in Game Design, game design articles

In 1997 Dan Lavin from Dataquest Inc. figured that only 4% of commercial games make money. (Armstrong, & Hamm, 1997) With such a big failure rate it is important to understand what needs to be avoided when developing a game. Research has shown that some of the most common reasons why games fail are unrealistic scope (75% cited this as a reason for failure), feature creep (75%), cutting features (70%), design problems (65%), delays (65%), and technological problems (60%). (Petrillo, Pimenta, Trindade, & Dietrich, 2009)
    A conference of seven game designers came up with the following reasons as reasons for failure:
  • small window before games are technologically obsolete
  • Lack of customer focus
  • Lack of reliable shared success criteria
  • Lack of business expertise
  • Outdated Practices
(Cook, Schildt, Warhol, Javelosa, & Schoback, 2006) These reasons for failure are preliminary to the reasons companies noted as being reasons for failure.

Lack of customer focus

The philosophy that what is fun for oneself is fun for everybody should not be relied on with the exception of minute details that don’t break the game. In order for one to gather good data about their customers, game designers should use players as discussed later in the Player’s role during production section.

Lack of reliable shared success criteria

This has been a problem for me as I have tried to research this subject. There is little that a company can do about this problem.

Lack of business expertise

Lack of business expertise is insignificant according to the other research that only found this to be a reason for failure 25% of the time. Problems causing 60-75% failure rates should be focused on.

Feature Creep

70% of games that fail, fail because unplanned features end up in the game. Unplanned features are not necessarily bad, but most of the time they are not done right. If done incrementally as mentioned below under game design models, unplanned features should not cause delays in the program because they wouldn’t be approved until a stable version of the game has been created, and it has been decided that not only will no features need to be cut out, but that there will be time to allow for unplanned features.

Technological problems

Technological problems happen when there are problems with a platform. This happens when a platform has not yet been tested by other developers and so there are many bugs in the software, or when a platform never makes, becomes outdated, or becomes a failure when it is released. Since there is a small window before a platform goes obsolete these platform problems often happen. Not developing on brand new platforms can solve this problem, but there are other considerations that should be taken when picking a platform.

New vs Old Platforms

Newer platforms provide the opportunity of having few competitors; however, newer platforms are not always guaranteed to succeed, and may have fewer development tools and unforeseen problems. Older platforms have the opportunity gathering lots of customers if successful. They have been tested by other developers, and all the weird kinks about these platforms are known. These platforms may not have the best hardware, and could go obsolete if a sequel platform is announced.

Ease of Use

The usability and friendliness of a platforms development tools has to be considered. Other development tools that a platform may offer should also be analysed.

Competition vs Customer Size

Usually platforms with more competition have more customers. The amount of customers you want to reach needs to be balanced with the amount of competition your able to go against.

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  1. Great to see my research quoted after all these years. I believe that the figure of 4% is still correct. Furthermore, of the 4% at the time of the research, only 1% made significant money.

    I have wanted to do some research about the profitability of Apps and see how the percentage stacks up.

    I do think you left out a few important factors. One of the most important missing one, I believe is distribution muscle. Also, licensing, sequels, etc.

    But at the end of the day, I remain firmly convinced that even with all these factors, the paramount one is still gameplay. By far.