What is Games User Research | Mobile Game Playtesting

Here at PlaytestCloud, we specialize in Games User Research (GUR), a niche field of social psychology that studies player behavior to help game studios better understand their audience. While some studios have the budget and personnel to hire their own user researchers, it's not always practical or feasible for all teams–just like, sometimes, research teams can use the help of an external user researcher to help out with different projects. That's where PlaytestCloud comes in – we offer a platform where game creators can create playtests and receive immediate player feedback, as well as access to a team of Games User Research experts.

"User research teams are the primary users of our user research services, as sometimes, they simply don't have the capacity to run all the studies their game teams need" explains Christian, Co-Founder of PlaytestCloud. "With this, PlaytestCloud has proved helpful for many teams around the world. We help game studios by being able to quickly get an experienced researcher on that project that can focus on exactly what they need, potentially even working using the typical templates that team uses."

This isn’t the only thing our Games User Research team can help with, however. For smaller development teams without an in-house user researcher or non-user researchers in general, having an experienced user researcher design and analyze the playtest, run player interviews, or just provide any type of support needed, can greatly improve outcomes. Our platform offers game studios of all sizes access to players, video recordings, and analysis tools, saving them time and resources that can be better spent on developing their game–and we also do this by connecting studios with dedicated games user researchers, ready to help at any stage of playtesting.

As to give examples of exactly how our Games User Research services have helped different teams and their needs, let's explore specific use cases and success stories of how our platform and Games User Researchers have helped some of the world's most successful gaming studios.

Why should I use the User Research Service?

Although we give all mobile game studios the option to use our remote playtesting platform, we also love to work one-on-one with game creators like you to craft the best user research studies for your game. Our User Research Service saves you time by allowing you to focus on your game’s development or continuing to work on other studies you already have on your table, while we thoroughly analyze, annotate, and report on what players really think about your game. This way, we can run the ideal playtest for your research questions without you needing to lift a finger. This process can save a ton of time and work, yet that’s not the only reason we recommend our User Research service. There are plenty of reasons game studios might need a little boost from our in-house GUR team:

  • Embracing impartiality, favoring research to be conducted by an unbiased and independent third party.
  • Lack of expertise about playtesting or user research for specific use cases (e.g. research with kids)
  • Work with our network of leading user researchers who have experience in many genres–we can always find the right fit
  • Help you out when time is of the essence: too many projects, too little time

We maintain strict confidentiality agreements with all user researchers, meaning that you won’t need to contract with a third-party to get external user research help for your projects. In fact, for those already subscribed to PlaytestCloud, procuring these services is no different than ordering any other playtest, survey or interview project.

That said, one of the most common reasons we see teams use this service is to hone in on the pace, balance, and flow of their game, as well as to understand player engagement (or lack thereof). Other times, it is because teams have evidence –or sense–that their game is doing poorly and want to understand the causes behind that.

We work hand in hand with our user researchers to address a myriad of crucial research questions that can shape the success of a game. We delve into understanding player behavior by examining aspects such as the core loop, seeking ways to encourage repeated engagement for retention and monetization. Our research also focuses on identifying factors that contribute to early player churn, especially within the first week, in order to enhance player retention.

We explore player preferences by analyzing the popularity of various game modes and the underlying reasons for their appeal. Our investigations also further extend to uncovering potential barriers to enjoyment, such as issues with controls, monetization, and level design, which may hinder player satisfaction. We work to pinpoint specific reasons for players' failures in-game and develop actionable solutions to improve their experience.

Ensuring a game remains entertaining and captivating is one of our top priorities, as we strive to help studios create immersive gaming experiences that resonate with players. We concentrate on identifying and addressing fundamental problems with usability, controls, feedback, and growth that may obstruct players' enjoyment. By tackling these research questions, our team behind the PlaytestCloud User Research Service aims to provide invaluable insights to help developers and researchers fine-tune their games and create unforgettable experiences for their audiences.

