Published on July 14th, 2012 | by Adam Lee
Social Media – The Gamer’s Weapon?
Gamers have opinions. So why has it taken so many companies so long to realise how much we care about the games we play? More so we’re likely to follow development with keen interest, and even a willingness to put down real money to ensure development.
Services like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic have sparked a revolution in the way content is created, placing control in the hands of the consumer rather than the traditionally conservative publishers. For those of you who have just climbed out from under your rocks, allow me to explain while you get adjusted to the bright neon lights of the interweb.
Kickstarter provides a platform to pitch whatever mad ideas you can dream up, and ask the public to contribute toward making it. Set a target, a time limit, and inspire people to donate in exchange for rewards, ranging from a signed copy of the product, to a sit down lunch with the creators. If the target isn’t met, no one is charged.
“Crowdfunding” had gone largely under the radar for sometime, quietly financing independent music and catering for niches mostly too small to attract traditional investment. This was the story until Double Fine (Started by Mr Tim Schafer, if you don’t know who he is… seriously, back to your rock!) made nearly three and a half million dollars.
Hordes of indie studios swarmed to Kickstarter – gamers were suddenly an untapped resource in and of themselves, a firework up the bum for those responsible for dictating preferences on our behalf.
With figures like these bouncing around, the big names peered down from their ivory towers to see what all the fuss was about. Kickstarter proved that gamers were willing to vote with their wallets to see their appetites sated, something more than a rigid marketing demographic to be drip-fed cinematic trailers as and when they felt like passing scraps down from the table.
With the social media revolution gaining momentum, the seeds of change had already been sewn. Twitter played a huge role, opening up two way communication with the community, sharing ideas and acknowledging direct feedback 140 characters at a time. Just listening and responding to those interested is enough to engage users, making them feel valued and adding a previously unthinkable transparency to the process.
Gearbox – creators of Borderlands – went above and beyond, making a proposal video, a eulogy for a fan that passed away and are even adding him as an NPC in Borderlands 2!
You might be questioning the merit of such endeavours. Firstly the videos gained an insane amount of views, which is all advertising, but the overriding message is that Gearbox are not just looking to milk us for every penny we have – Even I felt the smallest crack in the lump of ice that we’ve replaced our hearts with here at the Funsponge offices.
ArenaNet have really been demonstrating this in the lead up to Guild Wars 2. Jumping into social media feet-first they’ve shared more than any company I’ve seen, taking full advantage of Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. They must have the hardest working community manager in the history of gaming! It’s paid off though, people who don’t normally hold much stock in MMOs have been lured in by discussion, helped by their willingness to provide real information rather than treat fans as lesser lifeforms.
Gamers are passionate beasts, and by that I don’t mean in the beast with two backs sense (that’d interfere with raid times) but when we buy into an idea, a game, or a company, we’ll passionately broadcast it to the world. With the prevalence of social media, one person can show a hundred, they can show a thousand, and once that snowball is rolling there’s no stopping it, for better or worse.
That kind of momentum cuts both ways however, it’s very easy for bad feeling to spread throughout a community. Ten years ago if you irritated a customer, he’d whine to his friends and family, now he can incite an online rebellion, raising a pitchfork wielding militia to burn your house down.
Look at Blizzard, the one-time poster child of brand loyalty, some of the problems they’ve had with Diablo 3 (especially in Asia) have made national news, being forced to refund thousands of disgruntled customers. This isn’t something I believe would have gained enough force in a social vacuum and it highlights the impact social media on our digital world.
Some food for thought, if you have any questions or comments bung them below and I’ll do my best to reply – The world is changing my young padawans and the power is now in our hands!