Your visual novel’s target audience is not everyone- what does this mean and why?
A target market is a group of people for which an organization designs, implements, and maintains marketing mix…Principles of Marketing by Lamb/Hair/McDaniel
Essentially, your target market is the people who will love your product the most. For video games, unless you’re making educational games, your target audience and target market will be the same, but I will clarify both really quick. The target market is who the product is for. The target audience is who the marketing is for. An example I can give for this would be kids educational tools- the kid will be the user but they won’t be the buyer.
Your target audience is not everyone because your game shouldn’t target everyone! You will have some people who love your game and some people who don’t care for it- this is normal! Not every product is meant for everyone, and that’s okay. Figure out who will love your product and focus on them.
The target audience is also a working hypothesis, meaning it can and will change as you research and learn more. It’s okay to edit who you think your target audience is!
Here’s a few criteria for what makes up your game (and what will determine your target audience):
- Story genres (romance types; story beats; themes)
- Aesthetics (themes; color palettes; art styles)
- Gameplay mechanics (how does the game function; are there any extra mechanics)
- Length (10 minutes or 10 hours?)
- Platforms (phone; browser; tablet; console; PC)
- Content warnings (such as mature content)
- Overall polish
Go through each of these criteria and list them out for your visual novel!
A big part of marketing is research- ask questions! Google things! Talk to people! If you take any kind of business course they’ll most likely mention the same mantra- get out of the building. This mantra basically means “if you think you know something, get out of your office and go talk to someone about it”.
Pick out one criteria from your game (otome, murder mystery, fantasy RPG, etc.) and survey fans of that. Ask them where they find out about new games, if they like the idea of your game, etc.
- multiple choice questions
- ask age, gender, languages
- ask their favorite visual novel
- ask only long answer questions
- have a lot of required questions (especially long answer ones)
- have too many questions
Surveys are also a great way to get feedback in general- attach one at the end of your demo and ask players things like where they found the demo, what they liked about it, what they want the full game to have, etc.
If you have a website, Steam, or itchio page, add Google Analytics to the page to see demographics on who’s viewing it and how they found it.
Go through the criteria I listed above and find games that match a few of those with your game. Don’t try to match every criteria, 2-3 is enough, especially story genres and aesthetics. Research these games and find where people talk about them, who’s reviewed them, what people thought about the games, and more.
If it’s a visual novel, you can use VNDB’s category filters to find visual novels similar to yours. You should also talk to players and ask them if they know of anything similar.
For my murder mystery otome Drops of Death, my working hypothesis on the target audience is:
- 18-28 year old women who play otome games and have some spare time in their day to play otome games semi-regularly
- Prefer games not set in high school
- Emphasis on story telling and drama rather than purely a dating sim
[Y]our brand… tells them what they can expect from your products and services…Entrepreneur.com
The branding is essentially what tells players what your game is about before they read into it. This includes everything that’s player-facing, including…
- Social media posts
- Store page
- Screenshots, logo, GUI
- Pitch wording
Look at games that have the same tags as yours on Steam (such as “otome” or “eroge”) and study their capsule art. Look how they set up their thumbnails, their store pages, things like that.
Reverse Thieves compiled some Japanese visual novel logos on their blog as a good example of how VNs use a similar branding scheme to show players what the VN will be about before they read about it.
When you get ready to post about your visual novel, check out my other articles on indie game marketing.