How to conduct a game UX competitor analysis [TATT #40]

the acagamic tip tuesday Nov 21, 2022
An image of different PS2 games with a starbust screenshot of a Ghost Recon in-game map.

In today's issue 40 of The Acagamic Tip Tuesday, I will show you how to conduct a game UX competitor analysis to make strategic decisions about improving your own game's UX. A UX competitor analysis can help you understand what other companies are doing well and where there might be opportunities for improvement in their games.

The benefits of this analysis are that you can learn from their successes and avoid their mistakes. This will help you identify opportunities to differentiate your product in the market. Unfortunately, many developers don't think it's necessary to conduct a competitor analysis or find it time-consuming and too difficult to find the correct data. Sometimes, game development teams may not know how to interpret the data.

UX Competitor Analysis: A game UX competitor analysis is used to identify strong and weak UX implementations in games that you will be competing against.

Understand how other companies are designing their user experiences

The goal of conducting a game UX competitor analysis is to understand what other games are doing well in terms of user experience so that you can incorporate those same principles into your own game design. You can also identify where other games are weak in terms of UX, which provides opportunities for your game to offer a better experience.

To understand how other companies are designing their user experiences, you must look at the underlying UX principles that guide their design decisions rather than simply copying individual features. This complements a design competitor analysis that studios usually perform internally.

The questions a UX competitor analysis answers

A competitor analysis is a method that can be used to answer questions about how your game compares to others on the market, such as:

  • What are the best practices for designing an onboarding experience for a game?
  • What are practical ways to present a push notification (for player retention)?
  • What are some ways to let players know there is more to the game than what they see at the surface level?
  • What are the key areas where your game falls short of the competition?

When to use a UX competitor analysis

This analysis can be instrumental at the concept stage when you are trying to figure out what kind of user experience you want to create. It should be used in these four scenarios:

1. When you want to reduce development time:

A game UX competitor analysis can help you save time by identifying areas where your game can improve upon the competition.

2. When you want to reduce project spending:

By understanding what features your competitors' games have and how much they cost, you can make informed decisions about where to allocate your resources.

3. When you want to reduce risk:

Identifying potential problems early on can help you avoid them altogether or at least mitigate their impact.

4. When you want to improve the player experience:

Ultimately, the goal of any game is to provide an enjoyable experience to players. Conducting a game UX competitor analysis can help ensure that your game is doing just that.

The steps of a UX competitor analysis of games

To conduct a game UX competitor analysis, you will need a list of competitor games. This can include previous games in the series if it is a sequel. Once you have your list of competitors, you will need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your game.

If you're serious about improving your game's UX, you must understand what your competitors are doing. Regular competitor analysis should be an essential part of any game development process.

When conducting a game UX competitor analysis, it is best to have two user researchers assess each game. This will provide more accurate results than having just one researcher assess all games. Additionally, it is recommended to evaluate at least 2-3 titles to get a well-rounded understanding of the competition.

Evaluating more than three titles is possible, but it takes more time and budget. If you're looking to evaluate many titles, you must prioritize which ones are most important to your specific analysis. Once you've identified the crucial titles, you can then begin to look at various elements of their UX design and how they compare to your own game.

There are a few different ways that you can go about conducting a game UX competitor analysis. One way is to look at the titles of games that your competitors are releasing. This can give you an idea of what kinds of games they are focusing on and the themes or gameplay elements they are exploring. Another way to do a competitor analysis is to play their games and take notes of your experience. This can help you identify areas where your game design might be able to improve.

The questions for the analysis should come from the client. They may suggest a defined list of criteria for comparison, or they may ask for an unguided analysis without prompting. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the client's goals and objectives before starting your research. This will help ensure that you're looking at the right factors when comparing different competitors. Take your time, and don't rush the process. A thorough competitor analysis can be precious to a client, so it's essential to do it right.

One approach here is to evaluate the game based on its components. This can be done by looking at how well the game mechanics work, the graphics and visual design, the user interface, and so on. By doing this, you can get a good idea of where the game excels and where it could be improved—for example, UI design, interaction design, game rule onboarding, character dialogue, and others.

The researchers investigate how different aspects of the game work together to create an enjoyable gameplay experience. This includes looking at how the game (and possible metagame) is designed and how players interact with it in gameplay duration intervals (seconds, minutes, hours).

The analysis report typically contains 100 pages of information. This can include details on the company's target market, its product offerings, its marketing and sales strategies, and more.

The report structure depends on the style of games being evaluated. For example, if you are evaluating first-person shooters, you will want to look at factors such as control scheme, level design, and AI behaviour. On the other hand, if you are evaluating strategy games, you will want to focus more on factors such as resource management, unit balance, and map design.

Describe which games succeeded in implementing the desired UX feature, why they were successful, and how the feature could be improved further.

This helps you consider how well the player is learning and enjoying the game. This involves looking at tutorials, in-game tips and tricks, and other ways players can learn how to play. It's essential to make sure that your game is easy to pick up and play while providing enough depth and challenge to keep players engaged.

In summary, a game UX competitor analysis is used to identify strong and weak UX implementations in games that you will be competing against. This can help you make strategic decisions about how to improve your own game's UX. When you identify where other games are weak in terms of UX, it provides opportunities for your game to offer a better experience.

Games Research Find of the Week

Studies on gamification in education focus on motivating students to improve their learning performance by increasing their motivation. However, there is a growing body of research that looks at how gamification can be used to model and understand student profiles and activities. This ontology (meaning the explanation of types of objects and the relationship between them) aims to provide a framework for modelling user profiles and activities in gamified education.

There are many different ways to classify behavioural profiles in gamified education. Some standard classifications include "gamer" or "user types." These classifications can help personalize students' experiences by providing tailored content and gameplay that matches their profile. This can ultimately improve the educational experience. However, it is necessary to broadly inspect learners' behavioural profiles to create an instructional design based on their intrinsic drivers and motivations.

The authors present the design and evaluation of an application ontology that seeks to represent relationships between Jung's archetypes adapted for educational purposes. The ontology is designed to support the modelling of user profiles and activities in gamified education applications. The work of Carl Jung is the basis for this ontology. He proposed 12 archetypes that can be used to model different aspects of a user's characteristics and goals. The paper presents a taxonomy of game elements for educational contexts.

This ontology helps educators tailor learning activities to students' individual profiles and needs. By modelling students' profiles and activity data, educators can better understand each student's strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This knowledge can then be used to design more targeted and compelling learning experiences that address each student's unique needs.

The authors demonstrate that the proposed ontology can help create better gamification designs to support learning by providing a more complete and accurate representation of users' profiles and activities. This, in turn, can help educators tailor the game elements to meet the needs of individual learners better.

Read the full study: Palomino, P. T., Toda, A. M., Rodrigues, L., Oliveira, W., Nacke, L., & Isotani, S. (2023). An ontology for modelling user’profiles and activities in gamified education. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 18. 

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