Our Games User Research Service: How it Works

In our experience, the best people for any job are those with the most enthusiasm and expertise–two things our GUR team has in abundance! Not only are they passionate about playtesting, surveys and data analysis, they’re also passionate about games, which means they have a stake in helping you create the very best games possible using their own special set of tools. These GUR-savvy tools include:

Unrivaled understanding of player experience.

Our user research team has combined observed and analyzed tens of thousands of player sessions through the lens of human behavior and social psychology. As such, they have a finely-tuned sense for the qualitative and quantitative aspects of how players act, and translate that into a deeper-level understanding of gameplay activities for our game studio clients.

High level insights on game design and optimization.

Our games user researchers can provide high level suggestions on how a game team could try to address a certain identified issue; these ideas are often strong springboards into what your team can try next on the quest to improve your game, or complement the findings of your existing research.

Descriptive solutions for game iteration and development.

Analyzing player behavior is one thing, but understanding how to translate that player behavior into strategies and actionable solutions that meet the goals you set out for your game is another. That’s why the Games User Research service makes our team available to game studios for any of their testing needs–so that they can offer their suggestions on next steps to improve their game.

How do I place an order for the Games User Research service?

Reach out to us below to start a conversation about your next project, or contact one of our team if you already have a dedicated contact at PlaytestCloud.

We will provide you with a comprehensive questionnaire designed to understand your research objectives and the context in which they arise. This allows us to tailor our approach to your specific unique research needs. Our experience spans various game genres, and we are adept at addressing niche questions concerning your target audience and game, so rest assured that your vision will be well-supported.

After reviewing your questionnaire responses, we will identify the most suitable researcher for your project and present you with a cost estimate. Next, we will schedule an initial call between you, your team (if desired), and the selected researcher to discuss the project and your requirements in depth.

Our user research process is highly adaptable to accommodate your preferences. This includes customizing the extent of your team's involvement and generating custom reports based on a template provided by your game studio. With our versatile approach, we can cater to even the most unconventional research demands.

Is it too late for me to get help from the Games User Research team?

No way! It’s never too early or too late to involve one of our user researchers in your game. We often start with game studios long before the development phase, and then support major design decisions and concepts along the way to game production and beyond. Whatever stage you’re in, we help you understand your audience prior to large gameplay implementations, and can even evaluate the user experience of competitor games in your genre.

The idea is to set your game up for success with expert knowledge about your audience, about good game practices, and about the inner workings of your own game design. With all of that information, you’ll be able to utilize our Games User Research services to make incredible (and informed) game decisions, just like the game studios working with PlaytestCloud did in the use cases we outline below.

Want to get started with our User Research service? Then just drop us a message using the form below! This is the quickest way to get the ball rolling.

Want to know more about how this service has been helping studios? Then keep reading to learn about some of the most recent use cases we’ve seen from it.

The Different Use Cases for Games User Research Services

We’ve outlined the specs for you… and now it’s time to experience just how our Games User Research service has helped build incredible mobile games. What problems can it solve? What questions can it answer? And what different setups can you achieve with it?

To answer these questions and more, below we give you 4 examples of how our clients have used our Games User Research service, showcasing the problems this service can solve, the different setups each studio chose, and how much they cost.

But wait!

Before we dig into the case examples below, let’s quickly learn a bit more about something essential for any PlaytestCloud user: Video Tokens.

What is a Video Token?

Video Tokens are like PlaytestCloud currency. They are tokens you can use to place orders - and come as a part of our subscription plans. They’re also how you pay for your one-off projects, for example.

Video Tokens are automatically added to your account every billing cycle so you can keep ordering more playtests!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at how our User Research service has helped our clients–and how it can help you, too!

4 User Research Service Case Studies to Motivate Your Next Playtest

Exploratory research ahead of soft-launch

When game studios approach their soft-launch, they’ll often call in all the cavalry to ensure a seamless launch experience.

