Building a community for your game can be tricky, especially when you’re still working away on the core features of your project. And one of the biggest questions developers ask themselves is ‘how can I get people talking about my game before I’ve even launched it?’.
There’s no straight answer to this question, but there is a ton of useful advice out there. To help get your creative juices flowing, we’ve found 3 unique stories where developers went the extra mile to build their community, and what their thought process was when doing so.
You’ll want to make sure to primarily use these case studies as inspiration for your own development. Who knows, there may be even better creative routes hiding away in the back of your mind that are more specific to your game.
What can I learn at a glance? (TL;DR)
In this post, you’ll find a ton of tips, tricks and advice from real life examples. However if you’re short for time, then here’s the top takeaways and links to those specific sections:
- Use a meta-game in Discord to build hype and excitement for your upcoming title – RageSquid
- Live stream your development to gain traction and also get instant feedback from other developers – Wase Qazi
- Be creative with your email campaign, and get people asking to be added to your mailing list – Boyfriend Dungeon
Anyone who’s anyone in gaming knows what Discord is. Now almost being described as the gamers social media, a huge portion of the community can be found here.
And at the moment, a ton of developers can be seen using Discord to promote their game. A great example of this being done right is offered by the developers behind Descenders – RageSquid. Not only did they set up a server for their game, but they also took things to the next level, which ultimately ended in users racing to join their server.
Why should someone join their Discord server?
Setting up a Discord server for your game is really only half of the work. RageSquid realised that if they really wanted people to sign up, they would need to give them a reason. Turns out their answer was pretty simple. Here’s what they decided, and how they planned to go about it:
People want exclusive stuff
Everyone who joined the Discord server would not only get exclusive stuff, but also access to the beta version of the game.
People want free stuff
Simple enough answer. Players who join would get free stuff, including exclusive screenshots, updates, live streams, GIFs, videos and more.
People want to feel like they’re part of something
This is where things get interesting. They decided on incorporating a whole new game culture and meta-game by encouraging players to pick their own team, and eventually get involved in activities and competitions.
By thinking about what’s in it for their players, RageSquid was able to put together a plan on how to build their community. The outline above is pretty useful, and you should consider asking yourself questions like these for any marketing related campaign you do.
Why their meta-game worked so well
Giving out free stuff is always a good way to reward your fans, but may not always be enough to keep your potential players interested. To create that exclusive feeling for their followers, Descenders offered their players three different teams that they could choose to join when signing up: Team Enemy, Team Kinetic and Team Arboreal.
And to add that all important cherry on top, they even went as far to:
- Change the color of the users names to match the team they had joined.
- Release new challenges every week for each team (even something as simple as ‘which team can write the best Descenders haiku?’).
- Create custom icons and materials exclusive to each team.
- Create a bot ‘dyno’ with a series of custom demands to introduce each newcomer to the server and meta-game.
What were the results for Descenders?
Up until this point, RageSquid had created a Discord server and used this as their primary way to talk and engage with their players. So what were the results like when they finally hit play?
When they released the beta:
- Thousands of people signed up to their Discord server when they released the Steam beta key, exclusively to their Discord members.
- The community helped identify bugs and issues in the game in the ‘Bugs’ channel on the server.
- The community also released GIFs, videos and even fan art of the game.
And when they actually launched the game:
- The game smashed the charts and reached top seller in under 30 mins.
- Positive ratings streamed in from their fans, achieving 90% satisfaction.
- Members of the server ignored their 10% discount code, unable to wait the 25 minute activation time.
- The community became involved. They welcomed newbies to the server, answered questions and gave advice on how the game worked.
Key lesson – Make your community feel exclusive
When given opportunities to get involved and be a part of something, gamers are the sort to go beyond what is expected of them. If your community is strong, then your players will not only buy your game on launch, but share it with their friends and family, without you even asking.
This is only possible if you include them – whether this be through asking for their feedback, or giving them the option to join a team. And although Discord is a brilliant place to do this, the server isn’t what let Descenders become so successful – it was their constant inclusion of their players.
Twitch is an amazing place to build your games’ community. And similar to Descenders point about people wanting to feel included – what better way to do this than to invite them into your development process.
What made him choose to live stream?
Interestingly, Wase had no clear plan of attack when he first started streaming his development process. The idea to turn on the camera and start sharing his work was actually so he could talk to people. Many developers can agree that when creating your game at home, with little to no contact with anyone, it can be quite isolating.
