The newest Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry Report is out, and its findings have suggested that gamers are still influenced by a video game's aesthetics more than anything else. The report, which is a highly specialized survey conducted by the Entertainment Software Association, polled U.S. gamers about their video game purchasing habits, and the results found that consumers still place a higher priority on a game's graphics than both its narrative and its gameplay when making the decision to buy a new title.
The study found that 67% of gamers listed graphics as a major influence on their purchasing habits, ahead of the 59% who needed a game to have an interesting premise or the 50% who wanted online gameplay capabilities. While the video game industry has certainly seen an uptick in games like Yooka-Laylee and Pillars of Eternity that appeal to niche crowds looking for nostalgic graphics, the study's findings suggest that the crowd for this kind of offering is smaller than developers might have previously thought.
The study also found that less than half of U.S. gamers consider a product's familiarity or continuity to be a significant factor in whether or not to make it a priority purchase, which suggests games simply being part of a beloved series like Final Fantasy or Dark Souls might not be able to lean on their past successes in the way they used to.
Of course, it is worth noting that the survey, while incredibly in-depth and well-research, can't possibly account for the actual purchasing habits of an entire country, and there's always a chance that some of the data is somewhat skewed by the over 4,000 American household sample size. While this data is always relevant and helps predict market trends while simultaneously getting a general idea of what works, it isn't time to start mourning the loss of less graphically impressive Kickstarter-style games just yet.
The ESA's study definitely makes a strong case for developers to continue to prioritize making games look as beautiful as possible, though, as strong graphics appear to make up for shortcomings in storytelling or online gameplay rather than the other way around. Naturally, games that are strong in all of these categories - like the incredible Horizon Zero Dawn or Uncharted 4 - don't need to worry, but findings like these can certainly influence the direction of smaller titles that need to prioritize one or two development elements due to having smaller teams or tighter budgets.