Engineers devise a way to predict an online game’s success by gamers’ initial emotional response
On a first date, couples scrutinize each other’s facial expressions for a clue as to whether the date will turn into a long-term relationship. Game publishers and designers might start doing the same thing. By analyzing the movements of gamers’ smile and frown muscles in the first 45 minutes of play, Taiwanese researchers have found a way to predict a game’s addictiveness.
“Such forecast results might give game designers the green light to complete a new potential game or advise they drop a hopelessly doomed one,” says Kuan-Ta Chen (now known as Sheng-Wei Chen), an associate research fellow at the Institute of Information Science, Academia Sinica, in Taipei.
The online gaming industry sees a game that is played by a large number of fanatics and survives more than two years as a success, says Chen. But that success comes at a cost. Blizzard Entertainment, for example, reportedly spent 4.5 years and US $63 million to develop its popular online video game World of Warcraft, which was released in 2004. For upkeep and expansion, it invested tens of millions more.
Of course, not every online game makes it. According to Chen, more than 200 online games are released each year, globally. The cost of developing a game, jointly brainstormed by dozens of designers, ranges from less than $1 million to as much as $200 million. However, the humbling fact is that most games survive only four to nine months, says Chen.