Hey everyone! Your friendly, neighborhood, marketing drone here with what I hope will be an eye-opening insight into gamers' thoughts on DLC. First off: a big thank you to everyone who participated in our survey. Hearing your thoughts helps us understand your opinions better, and make better games.
For those who don't know, on October 4, 2017, we published a survey, asking some key questions about players' preferences regarding DLC, and a bit about their backgrounds, as well. As anyone at Obsidian will tell you, I am big on data, and have been pushing for stuff like this for a while. So, hey, thanks for making me look good with the absolutely huge response we got to the survey:
Forecast Response: ~12,000 - 18,000
Actual Responses: 55,035
Sources: Kickstarter/Fig Backers, Obsidian Forums, Obsidian Newsletter, Reddit (big thanks to the awesome humans at /r/projecteternity and /r/Fallout!), Twitter, Facebook, and from many of our wonderful developer and publisher colleagues.
The survey ran until October 20, 2017, and we thank everyone who participated and all our partners who assisted us! For those who missed it, here is the amazing survey background art we used, as created by our Community Manager, Aarik Dorobiala (presented here in 1080p for those who want to use it as a wallpaper!):
A Note on Sampling Methodology
The statisticians among you will have noticed that our data-gathering methodology was not blind, and that's an important thing to call out. Because we didn't use a random sample of our customers or backers, but rather went to specific areas and allowed those populations to self select, we know that some of the data in this survey will be skewed toward those specific population groups.
For our purposes, however, that's fine. We are interested in engaged gamers who are likely to be interested in our DLC (and DLC secularly), and we were willing to sacrifice some methodological precision if it meant driving more participation in the survey for this go-round. The fact that the survey got more popular than we ever imagined is a bonus, but it also means we need to take these results as directional, rather than strictly determinative, since the populations who responded to the survey may or may not be representative of the total population of RPG fans out there.
Section 1: Demographics
While the first section of the survey asked about DLC preferences and the second, optional, section asked about demographics, I nevertheless want to show the demographic results first, so readers can understand a bit about who answered these questions before they see how the questions were answered.
The demographics section was 100% optional, but it's not clear that everyone understood that. Although we did have some folks opt out of certain questions by skipping them, we may have had significantly more if we added an affirmative opt-out answer choice to every question, which is what we will do in the future. This was my mistake, but one of the things to think about when you review these results is that I treated this piece at least in part as a "meta-survey." That is, I wanted to test certain questions and methodologies as much as gather data itself, so I can improve our data gathering and survey user-friendliness going forward.
Please note that we have omitted a question for the sake of consumer privacy.
Question 1: Age
We were a bit surprised to see how many of the survey respondents were teenagers, but otherwise, our age demographic for this survey tracks pretty well with what we expect for the "typical" gamer: about 3/4s are between the ages of 20 and 34.
Question 2: Gender
While we expected that we would get a majority male response, we did not expect it to be this skewed. Only about 2% of people skipped the question, though we were asked why we did not have a third, or opt-out gender option, such as "Prefer not to answer." That was an oversight -- I simply believed people would opt out by skipping the question.
Question 3: Country of Residence
We were very gratified to have people from nearly every country in the world reply to our survey -- despite the fact that it was only available in English. While the numbers aren't clear on the chart, Germany featured the most respondents from a non-Anglophone nation (2,431), which was almost as many as Australia!
Since the map doesn't fully show everything due to size constraints, here's the top 10 countries by number of respondents:
- USA - 25,089
- UK - 3,939
- Canada - 3,909
- Australia - 2,471
- Germany - 2,431
- Poland - 1,651
- Sweden - 1,412
- France - 1,132
- Russia - 1,070
- Finland - 923
Question 4: - OMITTED
Question 5: Preferred Gaming Platform
Windows PC was by far the most commonly used gaming platform for respondents, followed distantly by Android Phone, PlayStation 4, and Portable Consoles, in that order. No other system was a major occupier of time for most of our respondents. One thing that was interesting to see was just how much more popular Android was than iOS among our respondent group.
One note: our survey was quite popular on the subreddit for PlayStation 4 (/r/PS4), but the equivalent Xbox One subreddit (/r/XboxOne) does not allow surveys, which may have biased console usership results.
Question 6: Preferred Purchase Platform
Tracking with the use of Windows as the primary gaming platform, it's no surprise that Steam is by far the dominant platform for respondents' game purchasing decisions. Of considerable interest, however, is how high up on the list official console digital marketplaces ranked. This suggests a shift among leading-edge (or "core") gamers toward digital purchasing on console, away from brick-and-mortar or other physical disc distribution.
NB: GOG.com's abbreviation should be rendered GOG, not GoG, apologies for the typo in my chart!
Section 2: DLC Questions
This segment consisted of mandatory questions, and just about everyone completed it -- we had less than a 1% abandonment rate on the survey. While there were ten questions asked, we omit the tenth, as it involves internal Obsidian benchmarking, and was originally geared toward a specific consumer-targeted audience, not the much larger audience we ended up getting, so the results aren't super valuable.
