A demographic (sometimes shortened to demo) is a segment of a population identified by certain parameters such as sex, gender, age, wealth, and so on. Developers can use demographics to identify their target audience's interests and preferences.
Demographics play a crucial role in determining the success of a visual novel. Developers need to understand who their target audience is, what their interests are, and how best to reach them. If they can't identity who their visual novel is made for before release, then the people who would be most likely to play their game won't find it. They can use demographics to make decisions to create marketing plans that appeal to that specific group of people and market to them effectively.
Once a developer decides what kind of game they're making, they're already narrowing in on different target audiences. For example, if they decide to make a free dating sim, then their target audience will lean towards teens and young adults. They might also choose to focus on visual elements that are popular with this demographic, such as anime-style artwork or character designs.
- Younger audience (teens/early 20s) - typically targeted by visual novels with lighthearted themes and comedic elements. Developers may decide to offer their game at a lower price point or make it available for download on mobile devices
- Adults (late 20s-40s) - often marketed towards those who enjoy more mature themes. People who are older tend to have more disposable income, so companies could consider raising the price of their products aimed at them and offering exclusive bonuses or merchandise.
- Elderly audience (50+ years old) - less common target demographic, but some visual novels have been created with this age group in mind
- Female - typically targeted by visual novels with a focus on romance and character development (eg. otome games). These games are often made for mobile devices and handheld consoles.
- Male - often marketed towards those who enjoy action or horror themes, as well as games with erotic content (eroge)
- Non-binary/genderfluid - less common demographic, but some visual novels have been created to cater to this audience
- Boy x Girl - games featuring a male protagonist and female love interest(s). These are usually enjoyed by men
- Girl x Boy - games featuring a female protagonist and male love interest(s), usually falling under the otome category. These are usually enjoyed by women
- Girl x Girl - games featuring a female protagonist and female love interest(s), usually referred to as girls love or yuri. Can be targeted at any gender
- Boy x Boy - games featuring a male protagonist and male love interest(s), usually referred to as boys love. Can be targeted at any gender
- LGBT+ - any other LGBT+ identities or mixtures of the above, including but not limited to customizable protagonists, non-binary protagonists and love interests, ace & aro-spectrum characters, and more
- Japanese - the largest market for visual novels, with many popular franchises being developed and published in Japan
- Western - increasingly common due to the rise of western-developed visual novels on platforms such as Steam
- Chinese - rapidly growing market for visual novels with developers such as Mihoyo
- Korean - large-scale otome developers such as Cheritz are popularizing visual novels in Korea
Effect on game design
- Story and themes - developers may choose to include elements that are relevant to their target audience's interests or experiences. For example, if they are targeting an older audience, they might focus on themes such as politics or social issues
- Theming and genres account for a fair amount of deciding a target audience, such as horror, romance, LGBT+ identities, and more.
- Art style and graphics - a game targeting young adults might have more vibrant and colorful artwork, while a game targeting an older audience might use darker tones and more realistic designs
- Even within certain demographics, different art styles will change the target audience. For example, veteran otome fans are drawn more to highly polished anime art styles such as Otomate's art styles, whereas younger otome fans are more receptive to simpler anime art styles.
- Gameplay mechanics - a game targeting younger audiences might have simpler mechanics, while a game targeting older audiences might include more complex puzzles or strategy elements. Some games may also include mechanics that are specifically designed to appeal to aparticular demographic, such as romance or dating sim elements
Demographics are used to create marketing campaigns for visual novels. Developers can use data on their target audience's spending habits, lifestyle choices, and interests to create tailored advertising strategies that are likely to resonate with them.
This information is also used to determine which platforms to promote their game on, what types of promotional materials to create, and which social media channels to focus on. They can also decide how much to spend on advertising and whether to pursue partnerships with other companies or influencers that cater to the same demographic.
In order to grow a visual novel's fanbase over time, developers could use data on their current audience to identify other demographic groups that might enjoy the game, and then target their marketing efforts towards those groups. Growing the fanbase can lead to increased revenue for the developer and help to ensure the game's long-term success.
Visual novel developers often utilize a variety of marketing strategies to target specific demographics. Some common techniques include:
- Targeted advertising - using online platforms such as social media or search engines to display ads to people who meet certain criteria (age, gender, interests, etc.)
- Partnerships with related industries - collaborating with other companies or organizations that cater to the same demographic, such as anime/manga publishers or gaming magazines
- Participation in events - attending conventions or industry events where they can promote their game to a target audience
- Review websites/magazines - securing positive reviews from popular review sites or publications that cater to the target demographic
Regional and cultural considerations
When preparing to release their visual novel in multiple regions, developers may need to consider how best to localize the content. This can include changing certain elements of the game's setting or characters to make them more relatable to the target audience.
In some regions, sexual content is strictly regulated, which can affect the way developers design their games. For example, if a visual novel with erotic content is being released in Japan, it may need to be toned down or changed altogether for release in Western markets where there are stricter rules around obscenity. Developers may also need to consider cultural differences between different countries when deciding how to portray certain themes and ideas.
Demographics can be used to ensure that a game is culturally sensitive and appropriate for its target audience. For example, if the visual novel is set in a particular culture or features characters from different backgrounds, developers may need to research and consult with people from those communities to avoid making offensive or insensitive portrayals. This can help to ensure that the game is well-received by its intended audience and can also lead to more authentic and nuanced storytelling.