There’s an interesting article by Sergey Galyonkin on Medium titled, Your Target Audience Doesn’t Exist, and looking at how PC gaming data from Steam shows that there’s a ‘World of Warcraft’ audience, rather than one for MMORPGs, and a ‘DOTA 2’ audience rather than one for MOBA gaming.
So the result is that certain games create a specific market, but when companies and marketers plan releases, they assume there’s a general market for MMORPGs, MOBAs, First-Person Shooters etc, and that they just need to capture a percentage of it. Which doesn’t actually exist.
In addition to the data Sergey provides on Steam PC gaming, it certainly rings true in my experience. Even if Call of Duty isn’t the only first person shooter around, any gamer can probably name the 3 or 4 titles which own that vertical. In racing games, there are few cross-platform titles which capture the attention of Sony-specific Gran Turismo and Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport (And I’ve spent a fair while looking at FPS games and Racing games).
But I’ve started wondering how far that same effect occurs beyond videogames. Entertainment seems the next logical place to look – If people obsessively listen to Beat The Champ by The Mountain Goats (Spotify link), do they want more American indie music? More songs about classic wrestling heroes and themes? Or could it be possible that we only really need one eloquent collection of wrestling themed songs in our life?
In movies, studios tend to emulate the best guesses of other studios and recent success. After all, it’s an industry where William Goldman’s excellent ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ has been endlessly quoted;
“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
So if you’ve watched every Fast ‘n’ Furious, do you need the Need for Speed film?
I can answer that question, because you can enjoy the increasingly unbelievable and trashy action adventure of the Fast ‘n’ Furious series, but Need for Speed manages to make racing supercars tedious. Meanwhile 200MPH is often claimed as the worst car film of all time for good reason.
But does it go further than that?
In business and marketing everyone has obsessed over data as the answer to all uncertainty. With enough big data, we can examine the past and present to apparently predict the future as well. Hence the problems when a target set-in-stone isn’t met and exceeded on schedule. And the potential business collapse when share prices are affected.
But the data on videogames suggests that existing general markets don’t necessarily exist. Do we need more than one Facebook or Twitter? How many apps does the average person actually use? (The answer is a handful)?
How much of the explosion of craft beer, coffee and food companies is due to forecasting the potential to steal a 1% market share of the 30+ male beer buying consumer, and how much is based on making something brilliant and then getting to know customers personally?
It’s not about discarding all your data. It’s about using the right data in the right way, and not seeing it as the sole motivation. And with that, we go back to the likes of Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.
“If we used data on existing target audiences, all we’ll build are faster horses”, as Ford might say now…