Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
There is a segment of the U.S. market that wants to play as soldiers
and shoot at other soldiers in a high-skill competition. There is a segment
of the Japanese market that wants to play with digital ponies and revel in
their cuteness. There are segments that like racing, segments that are into
steampunk, segments that have great platformer skills, and segments with
deep knowledge of professional basketball.
The size of the market segments targeted by a game affects its poten-
tial payoff, because some market segments are bigger and more lucrative
than others.
For example, consider System Shock 2 and Half-Life . The games were
released within one year of each other. Both were played from a first-
person perspective, and involved playing as a lone man trapped in a huge,
monster-infested installation. Both were considered masterpieces by those
who played them, and received wide acclaim from reviewers. But despite
the similarities, Half-Life outsold System Shock 2 more than ten to one.
The difference was in market targeting. System Shock 2 is more complex
and difficult, so it appealed to a small segment of hardcore, complexity-
seeking players. Half-Life is simpler, easier, and more action-oriented, so
it appealed to a much larger group. Each game won its tournament hands
down—but Half-Life played in a much larger league, and so made more
The downside of targeting a larger market segment is that it will tend
to have more competition because it is so lucrative.
Had Irrational Games made System Shock 2 more similar to Half-Life ,
its sales may have actually decreased. The studio would have been target-
ing a bigger segment, but it would have also entered into direct competition
with Valve, Epic Games, and id Software, all of which were in the action
shooter market at the time. Players in this segment may have decided that
they'd rather just play Half-Life , Unreal , or Quake II . So Irrational decided
not to take the risk, and to stick with the smaller and less competitive
nerdy survival horror RPG segment.
These two forces—the profitability of large market segments and the
competition they attract—tend to balance out. Large, profitable market
segments attract developers, which increases competition in those seg-
ments, which reduces their profitability. Over time, the game market tends
to fall toward an equilibrium where no segment is more profitable than
any other.
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