The Benefit of User-Testing a Prototype

I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to quantify how “useful” it is to user-test a game’s playable prototype before full-scale development begins in earnest. I’m defining a “user-test” as “spending a few weeks observing and interviewing a group of twenty or thirty diverse consumers as they play your game prototype.” Unfortunately, a really good analysis requires data that I doubt anyone has access to: the success rates of roughly equivalent games, that were and were not tested at the formal prototype stage, and were released into approximately equivalent market environments. Among other figures.

Given that I’m unlikely to see such numbers anytime soon, I had to settle for a simple experiment. I created a very basic excel model that calculates the average return for a game project that has been carefully tested (and potentially killed outright) at the end of prototyping, versus the average return for a game that semi-automatically proceeds from prototype to full development…

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