It’s The Little Things That Gamers Love

Online games have thriving online communities. This much seems obvious even at a casual glance.  Between forums, guilds, image boards, Twitter, and Facebook groups, there are a many ways for players to connect with other fans, and share their experiences. Many times, these experiences are great! There’s nothing a game developer wants more than to visit the official forums and see a plethora of positive interactions and fan-love coming their way. Sometimes, however, fans that have had bad experiences will vent publicly, and this behavior can turn potential customers away.

Developers can make a huge stride by taking the effort in fostering good will amongst their players and fans!  Here are a few examples where a game company can turn a potentially bad situation into a great one:

1. Refunds. They are tricky business: a customer wants their money back, and yet the company exists to make money. It may seem like a refund is the exact opposite of the company’s goal, so why would they ever refund a purchase?

When you honor a refund request, customers feel acknowledged, and the pain or anger they had towards your brand is reduced.  So often customers misjudge an impulse buy, or miss the fine details associated to a virtual purchase, or the dreaded “My child just spent $200 in your game without my permission. Fix this!”

By acknowledging their need and acquiescing to the request, the customer often feels vindicated and even appreciative of your company’s efforts.  We, in Customer Service, have even seen customers continue to play and purchase additional content.

2. Don’t neglect the fan-sites! Official forums are great, but gamers are gravitating toward un-official, community-operated sites/groups.  They’re havens of passionate, super-engaged people.  If you want an open and honest opinion, you’re much more likely to find that opinion on an active fan site.  One website that is home to a mini fan-site for almost every game is the notorious Reddit. Users create “subreddits” which function similarly to a forum devoted to a single game, or even a developer’s whole catalog.

WildstarBillJeremy Gaffney, Executive Producer for upcoming big budget MMORPG Wildstar, is active in his game’s unsponsored, non-official subreddit.  He’s a perfect example of a developer who cultivates and engages with his audience in an open environment. As one story goes, Mr. Gaffney read a post by a Reddit user who accidentally bought a game for $20 that looked similar to Wildstar, but was not the correct game.  Since Wildstar was still in development at that time, the user clearly was misled. Mr. Gaffney refunded the user, regardless of the fact the game was not his, and the money spent originally did not go to his company.  To add awesomeness to this action, he also offered a $20 bill with custom art by the game’s art team!  Although Mr. Gaffney lost money with his actions, he gained large amounts of respect and good will from the fans.

Gamers are passionate, and they are very engaged with their fellow fans.  True, such passion thrives along the “fine line between love and hate,” but ultimately it can be harnessed to create larger, deeper relationship between games, brands, and fans.  It just takes a little effort and willingness to be understanding and engage with your audience, and go that extra mile.  You’ll earn more than just a price of sale for it.

Josh Hagood
Project Manager

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Talk Back

Julian Meister
Posted on October 13, 2013

There are some interesting thoughts in your blog, but I have to disagree regarding the point “Refunds”.
Of course, if a child has spent money on an online game which wasn´t allowed by his parents, you should refund the money. Since games often have a large community and players who regularly buy things for money, you can´t just refund everyone with they´re money. It´s way more common that game companies refund you with in-game items or they refund the in-game credits, but it´s very rare that you will get your money back, because, as you said, it´s not in the interest of the company to give the money back, as soon as the customer isn´t satisfied with his buy. You also get into a nutshell, because soon many players just want to refund an item they don´t like.
Furthermore you can say, that Fansites are a good way to start, but the casual players, who don´t visit those fansites often, usually like events, tournaments or contests, where they can win stuff, more. It´s also a great way to motivate the players to play the game as you usually have more fun when you are playing to achieve something in order to win stuff. If your game is competitive enough just by “normal” playing, e.g. League of Legends from Riot Games, you don´t need such events, but usually every other online game, whether it be FPS or MMORPG, needs some kind of events.
The biggest aspect, tho, are the devs themselfs. There is nothing more interesting and satisfying for a player, than talking or playing with a developer of the game. It gives them the feeling that the devs care about them, that they can contribute something to the game and that the devs are also “just” human beings like them. Sadly most companies don´t use this, but instead just let the Community managers and community coordinators do the job. Of course, it is their job to be there, but they aren´t “real” devs and the players know that. A perfect example on how to execute this properly is, once again, Riot Games. They are active on the forums and on reddit. Not just the CMs and CCs, but everyone at Riot. That´s the reason why, for me, Riot games is the pinnacle of the industry for online games right now. If every other company would follow their example the player experience and communication between the players and the creators would improve by alot and thus result in better content and happier players.

But anyways, nice blog and I guess you kept it short in order to not scare the people away when they see a wall of text. To be fair, I didn´t want to write that much, but once I get started I can´t stop myself. 🙂

Greetings from Germany,

Julian

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