As gaming continues to embrace functioning as a service industry, it’s increasingly important to put time into nurturing your game’s community. By investing time into your community at an early stage, it’s possible to quicken its growth and retention rate, and utilize its ability to spread visibility.
There are plenty of different ways to create a community for your audience and each game will require a specific approach, but how do you create a highly engaged community?
It’s important to explore different levels of engagement, as some players may be thoroughly committed and want to embed themselves in your community, while others will merely be interested in skimming the surface. In this way, planning for different levels of engagement creates a more natural feel, and will attract a diverse set of players.
It's a mistake to depend on platforms such as Steam to drive brand engagement. Gamers on Steam are primarily there to play games, not talk about them. Nobody boots up a secondary application in order to go and chat about their favourite game. While Steam itself has a number of great community ideas (their trading card system is a work of evil genius), it’s a bad idea to rely on steam communities for the bulk of your efforts.
Below you’ll find ideas of different starting points to figure out how to layer your community, which includes a bit about the benefits of finding brand advocates (who have been proven to drive more business) and working with them in promoting your brand.
The Foundation in Creating a Game Community
At the first and deepest level, it’s critical to set the foundation for your community. After you’ve discovered your target audience, consider how and where they’ll want to chat about your game.
A great tip was provided by Brian Massey of the Conversion Scientist, that can be built on the Visitor Acquisition report of Google Analytics is the creation of advanced segmentation based on buyer personas. Based on metrics such as time on site and number of pages visited , you’d segment your new visitors into various personas.
In a gaming community, for example, you could create personas such as:
- Passionate Fan: Their time on site would be more than 5 minutes and browse through multiple pages with time spent on page. You can also tie-in social profiles if you have a single-sign on for a more detailed insight.
- Noob: The person who spends time on the site for a short number of time but visits a lot of pages. Doesn’t seem to be able to find what they want.
- Social Gamer: Someone who stays on the site a long time but doesn’t visit a lot of pages.
Identifying your community personas would help determine visitor flows and behaviours leading to your target goal.
This way, you can see the channels that provide the highest bottom-line impact and the areas where improvements are needed. It will also help you determine the type of campaigns that are most effective and are aligned with your objectives.
1. Creating community spaces
Is it an in-depth strategy game that will require a wiki or forum for people to discuss tactics? Is it a game that will inspire fan art, fan fiction, or cosplay? What spaces are people going to need in order to share their thoughts to fellow players? These spaces could be community forums, social media channels, or organised meetups at conventions.
Besides your forum, some more examples could include Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat, blogs, wikis, YouTube, Twitch, local gaming bars, Comicon or game conventions, etc.
2. Set up a community policy
At this early stage it’s also important to let players know the basics of your community. As the community grows, it’ll be helpful to you, any moderators, and community members to understand the principles they should stick to when spending time in the community. Is there a certain practice for spoilers? What level of competitiveness is too aggressive?
Make your code of ethics easily available to your players so they know what the boundaries are if you have them. Once some players are informed, they will be able to explain these principles to newer members of the community too.
Now that the community’s foundation is in place, work towards supporting the individuals that want to be part of it.
Who are your passionate fans?
Inevitably, there will be some players that become deeply embedded within your community. If they’re happy to become involved, giving these players some responsibility can be very helpful to you and very rewarding to them.
Are there very involved players on your forum that would like to be moderators? Is there an artist that submits fantastic fan art constantly that would be keen to help judge a fan art contest?
These players may understand your game even better than some of your devs, and allowing them to share their wisdom with the community enriches it.
One of the main benefits of brand advocates, is due to their passion about your game, they will act very similarly to word of mouth marketing. Many consumers no longer trust marketing and advertisements, which is why many game studios focus on press reviews and influencers on Twitch and YouTube to reach their targeted consumers.
For example, in Nielson’s 2015 study, only 48% of people trust online video ads, while 66% trust consumer opinions posted online. Your brand advocate, however, has already discovered they adore your product, and so when they spread the word about your game, it’s something more wholly genuine, which explains why 83% of people trust recommendations from people they know.
