How Even A Value-Priced Game Can Be Of High Quality

On Saturday evening, as we were driving back home from an art festival where my wife had sold her artwork, we picked up some fast food because we were too tired to cook dinner. We decided to go to McDonald’s because my wife likes their Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad. Bad decision! Although there were only three cars ahead of us in the drive-thru, it was ten minutes from the time we ordered until we drove up to the pick-up window, which unfortunately has not been unusual of late at this particular McDonald’s location. Once we arrived at the window, the employee then asked us to pull up into a waiting area because it would be another five or ten minutes until the salad was ready. Our food actually came about three minutes later, but before driving away I asked my wife to double-check her salad because the last two times I picked one up for her, either there was no chicken in the salad or they gave us a Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad instead.

Meanwhile, the In-N-Out Burger across the street had a line of about ten cars in the drive-thru, but it managed to deliver each car’s order quickly. How I wish we had gone there instead! In-N-Out has never messed up my order, and their food is always delicious, and with each bite I appreciate how their food is made from fresh ingredients, just as they advertise — unlike my similarly priced McDonald’s burger, which was greasy and bland tasting. There is a substantial difference in quality, both with the service and the product, of the two establishments, and for in my experience, In-N-Out has the highest quality fast-food experience around.

That’s not to say that In-N-Out is the finest dining experience I’ve ever had. I’ve been lucky enough to eat at many fine restaurants around the world, and the best eating experience of my life was a week my wife and I spent in New Orléans, a highlight of the trip being dinner at the Commander’s Palace, which has been listed by some restaurant critics as one of the best restaurants in the America for its exquisite haute Creole cuisine.

Both In-N-Out and Commander’s Palace serve high quality food, but the difference between them is properly called grade.  In project management, the term “grade” represents a level or ranking system which can be used to differentiate between items that serve the same essential function, but have different attributes which result in different standards of quality output.  Thus, in the food industry, fast-food restaurants are low grade while fine dining restaurants are high-grade; in retail merchandising, Wal Mart is a lower grade than Nordstrom’s; and in video games, value-priced games are a lower grade than AAA games.

The grade of a product or service largely determines its price.  That’s why I will spend less than $10 for a meal at In-N-Out and more than $100 for a meal at Commander’s Palace.  Similarly, a value-priced game is sold for lest than $20, while a AAA game is typically priced at $60 or more.

However, a high-grade game still can be of low quality: haven’t you played a AAA game where you found the gameplay to be unengaging, the code to be buggy, or the customer service to be poor?  Conversely, a low-grade game like Angry Birds or Plants and Zombies can be of very high quality.

The moral of the story: don’t think that because you are developing a casual game, advertgame, or value-priced game that you can’t produce a game of quality.  Here are some basic tips to follow:

  • Clearly identify who your target players are and what they looking for in a game.
  • Study the competition and determine what can make your game stand out.
  • Define the player experience that will appeal to your target players and stand out from the competition.
  • Manage your game’s scope to ensure that it doesn’t go beyond the limits of your budget, schedule, or team’s capabilities.
  • Continually playtest your game with some of your target players and continually iterate until you achieve the desired player experience.
  • Bug test your game with quality assurance testers who are not part of your team, and use them to verify that bugs have actually been fixed.
  • Make sure that your marketing materials convey the actual player experience without over-promising.
  • Listen to your customers and follow up on the problems they report.

If you take pride in your work and aim to be the In-N-Out of your game niche, you can have customer lined up around the block too.






About David Mullich

I am a video game producer who has worked at Activision, Disney, Cyberdreams, EduWare, The 3DO Company and the Spin Master toy company. I am currently a game design and production consultant, a game design instructor at ArtCenter College of Design, and co-creator of the Boy Scouts of America Game Design Merit Badge. At the 2014 Gamification World Congress in Barcelona, I was rated the 14th ranking "Gamification Guru" in social media.

Posted on October 24, 2016, in Game Production and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The best food is prepared by oneself, and it is also the cheapest. The same is true for games.

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