Teens take the lead in video game circles

French software producer Yves Guillemot gives teen-winning gaming tips...
October 1, 1998

French software producer Yves Guillemot gives teen-winning gaming tips

In the video game world, teenagers are a crucial market. Through focus groups and outside market research, we know that teenagers influence buying decisions in more than 40% of video game purchase instances. But when it comes to actually buying games, teenagers and children account for only about 10% of all video game-related purchasing. The conclusion that they influence parents to buy certain games is obvious, but the actual truths surrounding teenagers in this industry are much more revealing.

Teens are early adopters of games and the most avid fans and critics of games. Through magazine subscription data, arcade play surveys, customer feedback and Web site demographics, we know that the teenage audience eagerly looks for any new game information. We recognize this and maximize it by mining teenagers’ opinions through focus groups, beta play-testing, and sometimes even recruiting teens who are part of our development and testing staff.

At Ubi Soft Entertainment, when we develop video or computer games, we consider a number of factors. Among them:

* The right products must be on the right platforms.

When it comes to dedicated video game consoles, these systems are being used 44% of the time by persons under the age of 18. To Ubi Soft, this means an action game is better suited to a video game console, while strategy-oriented board games are better destined for the PC platform.

* Price, graphics and sound-the most important purchase considerations.

Our studies-both focus groups and outside research-continually list these factors in this order. Teenagers are price-sensitive because they have to be. They don’t have as much discretionary spending money as adults and are selective with their entertainment dollars.

Games must look good. As for sound and music in games, their quality has increased dramatically as the technology improves to address them. Ours is an audience that truly responds to sound and music. When Ubi Soft runs focus groups on games with differing qualities of sound, the audience registers a difference in how the games are perceived.

Rayman is an example of one product that has continued to evolve with the help of the teenage marketplace. Rayman is both a multimillion-dollar-selling character introduced three years ago and Ubi Soft’s strongest brand. Since Rayman’s launch, game platforms have delivered improved speed and graphics, and the game’s consumers have grown three years older. Given these changes, should we give Rayman a face-lift?

We looked to focus groups to help answer this question. After much study, Rayman has indeed been ‘aged’ somewhat. Certainly, we are taking advantage of technological advances, but we also reworked some of his personality and actions to purposely make him less ‘cute’ and more ‘cool,’ as the teenagers advised. Our customers expect us to evolve the brand, and will criticize us harshly if we don’t.

* Fun is fun, regardless of age.

The hallmark of a good game is good game play. Ubi Soft looks to answer two questions above all else: ‘Was it fun?’ and ‘Would you play it again?’ We use focus groups to test playability, game concepts and pricing. We find that the teenage market segment ‘gets it’ faster and is more critical of game play, which plays an important role given the next consideration.

* Word of mouth is the most important selling tool.

Nowhere is word of mouth more important than among this demographic. Why? Teenagers have less direct discretionary spending money than adults. Plus, they are creating image-they are trendsetters. They know the difference between cool, cold, hot, fresh and phat. What could be cooler than that?

Yves Guillemot is the president of Montreuil, France-based Ubi Soft Entertainment, a global developer and publisher of entertainment and educational software.

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