Translating the Bartle Test to the F2P Market

The Bartle Test was a psychological test to determine how people played MMOs and categorized them based on four mindsets — Killers, Achievers, Socializers and Explorers. Understanding how your audience plays your game is very important when it comes to designing a game for them. 

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For today’s post we’re going to examine these four groups and see how they can fit into the F2P/social market.

Before we begin it’s important to mention the role of “whales” or the big spenders and primary profit means in the F2P market. The psychology of whales is in of itself separate from the four classifications from the Bartle Test. However whales can be seen from some of these groups which we’ll talk about in their respective sections.

Killers:

Killers are the competitive crowd — The people who want to be the best at the expense of someone else. They want the thrill of playing and winning against other players.  If the game is PvP based, then these players want to beat the other players in direct or indirect competition.

For those that don’t understand the difference between the two, the easiest way would be comparing League of Legends to Marvel Puzzle Quest. League of Legends is about direct competitive multiplayer — two groups of players are fighting each other for dominance.

Marvel Puzzle Quest however features indirect multiplayer — players win tournaments based on how many points they have while they fight AI controlled versions of other player’s teams without ever directly meeting the player. The important part is that they have to be competing with another player.

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“Killers” are players who want the thrill of competitive or PvP gameplay.

This audience wants whatever there is to make them stand above the rest of the players — The best weapons, equipment, bonuses, etc. If it can help them be the best, then they’re going to want it.

The extreme members of this group can become whales if your game is heavily focused on PvP elements and having better items locked to premium currency, as it’s all about fighting other players for them. The main consideration about this group is that given their tendency to go after players, you may have to find some way to separate them from your casual audience to prevent them from ruining someone else’s time.

This is why many MMOs feature a toggle-able PvP mode, so that the PvP audience can’t mess with the regular audience and can only attack those that turned the mode on.

Next we have Achievers who want to be the best, but for some different reasons.

Achievers:

Achievers are people who thrive on progress and completing goals. They love to complete achievements, get in game rewards and show that they are the best in the game.

Anything that acts as a status symbol that can only be obtained through progress will attract them. Similar to killers, achievers will compete with other players, but it’s not about fighting other players but about seeing who is #1.

Another strong candidate for whales, if there is something unique that requires premium currency, they will want it to show off. For many F2P and social titles, achievers can be a great group to target considering how many F2P games are built around an escalating sense of progression.

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Titles built around progression or achievements are the best at attracting “achievers”

The only consideration for them is that once your game runs out of things to do, they will have no reason to stay around and will go find another game to play and master. You’ll need to be constantly providing new content or goals to achieve to keep them invested.

Next we have socializers who as the name implies are all about the community aspect.

Socializers:

The socializer is someone who plays games for the communal aspect — They want to make friends, establish relationships and interact with people.

It’s not so much about playing the game as it is playing with friends. Because of this, the socializer wants ways to communicate with players such as in game mail, private messaging or guild options. As long as they have people to play with, they will keep playing your title to be around the people they like.

However that makes them very hard to sell new content or other IAPs to as they are more concerned about their friends than they are about the newest content. Another issue is if their friends stop playing and move on to another game, they may leave your game to stick with their friends.

Finally we come to the explorer which is perhaps the hardest group to attract to a F2P title.

Explorer:

The explorer as the name implies is the adventurer– They want to explore a world and see everything the game has to offer. Leveling and progression is secondary to being able to explore the setting. When they find a game that pulls them in, they can become hooked for months or even years to explore and find everything there is.

Similar to achievers, they will want to get everything they can out of a game and if new content introduces new settings, they will pay the additional money to keep exploring.

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“Explorers” are the hardest to attract to F2P games as they don’t want a game about quick gameplay but something for the long haul.

The problem is that the explorer mindset of spending a long time with a game is the antithesis of the quick engagement model that a lot of F2P titles are going for. If the game doesn’t have enough content to keep them interested, they will move on to the next. Titles like Candy Crush Saga, Farmville and other games where you’re just looking at one main screen are not going to be enough for them.

They want to explore worlds like in World of Warcraft, Skyrim and other massive games who had the resources needed to create these massive experiences. And any pay or wait mechanics that stop them from engaging with the game will drive them away.

The Audience for F2P Games:

The different mindsets can impact the type of the audience that your game will appeal to. From looking at the four types, achievers and killers are the best fits for F2P titles today while socializers and explorers are the hardest to attract.

Whether or not the market is the same in the future remains to be seen. With more developers turning to F2P titles, trying to appeal to either the socializer, explorer or both may be enough of a change to standout from the rest of the market or create the next great F2P title.

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