The Open World genre has grown a lot over the past decade, with well-known franchises from multiple game studios. These range from the space opera Mass Effect to the criminal underworld of Grand Theft Auto. Yet this is still a relatively young and fluid genre, and that made us curious to see if we could identify interesting axes in this genre space using our gamer motivation data.

The Gamer Motivation Profile allows gamers to take a 5-minute survey to get a personalized report of their gaming motivations, and see how they compare with other gamers. Over 220,000 gamers worldwide have taken this survey. The 12 motivations that are measured in our model were identified via statistical analysis of how gaming motivations cluster together (based on data from 30,000 gamers).

Want to see how you compare with other gamers? Take a 5-minute survey and get your own Gamer Motivation Profile.

In the Gamer Motivation Profile, we also ask gamers to list games they’ve enjoyed playing. This allows us to generate motivation profiles not only for individual gamers, but also for game titles. We do this by aggregating the scores from the gamers who listed that game as a game they enjoy.

In this post, we’re going to map out the Open World genre, and we’re going to surface more of our analytic approach.

From Gamers to Game Titles

Our working assumption is that the core audience a game manages to attract provides the best proxy score for the game as a whole. A game with a good elaborate narrative will generally attract gamers who are interested in elaborate narratives. And a game might try to do many things at once, but its core audience will reveal whether only certain aspects of the game were playable and appealing. Certainly, the top 1% most hardcore gamers of any game (on any dimension) will play it in a dramatically different way from everyone else, but a game’s core audience (we would argue) is most representative of what a game is about.

The core audience a game manages to attract provides the best proxy score for the game as a whole.

A Quick Note on the Open World Games

For the data, we grabbed popular Open World games like Fallout and Assassin’s Creed. In the survey, gamers were allowed to list both game titles and game franchises, and we captured this information. In the charts below, games without specific title information refer to the franchise as a whole.

1st Attempt: Pick the 2 Motivations with the Most Variance

Given that we have 12 motivations in our model, and there are only 2 axes on a basic scatterplot, we need to figure out which motivations to use for our axes.

One approach is to just pick the 2 motivations on which the games vary the most on to try to maximize the differences in the scatterplot. In our case, these 2 motivations turn out to be Story (elaborate narrative, interesting characters) and Design (expression, customization).

Story x Design

The plot shows that overall, there’s a positive correlation between Story and Design. Open World games with elaborate narratives tend to provide more customization options. Games like Dragon Age maximize both, whereas games like Grand Theft Auto don’t really emphasize either narrative or customization. Uncharted is an interesting outlier–it has a moderately complex narrative, but has comparatively few customization options.

But because the two axes are so correlated, this particular graph isn’t really giving us a good spread of the genre.

2nd Attempt: Pick the 2 Motivations that are Most Conceptually Meaningful

Another way of going about this is to pick the 2 motivations