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Investing in Community Management UNDER REVIEW

By Kevin Harwood | Published Jul 11 2014 01:00 PM in Business and Law

community management community

I'm only making this point because I talk to enough studios who aren't willing to invest in their community management - and that scares me. Sure, the big studios do it, sure some small games achieve a good social following, but we're right now trying to answer the generalized question for everyone - should you invest in your community management?

Video Game Community Management


Let's first set the expectations of what professional community management for a video game studio looks like. It's more than creating a Facebook page. It's really about leading and growing a group of intention-based individuals through discussion and action in regard to a specific subject. It balances a role between loyalty to the player-base and the studio and helps information freely flow between the two. You shouldn't be the figure head celebrity of the game, but instead the facilitator of the studio's identity and personality.

If you agree with my understanding of above, then consider the outcomes of proper Community Management that I've noticed over the years.

Advocates


People are always looking for interesting stuff to share with their like-minded friends. The entire concept of viral marketing is centered around the assumption that people will want to share what they find. One of my last articles was about urging developers to create viral assets that can easily be shared (videos, pictures, art etc..) and I'd strongly recommend implementing the concepts. There is honestly nothing more rewarding than creating these assets and watching them be shared by the community - and it's really not as complicated as you think. From a financial standpoint, you will never find a cheaper CPA for users than when you push for a high social referral.

The entire idea of a k-factor being "how many new players will one player invite" emerged because a significant number of users were attributed to existing users' referral.

I prefer practical to theoretical, but there's a concept in marketing theory which speaks about how the "fully actualized" customer will have your product (or game) as a part of their identity and naturally represent your game and actively promote it to their peers. You'll always find whales who really take on this role so consider enabling them with viral intent-based content.

Retention


In recent years the average lifespan of a player has plummeted, in my opinion, due to all the other affordable games they have access to. For some titles it makes sense, I can only play BioShock so many times, but for non-linear or narrative genres like MOBAS, MMO's and casual/puzzle games there needs to be more than just a game for players to stick around. Starcraft BroodWar wasn't being played by a large active player base more than 15 years after game launch because its content stayed fresh - instead, organic communities sprang up which gave new life to an old title. Community is essential to creating any staying power for your title, and people are masters at finding new goals or ideas for games. If you look at games which have the highest video game LTV they commonly have the greatest attention to their community. Examples?
  • The Battlefield series which even won a social strategy award
  • World of WarCraft
  • League of Legends - which I think has one of the largest social platform communities ever?
Basically, if your game relies on continual APRU, then it appears the best in the business rely on community management to further create value with their players.

Feedback


I can speak for certain that this function is the most neglected in all of community management, especially for video games. The concept of "co-creation" has many proponents and still many opponents but what I'm referring to is a stable user base who wants to give you detailed feedback on their user experience. I've worked on QA, and unless you have a team who really is motivated, getting good information on user experience is like pulling teeth - so instead draw answers from your players who will give you endless feedback and even ideas on how to improve your offering.

In this function a community manager is able to fulfill the role of an intermediary as an advocate of the player community to the development team. Is there a mechanic or gameplay issue that the community in general isn't a fan of? A community manager should be the role who is continually giving feedback to the development team on what players think and want. Look at how the Diablo 3 Auction House was shut down because the community insisted it wasn't giving a positive user experience. I'm a huge fan of feedback and in a stance of humility, developers can get fantastic feedback from their players on what would improve their experience.

So What Does Investment Look Like?


It does not mean you hire someone to get you more Facebook likes. What it does mean is making the shift to consider your social platforms (social media, forums, sub-reddit pages) as a source for communication to your players and committing to building their integrated role. Here's my checklist.
  • What's your offering? (example; share in-game rewards with any users who join your social platforms)
  • Offer unique interesting content for your users - (League of Legends posts cartoons every Sunday. They understand their demographic enough to know comics are a perfect fit)
  • Promise real-time news updates on important game information. This is so important! Your users should be coming to you for updates on your game.
  • Having interesting contests run through your social platforms! Be creative - it's not hard (if it is for you, ask me and we'll come up with something)
  • Is your game complex? Consider building and promoting a forum which allows for topic specific discussion.
  • Development blogs help a community know how a game is changing and that it is continually being improved.

The Paradigm Shift


I really want to encourage you to see that community management isn't another "job", it's a function that connects to so many parts of a studio. Doing Alpha or Beta testing? You probably want a medium for users to report bugs. You probably want a medium or voice to even give them early access in the first place! I could go on for pages about why community management is an essential part of a game's marketing mix.

What has been your experience with community management and tangible growth of your game? Do you too see the reward?


Cover image courtesy of iStockphoto, romakoshel



About the Author(s)


Kevin is a video game marketer with years of experience working with triple A and indie studios. Hit me up if you want to chat about a project

License


GDOL (Gamedev.net Open License)




Comments

An article about a very real issue. Poor Community Management has been the focus of several major PR issues including one involving Star Citizen.

I can't state how painful it is to see poor community management from a monetization and marketing perspective. It's the single best return on investment when you have an established player base. If anyone here needs to have a strategy session, I'll chat with them free - I just want to help any studio get their community management super charged.

As working on a persistant browser game, community management is a must for me but it worries me to find the balance between they feel their feedback is neglected and they are enforcing changes.

 

Most players are unable to realize that their suggestion is not only about changing a mechanic but ensuring a certain balance game-wide.

I don't think it's that black and white. If you are into making games for a audience to sell a lot and bind them to your IP. Then Community management is important. But if you are into making the game you want to make. Then you go for creative freedom. If you are more commercial and want to sell a lot and get a huge community and fans and such.

But the other side. I see games also as form of art. As dev you could also express yourself with a game made by your vision. This is possible with very low self funded games as a hobby. With limited or very low feedback from a community. But don't expect huge sales. Or could it be.

 

Your audience could very specific. But without feedback it had more chance to be broken.  

An article about a very real issue. Poor Community Management has been the focus of several major PR issues including one involving Star Citizen.

 

I rather see it as something new to me. Community management over the top. It's Community management with a community fund raising business model. I judge game about what is released and reviewed by professionals. The problem with community's is there are lot of gamers with feature demand that conflict with other gamers. So you can't please them all. I give them the benefit of doubt. My expectation are always low. because there can go so much wrong with game production. So if it decent I will be very pleased.

I also not into Alfa beta. Games are so Data driven. A few bits change and it feels so much different. Since I had a great experience with beta BF3,  but a lesser released game. Due to some rebalance. No judging till it out. "No cigar till the fat lady sings." "Don't sell bear hide before you shoot it."  

 

Maybe over decade we get a post mortem article about it. which would be very interesting.


Note: Please offer only positive, constructive comments - we are looking to promote a positive atmosphere where collaboration is valued above all else.




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