Apr 27, 2016

What Players Want

How psychology (and the results of our 2015 Player Focus Group) can help your store become a destination

Apr 27, 2016

What Players Want

How psychology (and the results of our 2015 Player Focus Group) can help your store become a destination

If you can understand a customer's needs, you can align your goals to satisfy those needs. Once you can do that, success follows naturally.

In late 2015, Wizards commissioned a focus group for insight into what players "need" in a game store.

It turned out we learned most of it in high school.

What Psychology Can Teach You about Your Customers

In the 1940s, psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced a theory of human motivation called the "Hierarchy of Needs," and it's been a staple of high school psychology courses ever since.

The theory's influence reaches deep into marketing. It's a glimpse into why we want what we want, why we spend where we spend.

Not to mention: why we game where we game.

What Players Want (and What They Want After That)

Maslow said human needs are ordered in a kind of pyramid: first come physical needs, then safety, then belonging and esteem. Last is "self-actualization"—a psychology term for fulfillment.

Key: Black = Tier 1: Physical Needs; Red = Tier 2: Safety; Green = Tier 3: Belonging and Esteem; Blue = Tier 4: Self-Actualization

Before you can satisfy "higher" needs, like needing to feel a part of a community, you have to satisfy common ones, like comfort and safety.

After conducting our 2015 player focus group, we found that the needs of Magic players are prioritized in almost exactly the same way as Maslow's pyramid.

Tier 1: Physical Needs

It's a humble enterprise, but nailing the fundamentals gives your more ambitious efforts the best chance of success.

Consensus is that players are willing to make extra effort for a store that meets these baseline expectations:

  • Good lighting
  • Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning
  • Well-organized product
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Open play space
  • Space for personal belongings
  • Trash cans

Granted, some players will game in a mud puddle if the payout is right. But be careful not to mistake the loudest voices for the majority. To most players, Tier 1 is absolutely pivotal.

Tier 2: Safety

When players describe their ideal store, their first words are "neat and clean." Their second words are "warm and welcoming."

They want a sense of law and order, freedom from intimidation. A safe place.

Players expect staff to create that place by making personal connections with players, eliminating bad behavior, and to providing guidance on strategy, deckbuilding, and collecting.

Tier 3: Belonging and Esteem

That community-building effort from staff provides the foundation for the social experience of Magic. This is where a game store truly transcends the trade.

At this level, players come not just for products and events but camaraderie and conversation. The commodity you supply is interaction.

There are lots of ways to accomplish this, but players consistently mention social stimuli like refreshments and activities between rounds. There's also an appetite for ways to minimize their time commitment, like quick round turnovers and reward structures that allow players to prize out freely.

Tier 4: Self-Actualization

At this stage, according to Maslow, people gain access to "peak experiences"—privileged moments of exhilaration and fulfillment.

In Maslow's theory, "peak experiences" vary from person to person. Likewise, they vary from store to store.

At Vortex Game Center, it's walking through Ugin's ribcage as you join a Prerelease. At Big Orbit games, it's battling under a Zendikari waterfall.

What does it look like to you? What is the peak experience you want to offer your players?

Whatever the summit may be, you've got to start at the base and climb your way up.

Focus Group Methodology

40 players participated in a week-long online discussion, responding to prompts and submitting comments. They also were asked to attend an event and submit a video summary of their experience.

By Matt Neubert

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