The Star Trek franchise has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. After the phenomenal success of the original TV series and following films, things started to whimper out by the time that Voyager finally made it home. Enterprise failed to set the galaxy alight and by the time of the release of Nemesis, people really began wondering whether it was time to close the door on this hugely successful sci-fi franchise. On the flipside of this argument, without a doubt the much loved Trekiverse is enormous, with a very passionate fan base pushing to keep Star Trek alive. Thanks to the recent reboot on the silver screen in 2009 (enriched with new faces and an alternate timeline), the number of fans continues to grow.
It should come as no surprise then that Star Trek has ‘boldly gone’ into the online gaming universe with its own hugely successful free-to-play MMORPG – Star Trek Online. Voted Best Free MMORPG of 2012 by MMORPG Center and Best New MMO of 2012 (by Beckett Massive Online Gamer and Massively Player’s Choice Award), Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios have created a beautifully immersive experience for gamers. However, it’s important not to rest in the medical bay when marketing your game. Creating a great game is only half the battle when dealing with online games. Having a team of engaged international community managers is vital for adding new players, and making sure you don’t lose your (red shirted) old ones!
Let’s now take a look at the community management aspects of Star Trek Online (STO).
Humor - ‘‘I’m a lizard, not a satellite dish!’’
Lo and behold, a community management team with a sense of humor! This is a huge plus, and goes a long way with video game fans - after all, gaming is supposed to be fun. While making sure that you respond quickly and efficiently to problems and questions posed by your followers is important, it’s equally as important to remember why the people playing your game chose an MMORPG instead of a traditional video game in the first place—social interaction.
By showing your followers that you have a sense of humor, it reassures them that they are dealing with human beings and not an emotionally repressed Vulcan support team. This interaction allows users to communicate with the company on an equal level and helps foster a sense of camaraderie and loyalty to the game.
Notifications - “Beam me up Scotty.” *
Like any good relationship, communication is key. If the game needs to be taken offline for a while to address bugs (transporter accidents occasionally do happen) or make improvements, it is better to warn your fans that there will be down time and apologize for the inconvenience, rather than suddenly going incommunicado.
As you can see above, what’s great about what STO has done here is their use of a picture along with the written update to inform their followers. This automatically draws attention to the post and ensures that it will receive as many views as possible.
* Fun Fact: Did you know that while variations of this line are spoken in the series, not once was that actual line used?
Responses to Fans -“The needs of many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Sometimes when an online game becomes hugely popular, one of the first things to suffer is the fan page. A large influx of gamers means more people who have comments, questions or concerns and the sheer number of new players can quickly overwhelm even the most dedicated of community management and support teams. Take a look at the rapid boom and subsequent bust of the Star Wars: The Old Republic online community in 2011.
Luckily, this has not been the case for Star Trek Online. Not only do they address any complaints or questions on their page, they also make sure to respond to compliments. In this instance, they’ve destroyed two Klingon Birds of Prey with one torpedo by providing a very specific ‘thank you’ to the player while also building excitement for upcoming additions to the game for the rest of the community. Showing that you appreciate your players’ love of the game helps create more positive interaction and feedback, thus making the community a more enjoyable environment for both the players and community managers… it’s almost symbiotic.
No Facebook Wall - “Space…the final frontier.”
Does this space look a bit… empty to you?
Come on now, you didn’t think I’d let them get off that easily, did you?
While STO has obviously done much to get it right for their online community, there is one element of their page that is a bit off-putting. Facebook offers the ability to turn the wall on and off for company pages. The community managers of the STO page have evidently decided to turn the wall off. While this may seem like a fairly harmless decision, it is limiting the users’ communication with the team somewhat. With only one-way communication allowed, users have less ways to air their concerns, complaints, or queries regarding the game.
This is not necessarily a problem situation. Giving clear instructions on using forum threads to cover topics that have no place on the Facebook wall is a good example of an outlet for the community to share their opinions with the community managers and community members. The measure of good community management is not just the Facebook wall activity, but also the success of the managed ticketing system for emails, the atmosphere and use of the forum, other social media channel interaction, and overall responsiveness.
International Outreach - "Our neural pathways have become accustomed to your sensory input patterns."
When working with a major brand name like Star Trek, it’s important to remember that all of your fans will not speak the same language, or have a similar culture. In STO’s case, German is one of its major markets, and they’ve done a great job making sure the German page matches the quality and content of the English page. However, when looking at the English and German pages side-by-side, you’ll notice a couple of differences:
Yup, I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I just point out how the English version didn’t have this feature enabled on their Facebook page? There are a few possible explanations as to why the two pages differ; firstly, size matters— where the English STO page has 182K ‘Likes’, the German page has a much lower 12K. With fewer users, it is unlikely that the community management and support team would be overwhelmed by queries posted by fans. The other possible explanation is that STO recognizes the cultural differences of its German audience.
Unlike their English speaking counterparts, German B2C interactions tend to be more on the formal side. As you can see in the above example, most of their users' comments are answered with a polite but short ''thank you'' (or thumbs up). Even in the gaming industry, where brand-to-user interactions are known to be especially relaxed, the German STO community managers have a more passive voice with their users than what we would expect from our community management teams in English speaking countries. This formal interaction reduces the risk of inappropriate or lewd comments being posted to the Facebook wall. Recognizing and honoring these differences in language and culture is a sign of a quality international community management and support team. Overall, it can be said that Star Trek Online are doing good things for their online community, providing engaging content and support for their fans.
Out of Darkness
So, we’ve reached the end of the wormhole, and hopefully, this article has entertained you slightly, as well as illustrating why international community management and customer support are vital for maintaining the success of a brand or product—especially when your audience is multilingual in scope. Using a team of experienced and passionate community managers will ensure that your online game will ‘live long and prosper’.
James Norman is a Copywriter and Project Coordinator at MO Group International, which provides professional multilingual game community management and customer support services in over 40 different languages.
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