More Than 80% of Gamers Would Pay More for Games With Smart NPCs

The Inworld AI team has published an informative report that will help studios of all sizes navigate what to focus on when it comes to their efforts to upgrade NPCs in their games.

Ever wonder how gamers feel about NPCs or what they want from them in the future? Until recently, there hasn’t been much research into gamers’ wish lists for improving the sidekicks, villains, merchants, and sages that make up the game worlds they love. That’s why Inworld AI, a company that creates the brains that drive advanced AI NPCs, commissioned a survey of 1,002 US-based gamers to better understand what gamers of various types love, hate, and secretly desire from NPCs. 

The resulting report, The Future of NPCs: What Gamers Demand From Next-Gen Characters, had some surprising findings – and ones that will help studios of all sizes navigate what to focus on when it comes to their efforts to upgrade NPCs.

We’ll walk you through what you need to know. 

Gamers’ Feelings About NPCs

This first-of-its-kind study uncovered some facts that might surprise game devs. Despite making memes out of them and turning the term NPC into an insult, gamers overwhelmingly believe NPCs are important, with 84% feeling they’re critical to gameplay. That doesn’t mean gamers don’t love to hate current NPCs, with 52% saying they dislike repetitive NPC dialogue. Things like repetitive movements and the inability to adapt to their surroundings were other top gamer dislikes.

On the whole, gamers want deeper interactions with NPCs. Of the gamers surveyed, 76% craved NPCs with better situational awareness, and 68% wanted to have more complex conversations with them.

Gamers’ Feelings About Advanced AI NPCs

The next generation of NPCs is set to take advantage of recent advances in machine learning models like natural language processing, text-to-speech, trigger engines, machine vision, and more. Imagine the tech that drives ChatGPT, only rather than typing a question to a chatbot, you can voice chat with advanced AI characters in-game – and they also have goals, emotions, and distinctive personalities of their own. They’re even aware and can comment on what you’re doing in-game. Welcome to the era of multimodal various AI technologies are brought together to create lifelike, engaging, and immersive NPCs.

Of the gamers surveyed, 99% believed that advanced AI NPCs would positively impact gameplay. Furthermore, 79% stated they were excited or very excited by advanced AI NPCs, 78% expected to spend more time playing games with advanced NPCs, and 88% said they would make a game more immersive.

Gamers are even willing to pay for better NPCs. Indeed, 79% would be more likely to buy a game with intelligent NPCs, and 81% of gamers would be willing to pay more for a game with advanced AI NPCs.

What Should Game Studios Do?

With AI continuing to push the potential for interactive and intelligent experiences with digital characters, it’s time that game studios give up their strategy of upgrading their NPCs by simply creating more elaborate dialogue trees. Fully interactive NPCs are the future of gaming, and the studios that realize that first will be ahead of the adoption (and sales) curve.

Here are some things game studios should do:

  • Stop underinvesting in NPCs. Given that a large majority of gamers (84%) believe that NPCs are crucial to their gameplay, upgrading NPC technology and increasing NPC investment is going to quickly become key to the future success of franchises and studios. The good news is that the tech is accessibly priced for studios of all sizes – from indie to AAA.
  • Stop creating repetitive NPCs. Gamers don’t want to hear the same four scripted lines over and over again – 68% of gamers cited more advanced conversations as critical for NPCs. Advanced NPC solutions like Inworld AI give your characters the power of much-hyped language models like ChatGPT while still allowing narrative designers the freedom to script important dialogue.
  • Focus on interactivity. It’s not just about hooking up a language model to your character. Gamers told us that better conversations were key, but so was the ability for NPCs to observe, adapt, and respond to things happening in the game world. Future NPCs have to be a multimodal AI experience. 
  • Consider it an investment. Who doesn’t want to increase sales? Grow their franchise with successful sequels? Improve player retention metrics? Increase game replayability? Achieve sales targets on expansion packs? Generate additional subscription revenue? Or even increase the price of their titles? Gamers say the answer is simple – add advanced AI NPCs. 

Intrigued? The Inworld Future of NPCs report has more insights to help you better understand gamers' attitudes towards NPCs and how to improve them. Find it here.

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