A few weeks ago I was asked to give a presentation to my colleagues on something I was passionate about that related to social media, and one co-worker in particular encouraged me to do something on gaming. So, after a little brainstorming, I figured out what I wanted to present on: how video games of today are using social media!
So first and foremost: I’m not talking about games like Farmville or the little casual app games you have on your phone. No, the point of this blog is to discuss the ways in which game developers — both indie and AAA — utilize social media to grow support for their games. The three ways I’ll be covering include crowdsourcing, marketing, and connecting.
Crowd Sourcing: The Story Of DoubleFine
Story time! For those of you not familiar, DoubleFine Productions is a video game developer founded in July 2000 by Tim Schafer. Schafer is best known for his work on the classic point-and-click adventure games of the 90’s, such as Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, and Full Throttle. It was through these titles that I was first exposed to video games, as my Dad often played them when I was a child and kept me entertained by letting me watch.
More of Schafer’s recent work includes quirky games like Psychonauts and Brutal Legend.
Needless to say, point-and-click style games are no longer the popular genre of today, so present-day publishers refused to fund any devs who wanted to make one. Schafer, who had heard players pleading for an adventure game of this style for years, then decided to skip the publisher middleman and go straight to the fans for funding instead. This was the birth of the DoubleFine Adventure Game Kickstarter.
The result was phenomenal. The Kickstarter earned $1 Million Dollars in just 24 hours, thanks to word of the campaign spreading like wildfire through Twitter and other social media. After 30 days, the total campaign accumulated $3,336,372 USD. The success would eventually inspire countless other independent game developers to do the same.
In fact, “indie” games very well may overtake the market compared to their AAA competitors in the future. Although they don’t often share the same level of quality control or experienced game designers or marketing power as their AAA parallels, they are almost always more innovative, more creative, and more affordable. Plus, anyone can make and distribute an indie game!
Some of the most popular indie games of today include Five Nights At Freddy’s, Minecraft, Octo-Dad, and Slender: The Eight Pages.
Marketing: The Let’s Player YouTube Craze
You’ve heard of “influencers” and “thought leaders” in social media marketing, haven’t you? The idea is that companies should buddy-up with select individuals with a large number of followers to get them to share their content and distribute it to potential consumers and clients. Well, video games are doing that too! With Let’s Players.
A Let’s Player is an individual who records themselves playing a video game and providing commentary on it. These players then upload their recordings to YouTube, where subscribers can delight in their (often comical and relatable) reactions. In fact, one of if not the most popular channel on YouTube now belongs to a Let’s Player called PewdiePie, who’s subscriber count as of this post is … 36,621,613. Other popular Let’s Players include Markiplier, SMOSH, and the Game Grumps.
Anyway: Game Developers have gotten wise to these entertaining gamers, and have started to reach out to them regarding their upcoming. And it’s not just indie developers, either: Square Enix actually invited PewdiePie out to Japan to interview the development team for Final Fantasy Record Keeper, and Nintendo Legend Shigeru Miyamoto dropped by SMOSH’s place to play some Mario Kart 8. It’s crazy, I know. I’m very jealous.
And it’s not just kids on YouTube, either. Game Developers have sent early releases of their games to TV host Conan O’Brien for his occasional segment “Clueless Gamer” too! It’s an amazing strategy that costs the developers little to nothing, and pays off by adding to the hype for their upcoming game.
Integrating Social Media: Share EVERYTHING
Sharing in video games has always been about bragging rights: earn X achievement and wear the badge proudly on your profile so your friends know what a badass you are! Nowadays you can instantly share your achievements almost instantly by connecting your game to your social media channels, usually Facebook.
But recently, more games (especially browser-based flash games) are finding new ways to integrate social media. For example, there’s Fallen London, a choose-your-own-adventure story that allows you to play alongside your Twitter/Facebook friends. You can even ask them for help, see what choices they made to help influence your own, and more.
And then there’s the infamous Share button that was actually built into Playstation 4 controllers. This button allows you to record videos, take screenshots, and even stream your gameplay live (which again cashes in on the Let’s Player craze!). You can easily upload all of the above to the Internet through the PS4 Network, allowing your content to be easily shared on other channels beyond that.
Video Games Are Social
Once upon a time, people may have envisioned gaming as a solo activity you did in the darkest depths of your basement in pure solitude.But although that is an option, it’s not the only one anymore. Even if your pal isn’t sitting beside you as Player Two, there are plenty of ways to interact with people online through social media.
As a social media manager, it’s a no-brainer that these guys are doing something right. The content shared might not be the same as my clients’, but the gaming industry is all about keeping up with technology and the consumers who use it. It never hurts to use someone else’s strategy guide once in awhile.