Top Games User Research Consultants for Mobile Games

Two challenges all game studios face are: 1) finding out what keeps players coming back, and 2) how to make a great and successful game.

Thankfully, games user research consultants can help your game studio accomplish both challenges. Games user research consultants provide insights ranging from player psychology to identifying strengths and weaknesses in a game’s user retention. Moreover, they provide game studios with actionable feedback that will help guide your game towards success.

PlaytestCloud is proud to work with some of the best games user research consultants in the business. We have categorized a list of excellent consultants to help you pick the one best suited for your game. The following list is in no particular order.

User Behavioristics

Heather Desurvire and her team at User Behavioristics provide various forms of user research including usability testing, playtesting, online remote testing, surveys, analytics, focus groups, ethnographic research and much more. Their insights into the players’ experience during the playtesting phase help game studios identify what to fix by knowing why the barriers to optimal experience exist. The team at User Behavioristics has worked with some of the largest game studios, including Disney, Electronic Arts, and Blizzard.

Additionally, Heather Desurvire serves as a faculty member at USC’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts, Interactive Media and Games. She has published several papers and books on game usability, game user research, and game user experience.

To learn more about User Behavioristics, and to set up a consultation with them, visit them at their website: http://www.userbehavioristics.com/ contact Heather at heather@userbehaviorisitics.com

Areas of Expertise:

  • Game user research
  • New player experience
  • Player experience principles

Q/A with Heather Desurvire

On your website, you mention how User Behavioristics can “identify pace, balance, flow and assess players’ engagement and lack thereof” during playtesting. Without giving too much away, what are some of the strategies User Behavioristics have used to effectively identify these issues?

Well Christian, this is the "secret sauce”! I can better answer this with a meta answer: it is a combination of many ingredients including, a keen and unrivaled understanding of player experience via observing and analyzing tens of thousands of player sessions, a large toolbox of methods that cater to each team’s individual research goals, drawing on a background of 100's of games within many genres; utilizing and developing principles of optimal player experience and the theoretical knowledge of human behavior, all help to provide insight and guide design decisions that improve and optimize design, not to mention having the most awesome, driven and intelligent player insight team!

An important overarching answer to this question is, along with these tools, experience, and having a great team, it is the driving passion for helping a game studio team gain the knowledge they need to optimize their player experience and the game becoming a success. And for the players to have an enjoyable, immersive and enduring play experience.

What is an example of a great insight User Behavioristics have identified during Online User Testing that helped lead the game in the right direction?

There are many examples, but I’ll give one recent example where a game studio found that the retention rate of players fell off dramatically after the third day of playtesting. We identified several problems, the most impactful one was the user’s lack of understanding a core mechanic, which impacted their ability to get past a level encountered on that third day. This impacted earlier level progression, and with increasing frustration the users were not willing to continue playing when it crescendoed at day 4. The number of level attempts shot up four times the average level attempts earlier. The players were not taught this core mechanic in time to use it strategically and this impacted their effectiveness. We suggested to the design team some changes, and these ultimately improved both the player experience and retention rates.


Jason Schklar

Jason Schklar’s many years of experience as a games user researcher and UX consultant will certainly benefit your team. He has provided product and UX direction on dozens of games across a wide variety of devices, platforms, and form factors.

A veteran studio leader and mentor, he tends to partner with developers and publishers who take a long term, broad view of UX. He knows how to ask tough questions and provide honest feedback with humor and tact.

Feel free to reach out to Jason via Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jschklar

Areas of Expertise:

  • Translating data from observations, surveys and analytics into actionable insights and solutions
  • Finding the fun, creating usable controls and feedback, refining UX flows, ensuring core loop engages, retains, and monetizes, onboarding new players
  • Driving UX strategy into production processes. Identifying, mentoring, and leveling up studio leaders and key individual contributors

Q/A with Jason Schklar

What is one of the most common UX mistakes you identify when you are consulting a game studio, and what are some strategies you have used to correct them?

Often my initial engagement with a team comes near the end of a development cycle or on a live product. These teams are reaching out because they believe (or their KPIs are telling them) their product is underperforming because it is confusing, frustrating, and that people aren’t able to “find the fun.

The hope is that a bunch of “little fixes” can turn things around. Maybe minor layout changes, text updates, and onboarding tweaks. I certainly CAN help with that, and metrics will improve. But will they improve enough to make the product sustainable (LTV > cost of UA)?

My approach to UX is more holistic. What are we doing about the very top of the funnel (file size, load times, responsiveness, technical issues)? How do we ensure the game is engaging and fun? What core usability issues with controls, feedback, and progression are blocking fun? How do we encourage players to complete the core loop over and over again to drive retention and monetization?


thinktank

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Robin Boyar’s thinktank provides customized research for game studios worldwide. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, thinktank provides solutions to concrete issues every game studio might face. For example, they have conducted concept testing, game usability, playability and positioning testing.

Founder Robin Boyar has over 15 years experience in video gaming and research. thinktank has worked with many leading game studios including Activision/Blizzard, DeNA, EA, Glu, GREE, Ubisoft and Supercell.

To learn more about how thinktank can help your game studio visit them at their website: http://www.thinktankresearch.com

Areas of Expertise:

  • Concept testing
  • Game playability and usability
  • Brand identity
  • Advertising, art, packaging, positioning and pricing testing

Q/A with Robin Boyar

How has thinktank used playtesting to increase a game’s monetization rate?

By focusing on the user experience, thinktank can identify the key areas of friction and opportunity as it relates to monetization. They are able to uncover and identify specific interactions and engagement loops that need to be refined or improved to increase monetization.

When conducting focus groups, what is a strategy thinktank uses in order to translate the players’ experience/wants into actionable results?

To gain actionable insights, it's important to identify and understand the motivation behind users’ experiences. In most cases, it’s necessary to ask contextual questions that clarify users’ wants. This takes skill, insight and understanding of video gaming.


Player Research

Every game Graham McAllister’s Player Research has contributed their expertise to has made it to the front page of the Apple App Store. This speaks volumes for the company and games user research in general. To help your game studio succeed, they help you identify and test your assumptions about how your game will be experienced by players.

Focused on actionable results, the games user researchers at Player Research help you at all stages of game development—from analyzing your competitors' games during the concept phase through to providing critique on early-stage wireframe designs, and helping you understand your players via playtesting during production.

Player Research has worked with a wide variety of game studios including NaturalMotion, King, MAG Interactive, Hutch, 505 Games, and EA to name a few. To find out how Player Research can help your next game top the charts, visit them at their website: http://www.playerresearch.com or email info@playerresearch.com

Areas of Expertise:

  • Player experience/usability
  • User research
  • UX Expert Analysis

Q/A with Graham McAllister

When should game studios start consulting with games user research consultants?

It's never too early to involve user research in your game, never. We often start long before code and even design begin by doing concept testing, understanding your audience, and evaluating the UX of your competitors' games. The idea behind this is that you want to factor in knowledge about your audience and good game practices into your own game design.

Conclusion

Analyzing your players during the development stage is incredibly helpful for any game studio. It's even something you can do too!

To get even more out of your analysis, games user research consultants are a great resource. By studying what your players think as they playtest your game, you can take actionable steps to releasing a great and successful game.

All of these consultants are some of the best in the business, and we at PlaytestCloud strongly recommend them to every game studio. Feel free to visit any one of these games user research consultants’ websites, and find out how you can ensure a successful game.

If we forgot anybody or you are interested in being listed, please contact us at team@playtestcloud.com

Christian Ress

Co-Founder of PlaytestCloud. Currently playing Mass Effect: Andromeda.

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