There are many factors which can make a free-to-play game either a success or a complete flop. Mechanics, monetization, style… All are important during development, but once the game is launched, what makes the difference is the player community that’s created around it.
Creating a community from scratch is far from straightforward. That’s why when an expert on the subject, like Alex Paschall, professor at ENTI and former Community Manager at Epic Games, shares their knowledge and experience, all you can do is sit pen in hand and write down all the advice they give you.
That’s what the teams and participants who came to Paschall’s talk at the F2P Campus in Vitoria-Gasteiz did, but if you weren’t able to attend, here are 5 tips to create a community around your game.
1. Don’t focus on the whales
In the last few years it’s become very fashionable to talk about ‘whales’, those few players who spend a great deal of money on a game. It’s easy to be tempted to only think about them; after all, in many games they generate more than 70% of the income. Even so, if we look at it in perspective, in most cases they represent barely 2% of the community.
If we only focus on them it’s very difficult to achieve a large, quality community.
2. Know your followers
In most games there are three types of player:
- In-app buyers. These are a small percentage of players. They tend to want to have an advantage. They can be great members of the community; however, some ‘whales’ are embarrassed by their spending habits and will not want to be called out publicly.
- Influencers. These are the stars of the forums and, thanks to their livestreams/Let’s Plays, they help to create community. Your audience will listen to influencers. They can be a backbone of your community. However, beware their egos and them turning on you! Games like Vainglory give them recognition, including their streams on their websites and organizing tournaments.
- Casuals. This is the biggest group of users. Most never pay, or watch ads. Design your game with these people in mind and the rest will come. There’s a wide variety of people, so it’s important to choose your target audience.
3. Choose the language well
One of the most important tips to create a community around your game is choosing your language well. It’s fundamental. You must choose it according to the countries you want to focus on. The most widely spoken and understood language in the world is English, although Chinese is also worth considering. 1.39 billion people speak it; Chinese-speakers are the biggest population on the internet, and generate more income than any other.
4. Know the three phases of creating a community
Starting from scratch is hard, so one of the best tips to create a community around your game is to know the different phases well.
- Foundation. Find your audience, make them a home, invite them in. Have the space available for your community to exist and engage. Create interest in your game as early as possible. It’s crucial to do market research, have a website and social media profiles, create an online form to receive news and, above all, talk to people.
- Growth. Interact with your community to build relationships. Connect gamers to each other. If your players do not have a way to interact with developers, they will become restless. If they cannot interact with each other, they will get bored. It’s important to provide spaces to foster community.
- Retention. Keep your players coming back regularly to see friends and engage in group activities. Set the tone of how the community should conduct themselves and be consistent. Keep up with your online presence & game content. Make changes intelligently and base your moderation on mutual respect.
5. Learn from mistakes
To conclude his talk, Alex Paschall shared some of the mistakes he’s made over the years and what he’s learnt from them.
The role of Community Manager is to liaise between the community and the developers. Ideally it should be someone who’s 100% dedicated to this task. Part of their job is to make friends with players.
The CM should also be fair, conscientious, and has to fix any imbalances. It might seem silly, but players worry about fairness more than you think.
The last tip to create a community around your game that Alex gave was to ban when you have to. Don’t be scared to use the ToS and User Agreements when necessary. As Al Capone said, “I can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word”.
Many thanks to Alex Paschall for sharing his tips to create a community around your game at F2P Campus.