Breaking The Wheel

A picture of our hypothetical buyer persona, Rita Roleplayer

Buyer Persona: Identifying Your Hypothetical Player

Once you have identified a target segment, your next step is to learn as much about that segment as you can. But how do you even know where to look? The first step is to imagine a person who embodies that segment, in the form of a buyer persona.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a marketing exercises in which you make up an imaginary person who embodies your target segment. The underlying goal of the buyer persona exercise is to develop a testable hypothesis about who your target segment is.

Step 1: The Five W’s

Time to put your imagination to work. When you think about your target segment, whom do you see?

Who is the Buyer Persona?

  • Age?
  • Sex?
  • Personality? (Introverted, extroverted, nervous, ambitious, competitive, etc)
  • Fashion sense?
  • Political affiliation?
  • Religion?
  • Level of education?
  • Level of income?

What are the Buyer Persona’s interests and activities?

  • What is his/her name?
  • What is his/her job?
  • What are his/her chores/domestic responsibilities?
  • What are his/her travel habits?
  • What are his/her weekend habits?
  • What is his/her daily schedule?
  • What is his/her daily commute?
  • What are his/her recreational activities?
  • What are his/her social/community/religious activities?
  • What are his/her reading habits (on- or offline)?

Where can the Buyer Persona be found?

  • Where does he/she live?
  • Where does he/she eat?
  • Where does he/she hang out in the real world?
  • Where does he/she hang out on line?

When can the Buyer Persona be found?

  • When is he/she working?
  • When is he/she commuting?
  • When is he/she socializing?
  • When is he/she online?
  • When is he/she offline?

Why does the Buyer Persona do what he/she does?

  • What motivates him/her?
  • What drives him/her?
  • What are his/her ambitions or dreams?
  • What are his/her pain points?

Example Buyer Persona

Name: Regina Roleplayer

Regina Roleplayer is a female gamer in her late 20’s, and lives in a medium size city. She is generally introverted, but becomes animated and outgoing when hanging out with close friends. She tends to eschew high fashion in favor or comfort and likes to use clothing to signal her favorite games and movies. She considers herself an independent voter, but tends to lean left/progressive on most issues. She has a bachelor’s degree in visual design, and her current job is as a graphic designer for a web development company, where she makes a decent living, but feels perpetually strapped for cash. She volunteers twice a month at a local no-kill shelter. Between her job, volunteering, and social activities, she generally feels time-starved. What free time she has is always invested in gaming!

Regina’s Gaming Habits

She enjoys stat-driven games like Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy. She loves the feeling of progression those games provide. But, she gets irked when she needs to grind to overcome a particular challenge, as her free time is limited. She especially likes when she has the option of playing as a female hero, but she doesn’t find playing as a man to be particularly bothersome. Her introverted nature makes competitive multiplayer less attractive. She prefers big, open worlds she can explore at her own pace, and enjoys compulsively exploring every nook and corner.

Regina’s Daily Routine

Regina mostly games at night and regularly stays up too late on work nights, so her morning usually consists of hitting the snooze button too many times, and then rushing out the door. Most mornings also involve sprinting to catch the bus. The bus is too crowded to play games, so she usually passes the time scanning Twitter. When she gets to the office, her first stop is always the Starbucks in the lobby to grab coffee and a bagel to compensate for skipping breakfast on her way out the door.

She’s at her desk and working by 9:30am. By 11:00, her attention starts to wander and she will take a quick break to scan Facebook. She typically breaks for lunch at noon, and prefers to go to one of the privately owned restaurants by her office over corporate franchises. She’s back at her desk by 1:00pm and really hits her stride in terms of focus in the early to mid afternoon.  By 3:00pm, she needs another coffee break, but just hits up the office coffee machine, checking Twitter while she waits. She logs off at 5:00pm on the dot, and heads straight home.

Regina’s After-Hours and Weekend Activities

In the evening, she likes to meet her friends at a bar for a drink or at someone’s house for board games. Other nights, she has dinner in front of the TV with her cat, and then jumps right into gaming.

On the weekends, Regina tends to use weekend mornings to catch up on sleep, but once she’s up she’s right back at it. She’s either dealing with chores (laundry, grocery store runs, cleaning, etc) volunteering at a local no-kill animal shelter, or meeting up with friends for trips to the movies or to local events. If she is doing chores, she typically listens to podcasts like The Nerdist and The Giant Bombcast. She doesn’t like to bum around her apartment because she develops cabin fever really quickly.


Resources that Informed and Influenced this Post


How is this remotely useful?

I just wrote that entire blurb in about 15 minutes. Yes, it’s totally cheesy. Yes, this person is a complete figment of my imagination. So, why bother?

Well, think about how many testable hypotheses about the target audience I just established:

  • She’s on Twitter in the mid morning and Facebook in the late morning
    • Hypothesis: try adds or posts on those services at those times of day
  • She frequents Starbucks
    • Hypothesis: I can use Starbucks products/giftcards (or even a Starbucks cross-promotion if I work in a big enough company) to motivate participation
  • She wears game-related clothing
    • Hypothesis: I can use game-related swag to motivate participation
  • She doesn’t eat at big, national chains for lunch
    • Hypothesis: running ads with those types of establishments would be inefficient
  • She’s in the zone in the afternoon
    • Hypothesis: Don’t try to reach her with ads at those times
  • She likes stat-driven games
    • Hypothesis: a game with stats would be compelling to her
  • She likes to play as female characters
    • Hypothesis: a game with a female lead or the option to play as a female lead would be attractive to her
  • She’s not into competitive multiplayer
    • Hypothesis: investing energy into extensive multiplayer modes would be a waste of time
  • She games at night
    • Hypothesis: she might relate better to ads that show a gamer playing a game at night in his/her own apartment
  • She has a cat
    • Hypothesis: an in-game animal companion (a-la Dogmeat) will be compelling to her
  • She keeps busy on the weekends
    • Hypothesis: not a great time to try to run ads
  • She listens to podcasts
    • Hypothesis: podcasts are good places to drive awareness

Hypotheses, Not Facts

Don’t put too much stock in intuition. We don’t know that Regina exists and exactly matches the buyer persona profile. But we have a place to start. Like any good hypothesis, these must be tested and as a result your understanding of Regina will evolve over time. Further, you may find through experimentation that Regina is very different from whom you thought she was and that she actually isn’t a great target market.

These hypotheses also make it easier to do something else: find a real-world “Regina”. If you know the kind of person you’re looking for, it’s a lot easier to find her. So go find some real-world Reginas through your personal network, in forums, or simply by going to the places where you think Regina can be found and seeing if you can spot her.


Further Reading If You Enjoyed This Post

Sunk Costs and Ugly Babies: On the Value of the Scientific Method

Video Game Market Segmentation

Strategic Design: Why Dark Souls is the Ikea of Video Games


What’s Next?

Next you talk to Regina. But you need to be careful how you do this if you want to gather solid feedback. I cover customer interviews in my next post. Click to read on!

Key Takeaways

  • Once you have a target segment, the next step is to craft a buyer persona that represents the segment
  • Buyer personas should cover as many demographic and behavioral factors as make sense
  • The point of the buyer persona exercise is to create hypotheses about who a typical member of the segment is
  • Buyer personas should be refined over time as you test these hypotheses
  • Once you have a buyer persona established, the next step is to find a real-world person who matches that persona

Return to Video Game Marketing table of contents

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“Buyer Persona: Identifying Your Hypothetical Player” by Justin Fischer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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