Question 1: Owned Obsidian DLCs
It's no surprise that Fallout: New Vegas, still one of our most popular games, remains the leader in terms of DLC ownership. We also had a significant number of respondents who owned DLC in Pillars of Eternity and, surprisingly, Neverwinter Nights 2, a game that's now more than ten years old. Only about one in ten respondents did not purchase any Obsidian DLC at all.
Question 2: Acquisition Method
This question got a lot of feedback from the community, and I'll will revise it if we ask a similar question in the future. The feedback largely centered on a few issues:
- A large number of respondents commented that, while they would not commonly refund/return the base game in order to acquire the Game of the Year (GotY) Edition, they would refrain from purchasing a game at all once DLC of any kind is announced until a GotY or other complete edition is released.
- Many people felt that the question insufficiently described why or how the DLC was attractive and therefore made it difficult for them to assess the value of a season pass or DLC.
- Everyone loves sales, so that answer choice could have been folded into the others as a value-add.
Question 3: Preferred DLC Features
I color-coded these by type so it would be easier for everyone to parse respondents' preferences. Overwhelmingly, respondents want more game content -- that is, they want the game itself to be bigger, deeper, longer. They want to be able to come back to it, or continue on with it. However, there was also a significant number of respondents who were looking for expanded or additional game systems, such as multiplayer (co-operative) or replayable modes such as roguelikes.
Anything tagged as "competitive" or "PvP" was not considered attractive, however.
Question 4: Quantity of DLC
Respondents were very clear here, and their responses track with the bias toward content-based features in the previous question: people want bigger, deeper DLC for their money, not small stuff.
Question 5: Influential Factors
The most influential factor for the majority of respondents in informing their decision to purchase DLC is price. This could imply that respondents feel that DLC is generally overpriced, that DLC generally doesn't strike them as a good value at MSRP, or simply that gamers are cost conscious.
Among the other factors, word-of-mouth factors such as a friend's recommendation or score from bona fide other gamers were the most important in influencing buying decisions. Interestingly, most respondents felt that time between base game launch and DLC launch was not a major factor in their decision to purchase -- this could be interpreted in two ways: either respondents don't mind waiting for deep content, or they feel that they won't purchase new DLC no matter what, until it's on sale.
Questions 6 & 7: Price Calibration
These two questions were designed to work in tandem. I was looking to anchor respondents at a $45-dollar base price for a game, and then see if raising that base price in a subsequent, identical question, caused them to re-value an associated season pass. Given the structure of the questions and the expected effect of the anchoring, the 7.8% difference in average expected price can be considered not statistically significant. Basically, the base price of a game, alone, was not enough to make gamers think differently about the value of the season pass (and, by extension, other associated content).
We got a lot of feedback to these questions that price alone was not sufficient for them to evaluate the value of a season pass, and, of course, that's true. To give some insight into what I was trying to accomplish with these two questions: I was interested in whether putting a change in base price in front of a consumer's face would cause a cognitive bias that might affect his price tolerance for ancillary purchases. In other words, does price alone have a direct relationship to perception of value or further willingness to engage with a product?
Looking back on this, was this question the best way to evaluate this heuristic? Probably not. I've had some suggestions for improvements that I intend to incorporate into future question series, and I'm going back to my behavioral economics texts to deepen my own understand -- but I still think the results are interesting, nevertheless.
One other note: while our respondents put the desired price of season passes at around $17, in reality, RPG gamers pay about $25 for them (when purchased as a separate product, not as part of a Deluxe Edition or GotY) on average, according to industry sales data.
Question 8: Free DLC
Pretty clear message here: people like free DLC. 4% of respondents, however, clearly feel that DLC is not good, in any form.
Question 9: Genre Preference
Everyone hated this question's answer choice structure. I tried something newfangled by allowing people to drag and drop their answer choices in a stack-ranked list, and we got a ton of feedback on it.
First, it apparently didn't work on mobile -- sorry about that, I should've tested it better. Second, a lot of people commented that they felt pretty much equally weak on a variety of genres but felt they were forced to rank them better than each other, anyway. This is interesting, though, because despite a lot of these comments, Sports and Casual emerged as the clear losers. You'd think that if, say, the bottom five or six genres (which is what most people said they didn't care about) were equally lousy to people, you'd have a fairly even distribution, since the order of the answer choices was randomized.
So, while our respondents didn't like the way this question was structured (and I'll kill it for next time), it is interesting to see that it forced the truth out -- sports and casual games are the least liked. Therefore Obsidian is killing our latest secret project: Lord Bolingbroke Polo 2018.
Just kidding, we wouldn't do a casual game.
All in all, lots of great takeaways here, and we'll be using the data internally to ask some even more in depth questions. For example: do people who own Pillars of Eternity DLC also own Tyranny DLC? Do Europeans have different DLC preferences from North Americans? Why do RPG fans hate sports games?
There's so much to be learned here, and we are so grateful to our fans for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We will continue to get better at making surveys, and we hope you will continue to engage with us and let us know how you feel, so that we can try to make the best games possible for you. We know we can't please everybody all the time (this survey proves that), and we're not trying to do that, but if this kind of research can help us get better at making the games we love to make, then our marketing team is doing its job.