Everyone plays games. Some more than others but everyone know what they are, has experienced them and engages in playful behavior. Video Games specifically, have developed out of the technological advances that have been developed over time and have now been around for a few years. How have they evolved and how have supply and demand, technology, and sales changed the industry over time? This project aims to answer all these questions on how the Video Game Industry has changed over the past 20 years!
Setting a Goal
This final project has its roots in the second lab report for this class about information visualization. As I was analyzing the data I realized that I could explore it in greater depth and show more aspects of the video game industry. So my first goal is to create a better and broader overview of what I have created so far.
I also had to decide who my intended users are. With the dataset I started off with I could either aim to address the needs of professionals who need to understand the video game industry better. I could also choose to address the general curiosity of someone who has never been in contact with an analysis of the industry.
Since I have more access to user of the second category, who do not know much about video games, I decided to create a project that would explain the industry to them. This way I can make better use of Usability Testing. My second goal is to make this industry analysis understandable to a non-professional.
Early User Testing
Early in the process I decided to test my visualizations from the first iteration of the data about the video game industry. I asked three participants to view the information and tell me what they understood, if they expected other information and if they wanted to see additional information. I asked everyone to talk to me while they are exploring the visualizations, which allowed me to use the think aloud method.
Participants found the visualizations to be interesting but found it be hard to navigate or find structure between all the information. They also expected to see information related to sales and eventually to location. Interest was shown in what area of the world buys most games and how they compare to on another.
I purposefully chose the participants of my usability study to be inexperienced in the video game industry since the goal of my project is to introduce users to the general development and history of video gaming in the last 20 years.
I concluded that it would be best to help the user in some way to navigate the different visualizations and to include data about sales in different regions of the world.
I started looking for ways that would allow me to control the user journey. I started to conduct research and realized that I would either have to write an elaborate article or could create a website. Since my user testing revealed that users wanted to be able to quickly navigate the visualizations I decided that a website be the best option. It would allow me to use less text than for an article and would help me to create a path for the user.
A web search on data visualizations revealed a few websites that I took as inspiration for the outcome of this project. They all guide the user through their information by either describing how to use the data visualization or by creating a certain path for the user through scrolling or clicking through the pages that allow to make sense of the different information.
The materials used for this project include the same dataset I used for the creation of the initial iteration of the visualizations about the video game industry. Based on the early user testing, I decided to look for another dataset that would allow me to include information about sales in the video game industry into the final project. The dataset I chose to include into my existing one included the global sales as well as sales for the three major areas in the world with video game sales: Japan, Europe, and North America.
Tableau Public – Free Data Visualization Software
Kaggle – Online community of data scientists and machine learners who share public data sets and code snippets, owned by Google.
Design of Visualizations
For the actual design of the visualizations I decided to research industry analysis reports and see what kind of data is usually displayed in them and how they choose to present it. To no surprise, I quickly discovered that sales data is very important in these reports. I already decided to include sales data but did not want to make it the most important part of my project. I decided that a middle path between my earlier visualizations and the industry reports would be best to not give the impression of standardized and “boring” industry report but also not be confusing or too scattered across different visualizations. It was of importance to remember the intended audience of this project: users who are not familiar with the video game industry. If I were to write a report for industry professionals I would have approached the whole project differently.
When starting to work my existing visualizations and creating new ones from the new dataset I quickly realized that the datasets included too much information for the intended user. The visualizations included a lot information so I decided to narrow down the dataset to only include data on the top 10 genres that have prevailed in the last 20 years. I also decided to only include the most used gaming platforms.
The design of the visualizations had to be uniform across all sets created. For the majority of the visualizations I tried to keep a single color. If that was not possible I had to include multiple colors that were easily distinguishable.
For the design of the website I decided to choose a color spectrum that was playful but not distracting from the visualizations. I also decided to create a site structure that would allow users to get from page to page and see the different visualizations.
