It’s easy to get distracted by bells and whistles. In the age of the digital marketplace, there are superfluous options galore, offered by competing distribution platforms fighting for your attention. Sure Steam is king, but newer platforms like GOG, Desura, and Origin have disrupted the playing field with unique advantages, better deals and exclusive content.
While Steam’s leadership won’t be challenged any time soon, it has to be said that even though a lot of their features look great on paper, they simply don’t bring any significant value to content creators - not those interested in building a community past their reviews page, that is.
What if it all disappears?
Probably the biggest threat to content creators using an “add-on” community like Steam, is that if there are any issues with your account, you could potentially lose everything. Users won’t lose your game if it’s pulled from the store, of course (unless there’s a more complicated legal issue involved), but you could lose your ability to moderate your community and be forced to watch it irreversibly fracture.
You Are the Company You Keep
Additionally, if your community is infected by toxic users or trolls in a platform that you can’t fully moderate, you may be responsible for their behaviour, depending on the terms of service. If you run an independent community, however, you not only have full administrative powers, but you can operate under your own terms of service, avoiding responsibility for negative user behaviour.
No matter how strong your brand alliance may be, you must recognize the when to use the easiest solution, and when to use the most powerful solution. Digital distribution services have powerful infrastructure that can support many thousands of products, ratings, comments, and sales data points (not to mention rock-solid account security). But none of those systems can directly translate to a strong community platform.
Why invest in a platform that’s built for a single purpose?
Modern communities require advanced functionality like gamification, rich media posts and file sharing, and single sign-on with social media integration. Platforms like Steam Community simply don’t offer enough to keep users interested.
The downsides to this are many, but the two key issues are:
1. Poor community engagement tools and features. Platforms like Steam Community don’t offer or facilitate sophisticated discussions or content distribution. The absence of these features leaves many users disinterested with the community, making them reluctant to submit original content. This resistance to submitting content makes it very difficult for you to obtain brand advocacy.
2. Users use digital distribution platforms to buy or play only. Digital distribution platform users are focused on two actions: -purchasing games and playing games. While some users do message their friends to coordinate online gaming sessions (or just to make small talk), very few feel compelled to share original content on what they consider a “low quality” community. Game-specific communities (like Reddit) where the gamification platform offers more appealing incentives for regularly sharing original content do not suffer this disadvantage. You can’t really expect to generate original content on a platform that’s not made for it.
As you can see, building your own community has become a critical part in developing a strong digital presence. Thankfully, it’s also become incredibly easy with the availability of powerful and comprehensive modern platforms. So why limit your options to a marketplace afterthought when you can accomplish so much more by building your community from the ground up?
Remember, no matter how attractive an all-in-one solution may seem, distribution networks are built and optimized for distribution. Their tech stack will never support the scale and functionality of your dream community, so don’t waste your time growing a community that can never become what you need for fans to thrive.