The games market is becoming more and more segmented. Several years ago, it's been basically the big publishers controlling the entire market. The constant increase of internet bandwidth and the development of affordable developer kits like UDK or Unity made it possible for the Indie developer community to flourish. Fun and beautiful games like World of Goo or Trine have made the offer of games a lot richer since then.
Parallel to this development, another market just started evolving a few years ago: the innovative interface concept of iOS and the AppStore spawned a whole new generation of smartphones that allow game makers to easily connect to their audience without high levels of investment.
A market in transition
But it's not just new types of games we see, we're also being confronted with new monetization models that the established industry would have never deemed possible. The Humble Indie Bundle introduced a quite successful "pay what you want" monetization model and the mobile market grew to success with in-app purchases through a microtransaction system.
While the Indie developers take away benefits from a very close and faithful connection to their audience, the major publishers struggle with a lack of trust due to problems with DRM, online availability of their services and privacy concerns, especially in Europe. Of course, these measures have been introduced with online piracy as a justification. But gamer communities are becoming louder in saying that these measures hurt the honest customers more than the pirates.
Lack of reliable research
Is that just a tiny fraction of the community that is very loud? Or are we facing an increasingly negative attitude towards distribution and monetization strategies? It's incredibly hard to tell, since the major publishers usually don't share their insights gathered through market research. And when they do, we're often being confronted with "copyright math" that does not give us any meaningful insights. At the same time, the large market research institutes like Newzoo are not quite affordable to Indie developers and at the same time aren't transparent enough to evaluate their methodology.
Public research hasn't really touched this topic yet with focus on the gaming community. As part of my studies at Mediadesign University of Applied Sciences, I've started a research project that deals with the very question of what different gaming communities think about different aspects of digitally distributed games - with focus on distribution and monetization policies.
As part of the research, I'm conducting a survey called 'Gamer Mentality 2012' that tries to quantify the attitudes present in different gaming communities. I'd be particularly interested in hearing the opinions of indie gamers, so I hope you all participate :)
I will keep you up to date on the progress of this project in this blog and hope to lay down some groundwork for researchers to investigate further in lab tests.