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November 2, 2022

How To Stand Out - Making A Competitive Analysis in Games

Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo, Destiny, Apex - All fantastic first-person shooter games. Thousands of first-person shooters exist, each competing for the top spot of the genre. Despite their similarities, each has its art style, gameplay, and mechanics that still make them unique games.

So, say you wanted to make an FPS yourself. Is there a way to figure out what makes your idea unique before you begin game development?

Enter the Competitive Analysis.

A Competitive Analysis is a report that can help guide your game design and development to help you make something truly unique. Creating a competitive analysis (or competitor analysis) enables you to analyze other video games in the market. 

A competitive analysis also indicates whether or not your game has a chance to stand out. They can signal whether you’ll get drowned out by the competition before you start.

But what’s in a Competitive Analysis, and how do you put one together? I’m glad you asked.

What Is Your Game? - Game Overview

The first section describes your game:

  • What’s the genre of the game, and what types of players will be playing it? 
  • How are you going to make money from the game? 
  • On what platform(s) will the game be playable? What game engine will it use?
  • Will it be 2D or 3D graphics?
  • What other factors might affect the design of the game?

This section is also where you’ll be picking 2-3 competitors in the game industry to compare them with your project. You want these competing games to have similar aspects to your game and have them vary depending on their developer’s size. 

For example, if you’re looking to make a looter shooter, you’ll want to pick games developed by larger studios like Borderlands 3 and Destiny. It’s also a good idea to include games like Vapormaze and Risk of Rain 2. They are from smaller studios but can give a good view of the market, from the highest market leaders to the smaller indie developers.

Let’s Look At The Money - Price Point

This section is where you’ll put the price or pricing model of your game: 

  • Are you going AAA at $60-$70? 
  • Are you going to stick around $20-30 like other indie developers? 
  • Are you going the Free to Play route with a battle pass or DLC?

You’ll also list your competitor's prices and pricing models in this area. Collecting their pricing will help you understand what the competition is doing and where they’re finding success. 

It can also give you an idea of what doesn’t work. For example, while Pay-to-Win may make money in the short run, you’ll likely anger your fan base and hurt your game.

Picture of hundred dollar bills in a brief case

Is The Genre Overloaded? - Genre Breakdown

The Genre Breakdown is where you get a good idea of how saturated the genre is for the game you’re making. You’ll want to look at the average price, average revenue, and quantity of games in the genre. 

Using tools like VGInsights.com, pulling this data and other market trends can be easy.

Remember to save all those graphs, as they can help explain things further in the future. They are essential when using the Competitive Analysis to pitch investors on your game. 

You can put them all in a “Figures” section at the end of the Analysis for reference.

Who’s Playing Your Game? - Target Audience

This section will detail the demographics, preferences, and characteristics of the people you think will love your game. Using search engines to look up “What demographic plays shooter games?” or “What kind of player plays [competitive shooter game]?” can help discover demographics like age and gender.

Those searches can also help you find things like preferences and characteristics:

  • What do those players enjoy in those games? 
  • Do those same features apply to your game? 
  • Are they competitive or prefer cooperative game types? 
  • What kind of level design do they like?

These questions can help you visualize who will be playing your game and guide how you market your game to your audience.

Another beneficial aspect of this section is finding the audience size. The easiest way to get this number is to have a Facebook Business account. Go to All Tools and go to the Audiences tool. Plug in your demographics and Facebook will estimate how many people could be interested in your game!

Let’s Look At The Competition - Competitors

Here’s where we’ll dive deeper into one of the biggest influencers of your game’s success. This section aims to get familiar with what your competitors are doing. Knowing your competitors gives you an idea of how to interact with them in the market.

For example, if you’re making a realistic shooter, then it would not be a good idea to try to take on Call of Duty directly. You’d probably want to highlight a game mode or a significant pain point that Call of Duty players experience. If you were comparing yourself to Borderlands, you could see how you can describe your game as its realistic counterpart. You can make yourself stand out as an alternate experience to what their players are used to but can still enjoy.

You’ll want to take a look at your keyword overlap. Look at your competitor’s website or SEO analytics using SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs. See what keywords they are targeting that you would like to rank for on Google and how difficult it might be to compete with them for that keyword. 

Pay attention to long-tail keywords, especially if you’re just entering the market. Keywords like “shooter” might be almost impossible to rank for, but something like “best looter shooter” could be far easier and cheaper to target.

