In this LevelUp episode, Melissa sits down with Anna Popereko, Game Design Consultant at ironSource from Unity. They talk about the importance of user motivations, what even are they, why they should be a part of your monetization strategy, and more.

Tune in or keep reading for the highlights:

What Anna does at ironSource from Unity

"For the last few years at ironSource I've taken all the baggage that I've brought from mobile game development and all the understanding of user's motivations, player motivations, and behavior and I use it to consult on game design with our clients. I help them to understand how their players behave, what they're missing in their games, and how they can leverage it in terms of user's motivation and monetization. 

I have two advantages. I have the experience and I also have a lot of data that I can handle from inside ironSource and inside Unity to look into different genres and into different games. I then use how players behave to understand the reason behind the data."

Classifying player motivations

"There are different frameworks for user motivations. The classic ones probably are self-determination theory or players' experience of need, which are the major and most well-known user motivation breakdowns.

They break down the user motivation into three to four different groups of users: killers, achievers, socializers, explorers, for example. I like to use a more extended version of user motivations. It's the gamer motivation model that is introduced by Quantic Foundry.

They have 12 user motivations which are more granular. They have six major ones: action, social, mastery, achievement, immersion and creativity."

How to start understanding user motivations

"If you’re talking specifically about match-three games. It's a very clear audience and very clear motivation. If we're talking about a very defined genre and defined market, there are specific motivations and a specific audience that we’re aiming for. But if we're analyzing something that is a less defined market, the first step will be to get to know the game, to understand what might be the internal motivation for the players."

User motivations should accompany game design at every step

"It's something that should accompany the game development process from the pre-production to the final release and even post. When you're looking into a game idea, you have gameplay, you have a story, but you need to also take into account how this story or this gameplay is matching the motivation of the target audience that you’re going for.

If I'm building a match three game, I will not aim at the achievers or domination users. They will not be my target audience. But I will if I'm going to build a first person shooter. And this should be applied from the first idea. You should be thinking about it in iteration, pre-production through the production, and to the release. Everything should be A/B tested on the real audience. Soft launch just to confirm your theory that your target audience have indeed the same motivations and indeed following what you planned for."

The role of user motivations in monetization strategy

"Ad monetization is part of the user’s behavior. It’s a part of how the user behaves. It's a part of what the user needs. For example, if the user is playing match three they want to complete it, it's a challenge. They want to complete it by themselves to prove that they're smart. To say “I am an independent, strong, older woman”. Effective monetization helps the player to fulfill this motivation. By offering a small power up, giving them one more try, it’s a chance to prove that they are indeed smart.

Say you have a collectible card game and you’re opening the packs and you’re getting new cards that you were looking for and it completes  parts of your collection. You might have a traffic driver that doubles your cards, but the user who plays these games doesn't care about doubling their cards because they already have them. They want to get more cards and to upgrade them. So what is more beneficial in this case is having a traffic driver saying “open another small pack” or “get another random card”. This addresses the collector motivations inside of the player."

Monetization is a part of  your game's design

"Monetization is not something that you just slap on top and you just go with it. Monetization is a part of the game. It's a feature of the game that needs to fit in the game economy, which is super important. Players' motivation, super important. It should not disrupt the balance. If you are monetizing with ads, you need to remember how the players are behaving. You need to adjust the currency that you are giving inside of the game according to what you started offering with monetization. And you need to understand how it's going to be used in the game.

If you are doing it right, it's going to be profitable, but it's also going to influence the behavior of the player. You need to AB test a lot and you need to understand how to change the game to adjust to that monetization. And this is where I help."

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