That’s just what happened with a mobile gaming company who is rather new to playtesting, and who are developing a new mobile game to compete in the flight simulator genre on mobile. As they neared the completion of their game and a public beta launch, they wanted a playtest that would get them player feedback so they could work on certain last-minute aspects of the build.

Let’s take a look at how, together, our teams collaborated to develop a playtesting approach:
Goal: To get player feedback on certain aspects of a flight simulator game before the game becomes open to all players.
Cost: At a Research Price of 124.5 Video Tokens, and a Playtest Price of 113 Video Tokens, this studio spent a total of 237.5 VT.
Setup: We kicked off this engagement by connecting one of our expert user researchers with the game studio team, as well as their own in-house user researcher. The aim of this call was to understand their goals, and to carve out the best playtesting strategy moving forward. After this call, our GUR team jumped into action, leaving the studio with more time to focus on their upcoming launch. While they put their own resources into marketing, planning, and promotion, our researcher did everything needed to organize a multi-session playtest. This playtest consisted of 2 groups of 10 players; one group who play realistic aircraft simulation games, and one group who play cartoon or arcade-style mobile aircraft games. From there, players were assigned to play for 3 sessions of 30 minutes each, where they would think aloud while playing and answer a survey after each session. The researcher then created a full-fledged report about the findings, and delivered playtest results and analysis to the game studio team.
Results: From the data, our researcher recorded a lot of late-development feedback on gameplay mechanics, and discovered that many players were struggling to understand some of them. To help, our researcher stepped in to suggest a tutorial method the game studio could implement to solve their problem. As well, the researcher found some UI issues that weren’t necessarily part of the core research goals. Translating these to the team, the user researcher provided a ton of extra value to the team–to the point of them organizing a second playtest with the same researcher. These iterations and research initiatives thus improved on player understanding of gameplay mechanics, allowing the studio to find and resolve new design issues they weren’t even aware of when starting the research project.

FTUE and Usability Testing

When game studios need to assess the usability of their work-in-progress game, it's crucial to conduct comprehensive user research to determine the extent of the study required.

This was the case when a medium-sized mobile gaming company, known for their social casino games, approached us. Their objective was to create a playtest focused on specific user interface elements of their game, in order to gather valuable player feedback for the upcoming development phase.

Let’s take a look at how our User Research team and their User Research team collaborated to design an effective playtesting strategy.
Goal: To understand friction and what players are and aren’t enjoying in the first 30 minutes of gameplay for a social casino game.
Cost: At a Research Price of 72 Video Tokens, and a Playtest Price of 38 Video Tokens, this studio spent a total of 110 VT.
Setup: To gain qualitative insights to achieve their research goal, the mobile developer team had a playtest type in mind that they felt would ensure people saw all the parts of the game they needed to see, and then worked with the PlaytestCloud user researcher to refine the setup so the study will answer the questions they're having. From the moment we finished our kick-off call, the work moved quickly to implement their requests for a specific target audience make-up. We therefore defined and recruited 3 groups of players, including:

- 6 card game players,
- 6 players who have played previous titles from this company
- 6 players who regularly play Mobile Social Slots type games

With the games user researcher’s help, the team decided to go with an in-game task approach to guide the player’s experience during the playtest, where our user researcher handled everything from designing the study, to annotating videos, to providing a full report in the game studio’s favored presentation format.
Results: Thanks to the user researcher’s work and support, the studio learned more about the effectiveness of their in-game onboarding at teaching core concepts, about how the different elements of their game resonate, and how players react to the game’s art style. The resultant data thus provided knowledge on specific problems and actionable points, including how players drop off from the tutorial, as well as how a specific bonus mechanic seemed to be problematic for players to use effectively. Our user researcher was therefore instrumental in helping determine which aspects of the game to improve and iterate on.

Quick and Budget-Friendly Video Annotations and Summaries

When smaller game studios are in the process of finishing their first mobile game, they often want to double-check the success of their game with a neutral external party before they launch.

