you can be that good, even if I try. Unless I specifically model them and ask them questions, I have a lot of trouble. Conversely, some people look at the pattern-matching things that I can do and their eyes just glaze over. They have no idea how I do it, but for me, it’s as simple as looking for consistencies, inconsistencies, and comparison and contrast.

Likewise, certain talents can lead to somebody enjoying an activity, and someone else being drained by it, and the person who is drained by it not even being able to fathom why someone can be energised by the activity, and vice versa.

I call this “talent blindness” (in the case of not having a talent) or “talent vision” (in the case of having a talent).

Anybody who is interested in the ideas I’ve mentioned should read the (excellent, highly recommended) book, Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

- Bruce

 
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AndrewWilliams (and other devs who like good resources),

You seem to think similarly to how I do, so I’ll point you to someone else who does that, too; someone who graduated college in 3 semesters with a double-major in Computer Science and Mathematics; someone who wrote some really nice articles about game development, and was really successful in the indie shareware realm; someone who now owns and regularly writes for the most popular personal development website on the internet (over 1.8 million visitors per month):

His name is Steve Pavlina, and if you read anything I link to in this post, I highly recommend this article:

http://web.archive.org/web/20050309101123/www.dexterity.com/articles/basic-market-research.htm

…this article (especially the part about “cost-benefit analysis”):

http://web.archive.org/web/20050307195455/www.dexterity.com/articles/planning.htm

… and if you really want to immerse yourself in this thinking, read the other articles by Steve:

http://web.archive.org/web/20050407082634/www.dexterity.com/articles/

… or just go crazy and also read some (or all!) of his 600+ personal development related articles on his new website (well, “new” in comparison to his old website):

www.stevepavlina.com

FYI, I don’t recommend you specifically follow his advice, but aspects of his mindset is golden, and really worth modeling.

- Bruce

PS. David Sirlin of www.sirlin.net and designer of Kongregate.com’s card game, Kongai, has some great articles, too.

 
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Edit: Checked links, repeats of some info I’ve read other places. Good info though.

I was going to dissect what greg said at the end as well, but decided against it originally :]
Basically he identified half of those games by their genre (not by unique features), which just proves my point that SOME of the most popular games on Kongregate are old concepts. I mean look at Tower D, it has been around almost as long as Warcraft 3. Some genius decides to turn it into a Flash game and has made thousands on a proven success someone else pioneered.

 
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Well, I actually think I have a different view than a lot of people when it comes to what games I choose to greenlight for the Premium Games program. There are a couple of different reasons I don’t want a rehash of a popular game I’ve seen before.

1) You never know what’s going to be a hit. You never do. There are a million Match 3 games out there. How many can you name? You may make a modest amount by hanging on the periphery of an established game mechanic like that, but it’s not guaranteed. Why not swing for the fences and try doing something new? Make the pioneer game that other game developers will be clamoring to copy. Why settle for less if you can do more?

2) I may be in the “owner” camp of this debate, as a Kong employee, but I’m also a gamer. I’m tired of playing the same game over and over. I look for games that are new and unique, that push the art form where it hasn’t gone before, in whatever way it can. Statistically, there have to be a pretty good number of people with the same tastes I have who are tired of the same old thing. Why not cater to this audience?

3) Games are an art form. I don’t want to bring up that tired old argument, but in my eyes they are. Ask yourself: what art is the most powerful? Imitative corporate art, or soulful, unique, personal art, made because that’s what the creator wanted to make at the time?

I know this is an unpopular view in the casual game world, but it can work, if we’re willing to push for better and newer things.

 
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I know this isn’t a constructive post, but I agree fully with Chris.

 
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I just want to say I really appreciate how vocal the Kongregate staff is. You guys really make me love your site, more than the games or anything else. It isn’t a faceless corporation running the show and people can tell.

I believe everything you are saying and agree completely. I am not advocating the mindless rehash mindset, just observing that even in Kongregate there is some favor from the user base for “proven successful” genres and games.

1) I loved Puzzle Quest. There were not a LOT of original concepts in PQ when you looked at each component individually (the match-3 elements, the rpg elements), but it took match-3 and jazzed it up like no one had ever done before. It was a huge hit out of nowhere (I actually bought it twice, for my DS and X-Box 360). I believe as a beginning developer I should look to that for inspiration, that I don’t need to re-invent the wheel for my first commercial success, maybe just bling it up a bit with some spinning rimz :]

2) I agree, while Puzzle Quest was nostalgic and a breath of fresh air at the same time somehow, games like Crysis just don’t do anything for me any more. It was Far Cry with stealth, which changed the gameplay a great deal, but did not create any NEW kind of gameplay. The biggest difference I saw is that instead of being killed by a machine gun on a boat 1 mile away (literally), you could sneak past the boat. I guess you could call Crysis art for being so damn pretty, but it is like a cocaine fed super model, all looks and no substance. The problem with catering to the audience you and myself are a part of is that your users are not that audience of jaded 21+ year olds (from what I can tell), and they determine the ratings on the games. No matter how much you love my clever game idea, if the site user base doesn’t get it, I do not get income for my effort, and I may subsequently starve to death given enough time with this lack of income.

3) You are correct, games ARE an art form, they are actually a combination of a multitude of skills. Excellent music composition, sound effect production, 3D modeling and skinning, 2D drawing, game mechanic design, level design, and even developer tool design, and script / storyboard writing are all necessary for a truly epic game these days. Anyone who has played it and doesn’t consider Chrono Trigger a work of art doesn’t know what they are talking about.

I am an idealist at the core, same as you, Chris. Unfortunately, ideals alone do not keep my stomach full :[

 
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Based on all of this, the best game on the site would be a half defense/half rpg with awesome grpahics where you play as a dolphin in the ocean and get cash or whatever from tricks.

Name = Sonny the Doplhin 1.5

 
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I’m really curious what other developers here at Kongegrate think about this topic and if they have ever considered it themselves.

 
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I support OP.
I made my own statistical survey here (feel free to use it, but quote)

I made a fake runescape account giveaway, if they tell me age and sex, results out of 100 respondents:

86% male

2% under 8
34% under 10
48% under 12
77% under 15
93% under 18
100% under 30

Then don´t be surprisesed that stupid series like pappa pizeria win the day.
I don´t claim this statistic is 100% reliable, with more respondents and different method, results may vary.

 
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so far sonny has very good graphics compared to alot of games on here. and it may of beat adventurequest so papa is going to die in sauce!!!!! mwa ha ha ha ha!

 
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I just make games that appeal to my wishes. I have no desires for success or $25.

 
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Crushproof, I envy your freedom.