Making Games Relevant

October 8th, 2008

buzz tv

Before I arrived in China I decided to watch over Nintendo’s E3 2006 Press Conference. My reason for doing so is because I’ve slowly become more attuned to Nintendo’s greater vision for play to be universal and wanted to familiarize myself a little more with their message.

Watching the conference jolted my mind as to how difficult it is to initially become motivated in and then actively maintain an interest in video games. I came up with the following list of comparisons between the different entertainment mediums to highlight my point. These are all just rough ideas which I have tried to constrict to a median range:

Teaser – 30 seconds – 2 minutes (blurb)
Sample – 10-25 minutes (first chapter/few pages)
Completion – 3 – 10hrs

Teaser – 20 seconds (chorus of one song)
Sample – 8-12 minutes (handful of songs)
Completion – 30 minutes – 1hr (album)

Teaser – 30 seconds – 2 minutes ((teaser) trailer)
Sample – 5-15 minutes (one scene/extended trailer)
Completion – 1-3 hrs

Video Games
Teaser – 1-3 minutes (trailer)
Sample – 10 minutes – 1hr plus (demo)
Completion – 5–25hrs

This logic is highly flawed though, as each medium has it’s individual constructs which set them apart. If we talk dispensability then you can start up a Flash game on Kongregate and be done in 5 minutes, the same length as it’d take you to listen to a few music tracks. Then again it’d only take you less then 5 minutes to read this article (literature), right? So where do we draw the line? Who cares anyways? These are just loose approximations.

As you can see by the notes, “generally speaking” video games demand the highest threshold of the four, in each of the three categories. This means that for busy everyday people with mouths to feed playing a game can easily be seen as selfish fun (horrah for the manchild!). So how do you capture their attention?

cooking guide
You get their attention by making the game itself relevant to these people, relevant but also accessible because even if your product is relevant, it means nothing if it is out of reach. Now, we should define both ‘relevant’ and ”accessible ‘ to further understand how they operate within the notion of this “mouths to feed” market.


To be relevant means being set in a field (of interest/necessity) related to the consumer’s but also having merit and/or significance in that field. For example, my Mum is an unbelievably good cook so a game like Cooking Guide for the DS is relevant. Unfortunately for Nintendo, she is already a good cook hence there is little merit in her buying Cooking Guide (as it teaches her how to cook). So in the end she is disinterested.


Much like relevancy, accessibility is multi-faceted and can be summed up under the following:

-communication – through clear advertising, let them hear about it
-ease of access – is it a straight up purchase or does it require extras? Will it be there? I want it now!
-ease of use – is it easy to use and understand

I think that as games continue to develop and expand, these layers will then begin to disappear. That is through way of instant purchases, a widening market etc.

I’ll leave the marketing101 here and next time (or sometime thereafter) will look at some case studies of successful games to apply these concepts to.