This was precisely the case for an independent mobile gaming company we've collaborated with for years. They sought to minimize playtesting bias in their upcoming project. They had been on the Indie Pass program for a while, and decided to order a playtest with user research support using our One Off Pricing (OOP)–which allows game studios to access features that are not normally included in their subscription plan. From there, they connected with our Games User Research team to help them:

- Gather player feedback on gameplay mechanics
- Understand what strategies players use to advance in the game
- Explore how much players would stick to playing the game
- Discover what players think about the game as a whole

Let’s take a look at how, together, our teams collaborated to develop a playtesting approach:
Goal: To get qualitative feedback on overall gameplay for an independent game from an unbiased, neutral external party.
Cost: At a Research Price of 15 Video Tokens, and a Playtest Price of 10 Video Tokens, this studio spent a total of 25 VT.
Setup: During their exploration phase, the game studio opted to have a seasoned PlaytestCloud expert evaluate their game. Starting with a kick-off call with one of our user researchers, they decided to place an order for an FTUE playtest, with 10 players playing for 30 minutes each. To help keep to their GUR budget, the studio requested we only annotate the videos, and refrain from providing a full report of our findings. Instead, the service included expert analysis annotations added to all videos, a key point summary including key findings and insights for every video, and an overall summary of the key findings across the entire playtest.
Results: This playtest yielded results quickly. While busy watching and annotating videos, our user researcher provided key notes and summary points for each one, plus delivered a brief summary of their main findings overall. To the delight of the game studio, these results matched the results from a prior playtest, validating their confidence in moving forward with the launch of their game.

User Research to Verify Playtesting Results

When game studios are taking their first steps in user research and want to make sure their results are true to form, they can hire an external party to repeat the test and compare results.

That’s just what happened with a smaller-sized mobile gaming company we work with, who wanted to understand more about player interactions for those interested in a particular spy-fi television series. They signed on for help from our user researchers to externally verify the results of a prior, single-session playtest.

Let’s take a look at how, together, our teams collaborated to develop a playtesting approach:
Goal: To verify the results of a previous playtest to see how their mobile game is seen by a specific target audience.
Cost: At a Research Price of 60 Video Tokens, and a Playtest Price of 15 Video Tokens, this studio spent a total of 75 VT.
Setup: As mentioned, this team had previously ordered a single-session playtest for 5 players who were fans of a specific spy-fi television series. However, when they received their results they ended up with some surprising findings that would dramatically change the scope of not only their game, but the way their team was thinking about game development in this niche. To help verify their results, we connected them with one of our user researchers, where they informed the researcher of the situation and results of their previous playtest. The researcher reviewed the team’s methodology and suggested a new playtest using a similar target audience, but this time with 10 players and an in-depth survey to gather more structured data that would help with understanding the players preferences.
Results: The results of this second, optimized playtest matched those of the previous playtest, which provided the team with more confidence about the truth of what these results meant for their game. The researcher’s analysis resulted in a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the players preferences and also showed a number of usability and gameplay issues that were unknown to the team.

This verification of their results led to the team dramatically changing the direction of their game, postponing game release to prioritize iteration and retesting to fit into audience feedback and desires. Overall, this research allowed the team to make a difficult decision with confidence and has saved them from a bad release of what can now become a successful mobile game.

Test Your Next Mobile Game Concept with PlaytestCloud

As you can see, our User Research service can be applied to almost any Games User Research task, and can solve an equally wide range of playtesting problems. No matter what type of game you’re working on, or the players you’re hoping to reach, the help of an expert is going to make sure you get all the necessary feedback and insights as quickly as possible.

Best of all, getting our help is easy. Whether you already have an account with PlaytestCloud, or are new to working with us (and maybe even new to creating and testing mobile games), go ahead and fill out the form below so we can help you with your next playtest!

We are so excited to take care of all your user research needs, and look forward to hearing all about your next playtest adventure.