Part of being a designer is to think about who your target audience is going to be. As the designer, you need to have an idea, from day one, of who is going to buy your game. If you plan to make a game for your family and friends, marketing is not as important, in fact, it would be pointless for a small audience. If you have aspirations to get your game into the world, you need to talk about your game to as many people as possible. Between social media, conventions and local game stores, there are a lot of places for you to talk about your games.
Another important part of knowing your target market is to consider your market when making design decisions. If you have a small intended audience, you can give your game inside jokes, hidden meanings and specific themes that would be meaningless to a stranger. When making a game for a larger audience, there are design decisions that need to be made to make your game appeal to a lot of people.
As an example, TGIK Games has a Football game called Line of Scrimmage, probably the best game we have designed. However, the audience for the game is a MAJOR unknown at this point. The game has been designed to have deep strategic player interaction in a sports setting. Sports fans would pick up the game because it is a sports game that closely simulated football. Hobby gamers would pick up the game because there is deep one on one strategy involved. The problem is, who do we pick as the target audience? Do we try and figure out a way to market to both audiences? Do we pick one over the other and make the game more or less appealing to one audience or another? Do we make two versions of the game? These are the questions (along with production costs….but that is another post!) that have forced us to put Line of Scrimmage on the sidelines, see what I did there…HEYO!
If the game is meant for a larger audience, designers need to consider how the game is to be taught to people who will never meet you. This means that mechanics and rules need to be as clear as possible so that fans of the game have a chance to learn and love the game and be able to teach the game to others.
Don’t be afraid to challenge your intended audience, but always keep your intended audience in mind when you are making design decisions.