Next, you’ll want to describe your competitor’s game briefly, so anyone who reads the report is on the same page. You’ll also want to describe their target audience using the same methods you used to define your own.

Define the problem they solve and the product they are offering. For example, the problem solution may be “Call of Duty provides a fast-paced competitive military shooter,” with the product being “First Person Shooter Game.”

Lastly, you’ll want to list the similarities between your game and theirs. These can be fast-paced gameplay, arena style combat, zombie game mode, or RPG leveling system.

You’ll want to analyze these steps for each of the competitors you chose in the Game Overview section.

Picture of a person holding a chess piece after taking down several of their opponents chess pieces

How To Win And Avoid Losing - Key Advantages & Disadvantages

So now that you’ve done all the research, now what?

This section allows you to put all that information to work and determine what advantages and disadvantages your game could have in the market. You’ll look at your competitors, the market, and other factors to determine what could work in your favor and against you when considering your video game development.

For example, let's look at the FPS, Metal: Hellsinger, and some of its strengths and weaknesses in the market.

One drawback is that it looks similar to Doom (2016) & Doom Eternal. Doom is made by a larger company with millions to spend on marketing. It also has a similar setting and uses heavy metal music with its gameplay. These factors could make Doom very difficult to compete against for an indie studio.

However, some of these things can play to its advantages as well. Doom fans are likelier to enjoy the aesthetic, gameplay, and music of Metal: Hellsinger, which shows an established audience. 

Metal: Hellsinger also separates itself by heavily tying its mechanics to its music. These mechanics make its gameplay unique by adding a rhythm game element. The game Leans into its music even more by possessing a musical score created by several heavy hitters in the Metal music scene.

By knowing the market it was entering, the developers could make a game for rhythm game, Doom, and Heavy Metal music fans. They used the perceived disadvantage of a much larger competitor to their advantage. They did this by making a game that didn’t compete directly with Doom but by making a game that would also satisfy that audience.

Build Your Fan Base - Marketing Strategy

This section is where you use your research to determine the best place to reach your audience and how you plan to do so. Your strategy can, of course, change over time, but this is where you can start brainstorming how you’ll approach the market.

Where will you be building your audience:

  • Will they be on Social Media, such as Facebook or Twitter? 
  • Will you be reaching out to gaming publications like PC Gamer or Kotaku
  • Will you be using ads, and where?
  • Will you have a website for your game or just a Steam page?

You can also include some ideas for content. Like: 

  • Will you have a developer blog? 
  • Will it be a written series, or will you post it on YouTube? 
  • Will you post teaser images on Instagram or gameplay on TikTok?

You will also want to list the channels you will use for marketing. Even if you mention it in your overall strategy, you will want to list it for easy reference if necessary.

Bring It All Together - Summary

Here is the most helpful section of all. The summary is where you break down your report into little digestible pieces for quick reference. Even though you do this part last, you will put this section first in the analysis.

You don’t want to shuffle through pages and pages of notes when you can get a reminder from the summary. You may be asking, “but why would I prepare this whole thing when all I needed was the summary?!”

That’s because the summary should be just that, a summary. It should only give the briefest information to serve as a reminder or a reference to what content can be found further in the document. If something catches your eye or you want a specific reminder, you can dive into the report and get the details.

A picture of digital statistics and graphs used for marketing analysis

Delightful Data - Figures & Sources

Find some handy graphs or infographics on your research journey? Were they super helpful, but you didn’t want to flood the middle of the document with images? Then this section is perfect for you.

This section is where you can drop all those handy images to label, link, and reference at your convenience. If you’re using an app like Google Docs, you can link them to the document for easier navigation. Data at your fingertips!

At the very end, you can also include a section that lists all of your references and articles that helped you along the way. This way, you can look back at the source info later without having to do all the research again.

Analysis Analyzed

Congratulations! You have a competitive analysis ready to go.

You now have a document that tells you how to enter the market and a loose plan of how you intend to do it. You know your major competitors and how to work with or against them.

You can feel confident knowing that your game will have the opportunity to stand out in the market. The analysis also informs you whether you should reconsider your design and make changes that will help make your game more unique!

Now, with your analysis in hand, go forth and create the game of your dreams!

If you have any questions on getting started with your game, click here to reach out!

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