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December 8, 2021
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Sharel Omer's Blog


One bad update can silently kill a game; developers need to listen to their communities and build better.

Mind numbingly good graphics, social gameplay, routine updates, and online communities that span the globe, today’s gaming industry has come a long way. Yet many of those advances offer both advantage and challenge, while there are more tools to create great games quicker, a misstep can lead to online communities disappointed and turning to one of a multitude of competitors. To reduce risk and make better games, it’s time that gaming studios - and not just the top players - embrace customer intelligence to leverage the opinions of online communities to build better games that fans will love.

Video game “Fanboys” offering unwavering support are largely a myth

If you poke around any niche online communities (subreddits, Discord, forums, etc.), you’ll quickly notice that there’s often die-hard fan culture surrounding specific video games and franchises. But while many picture video game “fanboys” with unwavering support for a particular game, console, or franchise, the majority of gamers will move on to something new with little more than a few minor missteps by the developer. They have options given that in 2020, 10,263 games were released on Steam alone. One bad update, one bad release, or poorly timed game change can completely upend a game’s reputation and popularity.

A hype trainwreck is hard to ignore

The video game industry is worth $90B, with frequent video game releases during the year. For companies with a history of successful video game franchises, excited gamers organically generate hype trains anticipating new releases. Lofty promises of higher video quality, new features, and creative storylines spark excitement throughout dedicated discord servers and subreddits, leading to the hype train crashing and burning if the game underdelivers.

Perhaps the most infamous example of a video game release failure, No Man’s Sky’s 2016 release, was utterly devoid of gameplay features demonstrated in promotional videos. There was no multiplayer, and the features anticipated were not even included during the first patch. The game lacked the video quality desired, was littered with bugs, and Hello Games offered minimal communication. These compounding factors landed the game a spot on Wikipedia’s “List of video games notable for negative reception.” Though the developers released updates over the next five years, including the desired features like multiplayer, the initial failure tarnished what-could-have-been for the game.

If it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it with a bad or poorly timed update

Poorly timed updates can silently kill a game just as effectively as a poor initial launch. Among Us developers, Inner Sloth tumbled from atop the video game charts simply because of an update gone wrong. At one point in 2020, Among Us was in the top 10 most-watched games on Twitch and was solely responsible for catapulting certain streamers, such as 5up, who gained nearly 1M Twitch subscribers from his Among Us streams, to fame. The game launched in 2018 and peaked with 3.8M concurrent players in late September 2020, yet the highly anticipated third map was released in March 2021. The ill-timed release was well after the hype had died and was disappointing in quality, reaffirming the game’s meme-worthy title of “dead game.”

Gamers know what they want; developers must not just listen but act

An overwhelming 91% of customers don’t complain to a company; they simply leave. While gamers won’t fill out a complaint and can easily churn with plenty of other options released daily, they tend to be very transparent about their thoughts across online forums and gamer communities. These rapidly growing and incredibly influential communities offer game developers the ultimate focus group if they can filter through the noise, collect and leverage insights.

Customer intelligence for product development is increasingly the go-to solution - already leveraged by at least half of the world’s top ten gaming companies. Focus groups are slow, costly, and ineffective, while status quo technologies such as social listening often miss critical forums that aren’t in their purview, or influential fan sites that aren’t given enough weight or factored in at all. The customer intelligence approach solves those classic issues by widening the swath of external data analyzed and pairing it with internal data such as customer support tickets to gain a wider view and cut through the noise. The approach also allows for real-time actionable insights, critical to gaming companies that rely on routine updates and deploying them smoothly.

Game developers have more tools than ever at their disposal to create and improve games at a rapid pace. Yet, with the proliferation of games skyrocketing and frequent updates, the stakes have never been so high to get it right or fix it before it becomes an issue and fans move on. Customer intelligence offers studios an unprecedented opportunity not just to develop faster but also to develop better by putting the gamers at the heart of the process as never before. When the gameplay improves, it’s a win-win, the only thing left to do is for studios to level up.


Member Blogs

Posted by Sharel Omer on Thu, 07 Oct 2021 11:55:00 EDT in Business/Marketing
Mind numbingly good graphics, social gameplay, routine updates, and online communities that span the globe, today’s gaming industry has come a long way. Yet many of those advances offer both advantage and challenge.