Communication goes both ways
You’ll, of course, be sharing game and studio news through various social channels, but are there any specific channels you can use to get more in-depth news out to those deeply engaged fans who’d be interested to know about it first? One of the most basic ways to do this is to utilize your mailing list.
Also, if you have quite a few deeply involved players, you may consider setting up a specific chat for them to use, that you and your devs enter from time to time after particular key game stages or updates. This allows them to feel involved and more connected, and enables you to have very direct feedback from especially knowledgeable players.
Giving community members the ability to give feedback directly to the dev behind the game provides a sense of true involvement and recognition. Whether this is through a private group chat, or through speaking directly to the devs via social media, it has an impact.
Software Advice found that 66% of respondents under the age of 34 are more likely to give a referral after receiving social recognition, and more than 50% of respondents are more likely to give a referral if offered incentive, social recognition, or access to an exclusive loyalty programme.
Creating better engagement
Once your community starts creating fan art, fan fiction, and cosplays, making sure to share these in your community spaces will act to reinforce the cycle. Brand engagement is key to creating brand loyalty, with 62% of 18-34 year olds reporting that brand engagement is more likely to make them a loyal customer.
The creators will feel excited to see their work officially shared, and others may feel inspired to submit their own creations. Some players may even commission other players to make fan art for them, or groups of players might join together to create a role-play blog.
Tips on creating more passion
And finally, what are the smaller things you can do from time to time to please those members of the community that may only spend limited time there. By doing so, you can combine your appreciation towards your community, while also gifting them some free gifts. In an Ask Your Target Market survey, 91% of people said they would be more likely to do business with a company that showed their appreciation to customers. Of those polled, 53% liked when companies offered free items.
1. Gifting for Goals: Gamification allows for opportunities to drive fan behaviour. Within a community platform, you can encourage specific behaviours that drive greater engagement. This will identify your passionate fans who can be rewarded with incentives such as powerful characters or even a discount.
Are there certain achievements you can reward your community for? For example, hitting a certain number of followers and then sharing a special graphic and gifting an in-game item.
2. Events: If you show your game at any expos or events, are there little gifts you could bring along to hand out to your community? These could be game keys, or bits of special merch like posters, t-shirts, or pins.
Or, you may consider creating your own special event. Dishonored 2 recently held a scavenger hunt contest in London, where those who found scattered runes were invited to a special Karnaca dinner event. The location, props, and meal were all themed as if taking place in the city setting of Dishonored 2.
3. Art and Assets: From time to time it’s also nice to share special art or other in-game assets with your community. Are there any exceptionally lovely pieces of game art you could share around specific milestones or holidays? Is there a little in-game item you can add in at these key times that would make your community smile? Are there any bits of community humour you can carry forward in a special way?
Or, is there a way you can create something that fans can share with each other, like Skyrim’s recent Snapchat filter?
Bazaarvoice found that 84% of 18-34 year olds feel that a brand’s content marketing influences their purchase behaviour somewhat. And, if you create a piece of content that is free and attractive, they will be more likely to share that content on social channels.
The New York Times Customer Insight Group found that two of top reasons people share posts on social channels is to either “bring valuable or entertaining content to others” (49%) or “define themselves to others” (68%).
Depending on your game and its audience, each of these sections may be entirely different, but by adding layers to the level of engagement, your community will feel more authentic and alive.
Looking for ways to super-charge your game launch? Here are more resources that can help the game marketer:
About the Author: Originally starting out as a graphic designer at companies like Hasbro and Staples in the US, Haley decided to make the move into something with a bit more narrative. London was also calling, as they say, and so her next step was to earn an MA in Game Design and Theory at Brunel. Many freelance gigs followed throughout the games industry, from QA, production, art and design, before she decided to delve more into the business side of games with an MBA in Creative Industries Management. After that Haley found her place as a games marketing manager, working with over 30+ games. Now she works at Failbetter Games, surrounded by all the narrative she was looking for.