Back when I was a nerdy teenager, one of the first computer games I ever got my hands on was Choplifter.
The game was to fly a helicopter around picking up refugees while an enemy took pot shots at at you, idiot birds tried to fly into your rotor blades and random storms appeared from nowhere.
It was not a sophisticated game.
The game earned a certain amount of notoriety, because almost every player ended up doing the same thing.
They'd get bored of the main mission, and start shooting up the refugees.
I didn't realise how common this was until over a decade later when I was building email lists for Electronic Arts
(Electronic Arts are the games publisher behind huge game franchises like FIFA, Forumla 1, NHL and NBA.)
I got chatting to one of their research guys and he told me they'd figured a recipe for blockbuster games that they could predict in early testing.
First, to reach a mass market, it has to be super easy to get started.
Most of these games have an “arcade” mode where you can just pick it up, figure out the main controls without a manual and get started.
But this isn't enough to keep the high end players interested.
You need these guys on board for credibility. They're the ones writing reviews for websites & magazines or running their ow Youtube channels.
Keeping them playing is the next challenge.
The second measure is the “Choplifter factor”.
If it's either too simple, or too challenging, they'll get bored, or frustrated.
EA could just time how long it took for the novices and the hardcore gamers to ditch the main game objective and go off on a destructive spree.
Driving the wrong way round the F1 track, putting in vicious sliding tackles in FIFA and even attacking the referee in NHL games were all signs that players are about to quit on the game.
Balancing the two of these is hard, and it's near impossible to do until you've built up options for both novices and experienced players.
Choplifter was short-lived because there was no way to leap to more advanced missions once you'd nailed the basics.
Your first challenge is getting people started with as little friction as possible. Keeping the excitement of the purchase going until they get some early wins and motivation to keep going.
The next challenge is keeping them with enough difficulty to hold their attention, but not enough to frustrate them.
It's impossible to do for both ends of the market with a single product so you need to decide where to aim first.
There's no right or wrong, but you have to pick one.
For example, when I built up the Personal Brand Archetypes profile, I wasn't looking for day 1 newbies.
I wanted people who had already started, but had hit frustrations with other teachers because their values didn't match.
I wanted to help these people recognise what the problem was, and how to adjust course.
My audience aren't attracted by the basics, but there's fewer of them.
That's fine though, because I know where to find them.
You choose your customers, they don't choose you.
You need an entry point that's right for their skill level, and next steps that they won't get bored with or frustrated with.
Over time you can build up extra “levels” to accomodate more or less experienced “players”
Who are you picking for your customers, and how long can you keep them engaged before they start shooting the place up?
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