Before the age of social media, video game developers had very few opportunities to reach their target audiences. Sure, they could learn from the successes and failures of the past, but that meant trying anything new was a risky endeavour that would struggle finding a home with the big publishers.
Fast forward to 2018, and things have changed enormously. Today’s gaming industry is more player-influenced than it ever has been before. Many of the most popular games now have highly active communities of modders, gameplay diarists and other enthusiastic followers. In fact, the power of online communities is so great that they often live on long after the original developers themselves.
The question many developers have revolves around when they should start building their online communities. A lot of developers – particularly larger ones – tend to keep things under wraps until they’re ready to announce the launch.
But they’re missing the boat. There are many benefits to building your community the moment you start building your game, if not before. Here’s why:
#1. Enhance Your Visibility
Even if you’re a major studio, it’s imperative that you start building hype around your upcoming title far in advance of launch day, no matter how many advertising bucks you have to spend later on. For smaller studios and previously unknown developers, it’s even more important to start building your community as soon as possible. How else will people know you exist?
If your website serves as the foundation for your online marketing efforts, then your on-site forum should be the foundation of your entire community. Moreover, you have full control over your own community, which makes it the perfect platform for generating buzz while building player advocacy. What’s more, user-generated content is great for increasing your visibility on social networks and search engines.
#2. Get Your Players Involved
We’re not living in the 90s any longer, so there’s absolutely zero reason to run blind into the development of your game. Today, players are often heavily involved with the direction and development of their favorite games. And this is so important; without any pre-launch input from players, you could, for example, end up making development cuts that could have serious consequences.
By launching your community as soon as you start building your game, you start building valuable relationships with players immediately. This generates all sorts of useful insights you can use to give players exactly what they want. That’s why no developer – no matter their size – should disregard the potential of early access programs, pre-launch previews or even private beta programs.
#3. Build Crowdfunding Support
When the first online crowdfunding platforms started appearing around 10 years ago, many AAA game developers and publishers dismissed them as something designed solely to help small, cash-strapped developers and one-man projects. However, the last few years have seen more and more AAA developers turning to Kickstarter and other platforms to secure funding.
It’s important to remember that three times as many crowdfunding campaigns fail than succeed. That’s why it’s so important to build an active community of would-be backers before you’re ready to launch your campaign. Many crowdfunding journeys start with lively community forums of enthusiasts, some of which will be more than happy to back your project the moment you launch your campaign.
These days, video gaming is all about community. It doesn’t matter how big or small your project or your studio is – building a community early on can be tremendously beneficial. By empowering your future players with a say in the development of your project, you create valuable brand advocates, boost visibility and, ultimately give them the game they’re looking forward to.