In my previous two posts I talked about how I showcased Dare the Monkey at a major UK games expo and discussed the reasons for doing so and also the costs involved. Today I’d like to talk about what I got from the experience and whether it benefited the development of my game in any meaningful way. Here’s what I took away from the whole experience.
Get there early
I made the conscious decision to arrive early on setup day (Friday). It turned out to be a great move! I was the first indie dev to arrive and was given the choice of stand to display at. I naturally picked the one that had the best line of site across the entire hall and also the easiest access – some of the other stalls were really hard to reach when the show floor was busy.
So things were off to a good start and I’d learned something valuable for future events: turn up early.
Establish Your Target Audience
I wasn’t prepared for the volume of traffic to my stand and I’ll admit things were more than a bit hectic at times. However, one thing because apparent fairly early on: Dare the Monkey was attracting a very specific age range, mainly 8-12 year olds. This was great because by the end of the day I had a very clearly idea of exactly who my target audience was. It wasn’t quite what I’d expected, but now I knew who I should focus the gaming experience on.
Take Notes Of Everything Or You’ll Forget
The next thing I noticed was that, although the kids were really enjoying themselves, I constantly had to interject and help with various pain points they were experiencing. It was clear almost immediately that some of the game’s basic concepts were being lost on the players – especially the younger ones. It was also obvious that there were various difficulty spikes that were hampering progress and causing serious frustration.
As I was a bit unprepared I could only take mental notes of these issues on the first day. On the second day I made sure I had paper and pen at hand. Lesson learned. Observe and take notes of everything that is going on, otherwise you’ll likely forget some really important details.
React to What You Observe
After the Saturday session I went home and quickly made some changes to the build. The hope was that these changes would reduce the amount of problems the kids were having. Sure enough, some of the changes made a huge difference and I very rarely had to help the kids out the following day.
I had actually debated whether I should risk making changes so late in the day, but with another large audience due on the Sunday I felt it was worth the risk. After all, I could easily revert to the Saturday build if anything went wrong with the Sunday build, and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to essentially A/B test the app with a large number of gamers.
Gather Useful Analytics
On day two I was much better prepared and decided to start gathering some useful analytics from the users. I started asking kids what age they were, noting their gender, and most importantly I started timing the length of each play session.
In hindsight I should have also counted the number of restarts per session as this would help me calculate how many ads I could likely serve in a single play session, if I decided to go down the freemium path with Dare the Monkey that is.
Of course, if I’d had more time before the actual event I could have laced some analytics tracking into the app itself. This would have made life much easier.
Engage With The Users
Kids love to talk about everything. Talk to the kids. Talk to their parents. Let them know that you made the game otherwise they’ll just think you’re some random person doing the demo. The kids get very excited when they find out that you’re a games developer. And the parents and other adults are also naturally interested in the game development process.
By engaging with your target audience you can quickly turn them into really excited fans who’ll go straight home and tell all their friends and family about your game.
Overall I think it was a massively successful and rewarding experience. I have gathered very useful analytics, I now know exactly who my target audience is and I’ve already started fixing bugs and issues that came up during the gameplay sessions.
I’ve also been able to better understand how to balance the game’s difficulty level and going forward I feel much better prepared for doing other events in the future. The whole weekend cost me under £200 and I think it represented fantastic value for money. I certainly feel that exhibiting at PLAY Expo Glasgow was a very worthwhile experience.