I created an array of different visualizations, which I categorized into four categories: Scores, Sales, Platforms, and Genres. Out of all the visualizations I decided to display 11 visualizations. They either give a good general overview or reveal interesting information about the video games.
Average Scores over the Years
The first visualization was one from the original set of visualizations. I included the number of game releases in bars and a line with the average score given in the specific year. The visualization shows that in the years where more games were released a slight dip in scores given can be seen. The amount of games created increased by a lot from 2006 to 2010 but their quality decreased. This might be caused by the high demand and the short amount of time given to develop the game.
Highest Scored Genres
I wanted to focus on scores given to games. How do different genres perform based on the ratings IGN gives them? First I created a visualization that shows the average score of each of the top ten genres.
Sales in Japan, Europe, and North America in %
The following visualization focuses on sales in the sales in Japan, Europe and North America. These are the three areas in the world with highest sales. The visualizations shows the sales from 1980 until 2016 in percentages for each year. It is interesting to notice that Japan had the highest sales in 1996 relatively to Europe and North America with 4.4% of its total sales in comparison to Europe and North America with about 2% of its total sales. Japan has led the innovation and pioneered in the video gaming industry early on.
Platform sales across the three areas described before is the most in depth visualization. It shows the sales for each platform in comparison to one another. The visualizations is filtered to show the platforms that have significant sales in Japan, Europe and North America. For users who are curios to know how other specific platforms did I left the option to filter for other platforms.
Releases During Each Month
Another interesting question I wanted to answer was when most games are being released during the year. I had a suspicion that most games are being released at the end of the year so games can be bought as presents for the holidays and that suspicion was confirmed with the following visualization.
I wanted to take a closer look at how platforms have influenced the release of games so I created a heat map that shows games created for different platforms and therefore show the cycles of platforms releases.
Platforms with Most Releases %
Based on the visualization before I created another quick help to see which platforms have released most games.
Genre Releases Over Time (Top 10)
The first visualization focusing on the genres, shows the amount of games released with emphasis on the total amount. I also added the pointers that show major platform releases to show how these releases have increased the amount of games that are being released.
Genre Change 1996-2016
The next visualizations focuses on the change of genre releases over the years. With a filter that allows for a specific time range to be selected it is possible to see what genre had the most releases in those years. The colors for each genre are the same as the last visualization.
Genre Sales by Year (Increasing)
Lastly, I focused on sales in the top 10 genres. Action and Shooter games have increased in sales and that is being reflected in the releases that have been made in these two genres.
Genre Sales by Year (decreasing)
The second part focuses on the genres that have decreased in sales. Platform and racing have had significant decreases. I believe that platform is a genre that has been incorporated into other genres over the years like action and adventure and is simply not a standalone genre anymore, which is being reflected in the sales.
The conducted UX Research after the creation of the visualizations was similar to the first user testing conducted on the first iteration of the data set. It revealed that users who are not familiar with the gaming industry don’t feel comfortable with the data. They do however like the idea of having multiple dashboards (through a website) that they could navigate. This only further undermined my initial idea to create a website that leads the user through the visualizations and only helps to create a successful user journey. Users should leave the site with more knowledge than before and learned at least one interesting fact about the video game industry.
Based on the feedback I received I made specific changes to certain visualizations. For example, for the visualization on the highest scored genres I made sure to exclude the amount of games released in that genre as a label, since user testing revealed that it was confusing to have the number or releases next to the bars.
In the future I would like to further improve the the website with more visualizations and and an even clearer structure. The visualizations currently included into the report are the ones that bring clarity and the most interesting facts. If possible I would like to include more without loosing the easily browsable website.
As a further improvement I would like to include another dataset that focuses on user in the gaming industry. How do users influence the supply and demand that have been shown so far? How much do users play each genre? What are the demographics of the general video game player?
Lastly, I will focus on further improving the visualizations created based on Nielsens 10 heuristics for User Interface Design and the best way to apply them to data visualizations. I believe that can be further improved to help to convey the information they carry.