Letting Your Light Shine: The Importance of Community Management During a Pandemic
Gaming is up globally. In a decade-defining era where the world will be remembered as being in crisis, a recession is looming, and other industries around us struggle to keep afloat, the games industry is seeing a spike even greater than the monumental growth over the previous 20 years. But this is no time to rest on our laurels. Now is the time to double down and do even more to help see gamers through the COVID-19 pandemic. How can we do that? Adapting our community management strategies is a strong start.
The world has been in a state of lockdown for a staggering portion of the year so far. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on every aspect of life, from professional work states to personal routines. We’ve seen businesses both local and international grind to a halt and public institutions shut down completely. And that’s all before we consider the even greater impact on medical infrastructure and human mortality. It can be hard, and even a bit guilt inducing, to consider a bright side in all this negativity, but it is almost impossible to ignore the huge surge in demand and retention the video games industry has been seeing since March 2020.
According to polls conducted by the gaming division at global ratings and statistics body Nielsen, gaming by gamers worldwide has increased by 43% since the start of global lockdown. Gaming overall, taking into account newcomers or those returning to games, has jumped a mind-blowing 82%. Reports point to huge growth in time spend on games across the world, including a 46% increase in the USA, 41% in France, 28% in the UK, and 23% in Germany. At the risk of sounding sensationalist in the face of everything around us, the games industry is going through something of a boom.
On top of this, views on the Twitch platform grew wildly in Q1 from around 10 million to well over 40 million. This in turn is leading to huge strides forward in esports, with so many consumers turning to gaming media and streaming as an alternative to the mainstream offline sports that are now largely unavailable in live and broadcast formats. Established offline sports are turning to esports too as a temporary means of providing content for their audiences. We only need to look at the success of the NBA 2K tournament held in April to see how impactful these efforts have been.
But in all the upticks in statistics, increases in downloads, and leaps forward in mainstream adopting of gaming, we need to be proactive in doing what we can to keep this momentum going – for players as well as for the industry.
Nobody expected the impact the coronavirus would have on the world. In our own industry, many developers are still trying to catch up with increased demand and stay competitive. There was no time to develop unique DLC for audiences and with a lightning-pace shift to remote work, a lot of new releases had to be pushed back.
When we can’t always develop new content, what can we do to take part in the COVID gaming boom? Simple. Engage with the players. Get back to good community management efforts to encourage gamers to keep doing what they’re doing – gaming.
Speak its Name
Many are of the opinion that the pandemic and global lockdown shouldn’t be discussed in the games industry arena. Games are a form of escapism and players need that escape to help recover from the pounding news cycle and other pandemic-related panic. While it’s true that games are a wonderful form of stress relief and escape – and we will come back to this – there is no avoiding an event that impacts the entire globe.
Managing a community can sometimes be as simple as acknowledging what is going on in the world. The pandemic is a truly shared global experience and a message (be it social, an in-game pop-up, or an ad) acknowledging the struggles players may be feeling and reassuring them that their favourite games and games developers are there to support them with continued work and considered thought can be exactly what the doctor ordered for strong brand loyalty. Maybe an unexpected in-game reward or item can be the difference between players feeling supported and engaged or moving on to their next favourite game.
Thanks for the Memories
It’s important not to forget the quality service games creators provide for gamers. As mentioned above, games can be a sterling form of escape from the real world for a few hours. During a pandemic, this fact counts for even more. When every other medium and media outlet in the world is informing consumers about how bad things are and can get, games allow them to slip into another reality and destress. Games effectively become a source of day-to-day positivity.
Unfortunately, with all the increased time spend directed towards games, there is also increased competition for that attention. Now is the time to stand up and make yourself heard more than ever before. But being heard doesn’t always have to mean being the loudest or having the most bells and whistles. It can be helpful to get back to the roots of why players loved your game in the first place and what made you love making it so much.
By embracing your USPs and your original goals, you can create content that resonates with audiences in a way that will remind them of what makes your game great. Great games create positive memories and embracing those positive experiences drives engagement.
Social campaigns that include ‘refresher’ content can be hugely successful and very often you’ll find you already have the tools to compile this content. Gameplay compilations, early concept art or level designs, fan art competitions based on in-game themes and prompts; these are major tools in bringing an in-game world into the real world and re-inspiring gamers to pick up the controller for another round. Create positive experiences and memories for gamers when they need it most and they won’t forget you when the world returns to normal.
Do More, Grow More
It fits logically that greater time spend means that gamers play through games faster than usual. If your game’s story mode, for example, is 25 hours long, gamers will be through it on average 50% quicker than they would in a non-lockdown scenario. Without anything else to play for, they’re likely to drift from your game and, as a result, your brand.
Building this basic assumption into your lockdown community management strategy is crucial. Making an effort to create in-game events (raids, competitions, rewards) for when players are actively consuming your games and social calls to action for when they aren’t is a sure-fire way to bridge that gap. Tailoring your game’s offering to a full-scale lifestyle experience to offer something to players for every touchstone of their day keeps your brand fresh in their minds.
Don’t have the time or resources to create something new right now? Maybe it’s time to consider a greatest hits. Mobile games like Mario Kart Tour have done this spectacularly, reintroducing older seasonal and event-related items like characters and karts to allow players a chance to unlock something they missed the first time around. Simple actions like this go a long way and something that can be very low impact for developers can actually turn out to be something even more valuable to players than brand-new content.
Open Your Doors
Now is the ideal time to introduce your team to the world and show the human element that goes into building the games your players love. Recent social polls have shown that what gamers want to see most is, surprisingly, behind the scenes content. They’ve played the game, now they want to peek behind the curtain.
With development schedules constantly being pushed back and things being up in the air a little, take the opportunity to open your doors and show your players what makes you unique. Interviews with game writers, producers, artists, and programmers are fascinating to players and endlessly shareable. What may be an amusing development anecdote to your team may well turn out to be a valuable viral cultural commodity to your audience.
Don’t Do Nothing
At the end of the day, the best advice we can give for helping your games thrive and support your players during the pandemic is this: don’t do nothing. The unprecedented spike in growth resulting from the coronavirus has presented the games industry with an opportunity to grow and lead the way in how a new generation chooses and interacts with media. The aftermath of all this for the industry is still unknown but the efforts we put in now are what will decide how games sell and what sizes our audiences are tomorrow. The way forward with this starts by putting the players first. Need a little support in getting started? We’ve got you covered.