Every August, the gaming community attends gamescom, Europe’s biggest consumer games show. This year’s event celebrates its passionate gaming community via the theme ‘Together We Are Games.’ Now more than ever, gamers are a fundamental part of the industry, to the extent of driving trends and shaping the game development process.
In fact, there are many ways to contribute to the industry’s growth. As gaming professionals who help developers publish and grow their games, we are excited to share tips for our peers — from mobile advertisers to game developers — on how to take an active part in shaping the gaming community and contribute to this exciting phenomenon.
Interact with Your Peers and Share or Gather Feedback in Forums
Never before have game developers involved the community as closely in the making of new titles and can be seen regularly collecting feedback on new features and organizing dedicated events. This trend proliferated a few years ago with the advance of social media (and the options to leave “Comments”) and has become the status quo.
Online forums are popular channels for gathering feedback, seeing as the digital community is very active and vocal. A search on independent content platforms such as Medium reveals a host of articles written by gaming experts and aficionados with claims such as “the best game you’ll ever play”. Reddit has 350K members signed up as game developers, who share their input on all sorts of disparaging programming topics and game feedback. Github is another great forum for swapping advice and opinions amongst game developers. Developers of hits like “Dungeons & Dragons” are known to regularly submit surveys for input from the players.
While it’s easy to participate in Reddit forums as a gamer, it’s difficult for indie developers to be seen and for their own threads to gain traction, compared to bigger brands. We suggest to use Twitter to gain feedback during game development. You can create a survey with different ABC options — for example, different design mock-ups of the game graphics — and ask participants for their preference. By promoting the tweets with keywords, you can expand the reach outside of your following. It’s a cost-friendly and time-effective way of gaining feedback from the gaming community. Facebook is also a great medium for polls, to ask for tips on development of new features (although you’ll want to have at least a few thousand followers on your page to gather better data).
Once your game is out, YouTube is a great way of gauging insights. Do a quick search to find out your “popularity” score. If your game starts gathering foothold amongst the community, you should start seeing gamers doing live streams or walkthroughs in their videos. Also, read the comments section for instant user feedback. Sending updates regularly to your followers on social networks and consulting them on new features is key to foster the relationship with users and build trust. It usually leads to a jump in engagement too.
Finally, outlets like Slack are not limited to keeping the communication smooth within the team but are a touch-point for developers too. Join the Indie Game Developers and Indie Game Devs channels for instant messaging and knowledge-swapping on gaming, and ASO Stack for mobile gaming. For staying on top of the latest gaming trends, keep your finger on the pulse with Twitch and Discord forums.
Implement a System to Filter Gamers’ Feedback
With so many channels to gather user reviews these days, the bigger challenge may come from filtering the comments and understanding who to listen to, rather than gather it.
Our tips on doing that efficiently involve using an SDK such as Zendesk, which aggregates all the user data and feedback into one dashboard. In an ideal world, you’ll have a CRM manager in your team filtering through all the data and reporting on it. Alternatively, arm yourself with an Excel spreadsheet and gather the feedback manually. You can qualitatively organize the data in categories such as: bug reports; complaints; feedback for improvement; and likeability (by checking the number of 4 and 5 star reviews). In turn, comments can be split into “themes”, for example: users are talking about X,Y, Z themes. Then, look at the number of reviews on each topic (essential for hardcore or long core games).
By filtering into categories, it will be easier to find patterns and common threads enabling you to “listen in”. For mobile game developers, a quick scan of reviews on the app stores instantly reveals the general consensus, as the negative ones (less than 4 stars) will be hard to miss.
Bottom line? Don’t try to please everyone and really look at the quality of the comment (some are more constructive than others). See it as a data and as a developer, try not to take it personally.
Attend Events and Industry-Leading Conferences
As gaming professionals, few opportunities are better than the ones provided by global networking events, gamescom in primis. We suggest to set budget aside annually to attend and meet the international gaming community, ranging from the big players, to smaller indie studios. Connecting with industry peers is also vital to keep abreast of the latest gaming trends.
At WeQ STUDIOS we provide publishing services to mobile developers, so we attend events that cater to both advertisers and developers. Here is a list of key conferences we have tried-and-tested and have found the most valuable:
To make the most of industry events, arrive prepared and organized: you’ll need to know who is attending and create a list of people you’d like to approach. Also, have a strong elevator pitch ready. Don’t miss out on networking opportunities at the after-hours parties (OK, maybe not all, but at least a couple). Speaking of gamescom: if you’re attending, make the most of their feature Matchmaking 365 to target your contacts and schedule meetings ahead of time.
On a smaller scale, regularly look out for MeetUp events for gamers. For developers, Game Jams are an excellent initiative enabling to interact with peers and have fun while doing so. Prizes on offer include the chance for games to be published, so it’s a great way to boost connections, experience and visibility.
Join a Gaming Association
Networks are vital in any industry, but particularly in gaming. As Felix Falk, Managing Director of the German Games Industry Association, stated: ‘The games industry is once again blazing a trail for other sectors of the economy – turning customers into a community and fostering connections with it, as it plays a vital role in the industry’s success’.
Aside from the obvious networking opportunities, there are other benefits in joining a global organization of like-minded peers. Gaming associations ensure that your voice is being heard and keep you up-to-date with the latest developments; promote public awareness of the gaming profession; give access to educational resources and lead research on key topics.
Groups include the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) which promote innovation and expanding the marketplace within the video game industry. The IGDA (International Game Developers Association), empowers game developers in achieving fulfilling careers. Have a look at membership opportunities with a clear list of needs and make a call based on your objectives.
Frédéric Hatanian is the Head of Gaming at WeQ STUDIOS. Previously, Frédéric was a Project Manager and Game Designer with SOFTGAMES. He's designed countless social and mobile games, including Cookie Crush, Bubble Shooter Saga, Little Farm Clicker, Tap and Go, Jewels Blitz 2 and more.