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PeopleFun Uses SparkLabs Creatives to Improve Confidence About Game Prototyping

by Claire Tak on Sep 24, 2020

Highlights: 

  • PeopleFun wanted to create a standardized process for gauging the potential marketability of game concepts
  • This would allow PeopleFun to be more confident that a concept is marketable before investing resources into further development
  • Their partnership with SparkLabs proved to be a success and yielded eye-opening results to help them make better business decisions

Remember the last bad movie you saw? You probably wanted to turn it off, but since you invested at least an hour, you may have watched it to the end. What about that time you ordered a big meal and felt the pressure to eat all of it because it was already paid for? 

These are examples of a term known as sunk cost fallacy and in the mobile world, having to build an entire game only to find out it’s not the hit you imagined could be expensive and not to mention disappointing. That’s why it’s important to find out how marketable your game is, without having to build the entire game. 

What is marketability?

Testing marketability starts with the game’s core mechanic. Studios want to know as much as possible ahead of investing development resources if players would potentially be interested in their game’s core concept or artwork.

Marketability testing is a great way to find out if the gameplay mechanics and artwork are drawing in your targeted audience and getting them to download your game. 

If not, studios can quickly kill the game idea and move on to the next idea. 

It’s a great way to let the data lead you to whether you want to continue building the game or move on, without feeling like you’ve invested a ton of time or energy into it. Hence, your sunk costs would be low. 

PeopleFun partners with AppLovin’s SparkLabs 

Top Dallas-based game developer PeopleFun teamed up with AppLovin’s SparkLabs to understand how marketable their game prototypes were. PeopleFun is known for creating casual hit games like Wordscapes (Android), Wordstacks (Android), Blockscapes (Android) Word Chums! (Android), and Wordscapes in Bloom (Android).

AppLovin’s SparkLabs is a creative powerhouse established to make compelling ad creatives for studios and also help them understand marketability for their games. 

Whether it’s for marketing a new game launch, keeping an existing game lifted in the market, assessing viability for a new product idea, or wanting to better understand how to improve game mechanics or introduce new art styles for an existing game to boost user engagement, SparkLabs provides a full-stack service for studios.

“We’ve partnered with numerous mobile gaming studios globally and observed in the past year that more and more developers are leveraging creatives in sophisticated manners beyond pure UA,” said Alice Guillaume, Head of SparkLabs. “One key use-case that has emerged is utilizing videos and playables to gain as many insights as possible into their potential player-base and market-fit to make intelligent informed decisions when producing a new game.”

PeopleFun wanted SparkLabs to help them understand how new game mechanics would help them discover: 

  • New games they could develop for their user base
  • New users they could attract to their brand
  • Macro takeaways from the test results 

SparkLabs implemented strategies for marketability testing based on PeopleFun’s needs, including creating surveys to randomized focus groups that served well-designed and thought-out creatives and then running performance testing. 

How SparkLabs’ marketability testing drove results for PeopleFun

So, what type of results did PeopleFun see? 

There were definitely interesting and eye-opening results from the data testing that helped PeopleFun make better decisions about their games. 

With one of the games, for example, SparkLabs tested two different game mechanics and art styles. Of the two mechanics was a pinball mechanic, another was a billiard mechanic. 

Of the two art styles, one was brighter and more colorful, another was darker. The results yielded surprising and informative results—the top-performing creative indicated that of the two mechanics the pinball mechanic appealed to more users and they had discovered a game mechanic that resonated more with an older, male demographic—which was different from the mature female audience that was a part of their core, historically.

These findings were valuable as it illuminated to PeopleFun a potential new segment of the market they could expand into and with data to back it. PeopleFun had greater confidence in proceeding with the next phase which was investing developer resources in building out an MVP prototype. 

Impact of PeopleFun’s business, with SparkLabs’ marketability testing

In thinking about the business of PeopleFun’s games and which titles would make it to development vs. being killed, SparkLabs was able to help their team free up precious time and energy by understanding which prototypes to not develop. 

Alexandra Osborne-Jones, an AppLovin Partnerships Manager, explained, “SparksLabs has been essential to the efficient growth and product development of PeopleFun. By helping with marketability testing for new game ideas, PeopleFun has been able to quickly choose the games with the highest potential for both user engagement and marketability.

From there, we can produce games with promise, rather than building out prototypes for games that wouldn’t be successful in the market, which can be a time-intensive process.”

Benefits of objective data vs. personal biases

Objective data from SparkLabs helps mitigate personal biases from game developers. When working at a studio, game developers or designers may believe they’re making really cool games that they themselves would play, but does that mean it would also appeal to a wider market? 

Not necessarily—which is why having data from marketability testing is key. The data, which is objective, may quell any “hunches” and determine just how accurate they may be. 

So, for example, if a video of a game prototype is yielding high CTRs of percentage video view completion that’s a positive indicator that what started off as an initial guess is actually marketable.

The on-going partnership with SparksLabs means continued and regular testing for art style, finessing game mechanics and copy, for example. These tests are conducted at a more filtered and sophisticated level, which provides valuable data so the team can optimize their games.

Carol Miu, Chief Product and Analytics Officer, spoke about the value of the partnership, saying, “Our friends at SparkLabs have been integral to our new game development strategy. They helped us identify the highest potential ROI new game ideas through creative development and testing that is both imaginative and analytically rigorous. This saved us time and money because it provided us with data that allowed us to invest in what our potential customers think are the best game concepts. We don’t waste time and effort making something the market doesn’t want.”

Lee Eisenhuth, Design Director at PeopleFun, added, “Games can take a long time to make. Imagine spending a year building a fun game only to learn that the audience size wanting to play your type of game is too small to run the business. SparkLabs helps us learn the market demand for our new game ideas before we write a single line of code by transforming them into testable video creatives.”

Learn more about what SparkLabs can do for your studio.

Claire Tak is Marketing Manager, Content at AppLovin.