The video game industry’s transition to the digital market has been one of the biggest shifts to how games are played and made and for today’s post we’re going to look at how this has affected consumers.
Your audience is no longer just fans or sales for your games, as thanks to the options today they have more ways of impacting how your game is viewed.
A combination of the increase in Internet speeds and the growing E-Sports market, streaming video games or showcasing game footage online has become a major way for consumers to show their love or hatred of a game.
Going into what makes a good stream vs. a bad one is a bit too much for this post but the proof of its impact is in the growing market and profits for professional casters. People like Total Biscuit have not only become internet famous but have also created successful careers for themselves via streaming and analyzing games. And debates have risen over whether or not developers deserve any of the ad revenue for popular channels.
Bringing this back to the E-Sports market, we’ve seen many developers make it easier to stream titles in the hopes of getting it not only picked up by professionals but spectators as well. Twitch functionality or allowing a game to broadcast directly to a twitch channel is becoming popular for online competitive games.
Another important consideration is having both broadcaster and spectator modes for watching games. These modes allow someone to have a greater view of what’s going on compared to the players themselves and makes watching and understanding what’s going on easier. This is especially important when you’re watching team matches such as League of Legends where it can be hard to track every player and conflict.
Streaming also has the consequence of making it harder to cover up or hide details of your game that you may not want people to know about, for instance spoilers for plots or if your game has any technical issues remaining. To put it simply, video games are under a greater magnifying glass from consumers today than they were ten years ago which takes us to our next point.
The ability for consumers to review their products is not new and has been a part of the Game Industry since stores went online last decade. But the pull and power of these reviews have gotten stronger over the last few years thanks to digital stores like Steam acting as both a storefront and game client.
This allows someone to easily write a review of their games and then have that posted onto the game’s store page. Not only that but Steam has recently updated the store to give users more review functionality and even let people follow reviewers and see what games they liked.
For the developers reading this, in today’s market you cannot ignore negative reviews of your games. If there is a problem with any part of your title, not only will people mark that in a review but that review will then be posted front and center on the page where people will decide to buy your game.
The weight of user reviews today is greater than professional websites as what’s more convincing: One positive review from a major site or 10,000 negative reviews from your consumer base?
But consumers not only have the power to review your games but can also help you when it comes to testing and fine tuning.
We talked about Early Access extensively last week with a series of posts and we’re not going to repeat too much of it here.
Early Access allows consumers to buy games during the developmental stages and play it and watch it grow. One of the unintended advantages of Early Access is that it gives developers a huge pool of game testers to examine their game.
One of the challenges of PC development is that every user has a different computer and sometimes you won’t find problems or unique issues until after release. But with Early Access, it becomes easier to spot these problems and hopefully get it fixed before releasing your game.
Similar to Kickstarter, you also get a deeper connection with your fan base and can listen to them to see what ideas they have or bounce concepts off of them to see what works.
Keeping an Eye on your Fans:
The main take away from this post for designers reading this is the following — Consumers have more ways to influence the buying habits of the rest of your fan base and keeping an eye on how your title is being perceived has never been more important. Bad reviews or negative footage in most cases will not be taken down and relying only on major game publications is not good enough anymore.
But a developer who can leverage these three factors can help their games with more notoriety and sales without having to spend as much money on advertising and free publicity is always worth its weight in gold.