Video gaming is no longer the solitary activity that it once was. Today, even games that are exclusively single player have developed communities of like-minded individuals. These are the people who keep our favorite video games in the spotlight. Oftentimes, these communities support video games well after the original developers have effectively abandoned them.
Today, the world of video games is very much a social affair. That’s why developers should work hard to build strong communities around their titles. Without this community you basically don’t have a video game.
Of course there are toxic communities that give some games a bad name. Nonetheless, this fact should only reinforce the importance of developer involvement in community building. By playing an active role in building and leading your game’s community, you’ll be better positioned to steer it away from becoming a cesspit of toxic behavior that reflects on the reputation of your game and brand.
#1. Improve Customer Relationships
What do all successful video games have in common? They are the products of people who themselves love video games. On the other hand, if a developer is nothing more than a faceless company, it’s not likely to develop – let alone lead – a viable online community. Above all, players want to know that you’re listening and are ready to address their concerns.
Community management is particularly important for small studios wanting to make an impact large enough to stand its own against publishers and developers of AAA titles. Communities such as online forums and social media provide an invaluable outlet to support your player base.
#2. Empower Your Players
Indie studios often struggle to find the necessary resources to compete with big companies. By contrast, AAA titles involve thousands of people, including huge teams of beta testers that are responsible for fine-tuning the game to perfection. Fortunately for small developers, there’s another option.
Community building provides an opportunity for small studios to reach out to their players for assistance. Players want to have a say in the future of the games they love. That’s why, for example, moddable titles are so popular. On the flipside, restricting people from modding a game may lead to a tide of bad press, as Take-Two found out in July, 2017 when it banned mods for Grand Theft Auto V.
#3. Power Through Early Access
When Steam launched its Early Access program back in 2013, it was met with a fair amount of criticism. Nonetheless, the ability for players to try out new games before final release quickly proved advantageous to small studios that wanted to build engaged communities around their projects.
Early Access is all about building communities whose players are actively involved in the development of their favorite games. Although the platform has undoubtedly been abused by some studios, there are some notable success stories such as Subnautica, Don’t Starve, The Forest and Kerbal Space Program, to name a few.
The success of these titles perfectly illustrates the need for small-studio community development, giving them the resources to realize their creative ideas.