Adoption of Social Media by the Gaming Industry
The presence of social media is not something that big developers and publishers like Electronic Arts and Activision have ignored. Just last week, developers of the highly anticipated Starcraft 2 announced that they will be adding Facebook integration into their upcoming title. Big players in the video game industry always play on the bleeding edge of developments in technology, marketing and business models; social media is no exception. So, if social media is the new marketing frontier, where do game developers stand?
Let’s take a step back first; before the social media boom, publishers were already creating online forums and moderating feedback from users. You would easily find feedback from users on what features they liked the most, and what features they hated. Sentiment was as simple as collecting and organizing feedback from magazines and website reviews. Marketers and producers who were tech savvy enough would post forum polls and track discussions from commercial and independent forums. User feedback on the internet was manageable, and located in pockets of communities that the astute marketer would easily find.
Today, the widespread presence of syndicated, published and independent blogs, news about upcoming titles spreads faster than publishers plan for. Biased news leaks and raw speculation leave poor impressions in the minds of discerning gamers. It is difficult to predict and find key community influencers who spark the strongest opinions. This puts developers in a position where they have little to no control of community sentiment before the release date. There are so many different influencers and communities that affect sentiment about a product; it is beyond the control of marketing directors and community managers to find the right one.
The video game blog community is large and extremely active.
Some developers have found a way to regain some of that control. Bioware Corp, well known for creating large open ended worlds for gamers to explore, created the Bioware Social Network. http://social.bioware.com/home.php? This network has become a haven for fans to create their own dedicated blogs, share media, experiences and provide essential feedback for the developers. This gives Bioware increased ability to monitor continued sentiment, maintain customer retention, and build up reputation and hype for future game releases.
By creating their own pocketed community, Bioware hopes to bring a majority of the conversations into a community they can easily monitor, just like in the old days. That alone is not enough; creating an in house community excludes the tens of thousands of conversations of lesser known small to medium gaming influencers and blogs that heavily influence the opinions of readers and writers of larger communities.
There is no doubt that it takes quite a lot of resources to develop and maintain social networking campaigns, let alone the metaphorical social media crusade Bioware launched. In an industry where even small developers have a great chance to make it big, where do they find the tools to reach out to these gamers and influencers? Let’s face it, most developers don’t have the resources and manpower to launch their own social network. These guys need to partake in guerilla marketing; they need to find efficient yet effective methods to bring themselves closer to the tipping point. They need to stimulate the nodes where conversations between gamers and influencers generate the most buzz for their brand.
In short, it’s expensive to launch large social media networks and campaigns. The little guys are going to have to play smart to stay on top of the game (no pun intended). If only there were a powerful yet inexpensive way for small to medium developers to engage the communities and influencers that make a difference for them… =]
Posted by: Arthur Huynh