Launching Video Games Using Your Online Community
There is a systematic approach to releasing a game successfully with community support. Although it’s a slow build, aimed at generating hype and excitement, it does require one key component: a cadre of fans rallying behind it.
This is key, as you not only need a group of people interested in playing your game, but who are actively supporting and promoting it themselves.
Step One: The Pre-Launch Hype
The best first step is to generate some pre-launch hype by offering it available for restricted pre-sale only to key people (i.e. influencers, or your most passionate fans) . Pre-sales achieve a few different goals:
- It allows your users to get in line, which helps to plant the seeds of excitement.
- It allows you to gauge that level of excitement and forecast future sales
- Pre-sale revenue can be used for operating expenses such as finalizing the game, testing, or marketing.
Pre-sales work especially well for big name titles, especially sequels that already have a large, and loyal, fan base. Bigger studios may only offer a temporary pre-sale, or limit the pre-sale to a certain number of units. This creates an artificial supply and demand that can help generate the buzz you are looking for.
On the other hand, this method only works with games that are all but a sure thing to be released. If you’re offering a pre-sale for games that are nowhere near being finished, support will languish as time goes on. Nothing is more irksome to the gaming community than to pre-purchase a game that winds up getting buried in development issues and ultimately wind up getting cancelled.
Not only does this hurt your reputation as a developer, it sours your relationship with the fans and causes a financial nightmare as refunds must be dispersed.
The lesson here? Make sure you can deliver.
Step Two: Get the Community Cranking
Getting your community cranking is an important step in the pre-launch process. During this time, your community should be growing. With pre-sales coming in, the goal is to keep the excitement for your game going. Release exclusive pictures, screenshots, teasers, character designs and other information to help keep the audience engaged.
Communities can be a good source of funding and advertisement as well. If your game is being crowdsourced, your community is a great place to ask for donations. In fact, forum members may even go back and send you more money once they love what they see so far.
Controlling your community may be a challenge. Especially in the early days. It is important to maintain excitement while keeping the community civil and engaged. Online trolls can be a problem in communities, especially in those devoted to video games, so be sure to set the tone early and keep a positive, excited attitude afloat.
Step Three: Gather Beta Testers
As you approach closer to the launch date, it’s a good idea to host beta testing and an early access launch. Beta testing usually has two stages:
- A closed beta test for those that the team knows will provide the best feedback
- An open beta, which allows the public to try out what you have so far.
Early access allows those who have preordered to be able to play it, even if it isn’t 100% ready yet. However, keep in mind, that if you allow early access and your game is far from ready, users may be disappointed with what they see.
Early access can be tremendously beneficial, just make sure you don’t crack open the door too early.
Step Four: The Release Date and Support
The release date is the most stressful part of the process. For better or worse, fans and non-fans alike will see your finished game, complete with all of its flaws (and there will be flaws).
Remember, fans have already seen the game through beta testing or early releases. It is important to ensure that enough progress has been made from beta to full launch that your game is polished and ready.
From time to time you’ll want to periodically release DLC and expansions. This not only provides you with more opportunities to profit off of the title, but it allows your team to continue creating content for an already established group of buyers.
Creating new content for your game helps keep the fan base energized and talking about your game. The community will take up the cause and rally around the new content. Just ensure that the core game has enough content packed in that buyers don’t feel that they’re being forced to essentially buy the same game multiple times.
Community is Key
In all of these steps, your community is at the heart of your pre-launch strategy. A loyal community, actively excited for the prospects of your game functions as super fans and will promote and help generate a grassroots campaign on your behalf.
Word of mouth is still a powerful tool. The social proof offered by your supporters to their fans will help grow your community of followers, keep excitement levels high, and put you in a great position for success.
Looking for a roadmap on how to get your passionate fans to help launch your game?
We’ve asked experts on what are the best tactics are and compiled it in this guide. Read our guide on how you can accelerate your game launch and drive revenue.