Not only was live streaming on Twitch a great way for Wase to get exposure and talk to people, but it was also a way for him to build structure and stay motivated.
Crafting your brainchild can sometimes lead to periods of stagnation or slow progress. Wase comments on how Twitch helped him find a sense of structure in his work. The more people that watched his channel, the more he was encouraged to finish his development, as well as grow his community.
Using Twitch to get feedback from the community
As Wase kept streaming, he noticed that people would keep coming back to check on the progress. Nearly everyone on the stream would help test and provide feedback, and some cheaters were decompiling the source code to identify bugs.
Through this, Wase actually hired one of his programmers, who was one of the best bug reporters in his stream.
Discord channel grew bigger from their Twitch channel
Although his journey began on Twitch, Wase set up his own Discord server for the fans of Shotgun Farmers. And just like other developers, the server had its own dedicated bug and concepts channel, so players could easily give feedback and raise specific issues.
You can actually find channels in his Discord server dedicated to suggestions for specific weapons, hats, achievements, shovel skins, player skins and more. As the community grew, so did the ideas that people gave to Wase in these channels, which meant all he had to do was scroll through until he found one he liked and could make.
In one of his most recent updates, he released five new skins, all of which were ideas that people had in his Discord chat. This let his fans have a deeper level of ownership with his game, having helped come up with the idea.
Key lesson – Be transparent with your development
Wasi Qasi’s stream was a hit not only because it was so unique to see a developer streaming, but also because people were able to get involved every step of the way.
Developers were able to learn a thing or two from Wase’s complete transparency, but were also able to offer help and invaluable advice – live. And because they had the opportunity to do this, they truly felt a part of this game, which made convincing them to buy and share it all the more easier.
Remember, streaming isn’t necessarily for everyone, nor is complete transparency. Perhaps you want to build some suspense and enigma around your title… it really depends on the game that you’re working on.
Ever since the beginning of 2018, the muttered letters ‘GDPR’ have had the power to make any marketer shiver and cringe. Although regulations are tighter than ever, that doesn’t mean email marketing as a strategy should be overlooked.
A great example of using email creatively is Kitfox’s Boyfriend Dungeon – an outlandish game that involves players dating their weapons before using them to slay monsters. It’s rather fitting that their email marketing campaign was equally unique…
Setting up their email campaign
In short, the plan for Boyfriend Dungeon was to implement a month-long email campaign to support their Kickstarter, which would ultimately fund their game. Through a signup form on their website, and a form at any conventions they attended, Kitfox developed a healthy subscriber list of 6,000.
But why did they choose email?
The main reason for using email was due to their concept. As this romantic/action game was all about boyfriends, they were able to cleverly reflect this in their emails. Each email was a personal love letter coming from one of the weapons, directed at the recipient with a backlink to their Kickstarter page.
And although people absolutely loved this concept, this wouldn’t have the same effect on another channel, like social.
Sure, a post on Twitter might reach 10,000+ followers, but it didn’t have the same level of intimacy in which they were after. Emails offered a more adaptable canvas for including unlimited text and images. This allowed the studio to go all out with additional game art and lovingly crafted paragraphs to make the reader feel special and included.
How people reacted to their campaign
Overall, the campaign was a huge success. In the end 2% unsubscribed, but the email campaign generated 1,212 total clicks to the Kickstarter page, and they raised over $76,000 CA from direct traffic.
It was clear that people wanted more, as some fans actually went out of their way to ask Kitfox Games to be put on their mailing list. And although social media wasn’t their main focus for their concept, their fans weren’t afraid to shout about the emails they were getting.
Key lesson – Use your games USP in your campaigns to build excitement
A simple email campaign promoting the game wouldn’t have had the same effect as what they actually did. By focusing on the main USP of the game, the boyfriends, they managed to bring their emails to life, all while building a relationship with their fans.
Again, this concept really depends on the type of game that you have. This worked particularly well for them due to the theme of their title. Make sure to consider what your games USP is, what aspects it has, and how it could work if you are going to go down a route like this.
Read the full stories…
If you want to learn more about these stories, then you should definitely check out these articles:
- How RageSquid used Discord to build a dream community for their game Descenders
- Wase Qazi, Megastorm Games: Community Building Through Twitch
- Boyfriend Dungeon: The Secrets Of Their Email Marketing Strategy
Remember to use these stories as inspiration, as the route you take when building your community really depends on the type of game you have. Whatever you do in your campaigns however, make sure to include your players.