Survivorship Bias is the mistaken idea many people have where in you believe it is beneficial to look only at data from your market of successful product/projects. The truth is, when analyzing data, you must look at both the positive and negative data.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of available data in many regards within the adult gaming industry right now. With rampant piracy, Patreon subscription numbers waxing and waning, and data from Steam being kept private, it’s very hard to get true data with actual numbers. That isn’t, however, to say that there is no data to be gleaned. We could have an entire article just on methods to find and accumulate data (and maybe we will in the future), but instead, let’s consider survivorship bias and why as a developer, it’s important to keep in mind.
What is survivorship bias?
It is the concept of looking on at data from successful products and projects. It’s leaning your bias toward the survivor in the marketplace. There is plenty to be learned from those who have found success, and looking at those who have been successful is without a worthwhile exercise. But what about those who have failed? There is important information to be learned from them as well.
This example is one that you’ve probably seen yourself: The Copycat (I’ll be saying copycat a lot, but don’t assume that’s a negative thing.) Someone releases a game that is immediately lauded by the community. Next thing you know, there are four or five copycats of that game; same story, same progression, heck sometimes even some of the same visual assets. Yet, those copycats don’t find nearly the same attention. You may, in fact, be thinking about doing a carbon copy of that game yourself, because why not? It looks like it’s an easy story to emulate, and you’re pretty good with the 3D rendering software.
You publish your copycat and expect the patrons to be rolling in. You’re gonna make a fortune, you think to yourself. After a few weeks, the results are far less than what you’d been hoping for. No worries, though, it’s just a matter of pushing forward. So you do another update. And another. And maybe even one more, for good measure. By now maybe you’ve got some patrons, or at least some people playing your game and following the updates, but it’s nowhere near as successful as that first game you are trying to emulate. What gives?
It’s actually pretty simple, albeit a bit unfortunate for you, the copycat. That original game was, for lack of better words, better than your game. Now, before you grab the pitchforks, try to look at this objectively. Your game was, potentially, pretty good, right? But it wasn’t that game that you were inspired by. There was something missing, perhaps. Or maybe you tried to innovate, but it just didn’t land with the audience. The problem you ran into was with your Survivorship Bias.
You looked at a success and tried to do that. But you failed to look at the handful of other games made by developers who were also inspired by that original game. They didn’t make it quite as big either. There may be something to be gained from looking at both the successful game as well as those failed copycats. Why weren’t they as successful? Did they falter with the adaptation of the story? Were their graphics subpar? Was the pacing off? Did the UI leave something to be desired? Were they, the developers, not interacting with the community as much? Did the original game run ads that grew their audience? These are just some of the questions that you could ask yourself. There are undoubtedly countless more.
Success is not often an accident; it’s the result of hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn.
There is something important to be said about this example, and that is that I went heavily into exploring a copycat game. This is not the only example I could have used. Don’t get too caught up on that particular detail. What is key here is that you need to analyze data from the good and the bad. The failures often show more about what it takes than the successes.
If you’re interested in learning more, there are some fantastic links out there to read up on Survivorship Bias. I recommend that you seek them out, especially the story about the planes from WWII – that’s a pretty good one.
Wanting to be a success is a driving force for so many of us. Having what it takes to be a success is honestly easier than you might think. It is just a matter of knowing where to look to fill in the gaps of what you know. There is the old adage, “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and that is pretty spot on. Until you start researching and analyzing empirical data from more places, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Let us know in the comments if you’d like us to publish an article talking about ways to gather data (and when to make some assumptions) from the adult gaming industry!
Disclaimer: The author of this article, V.A. Laurie, previously worked on the development of New Life With My Daughter, which is shown in an example image above. This article is by no means an endorsement or advertisement for that game. It was, however, a fitting example. That project is abandoned and he is no longer associated with the developer VanderGames.