It’s admittedly been a long time since I’ve posted, and frankly I’m ashamed. I’ve been rather busy, but I do have some more topics I’d like to discuss. I hope to create a schedule for posting when my work schedule is pinned down.
Last Summer the world was taken by storm from Psyonix’s release of Rocket League. This summer Niantic released Pokemon GO and Hello Games delivered (eh not really) No Man’s Sky. These three games all have different marketing and community management strategies, some work better than others. I’ll break them down into the beloved categories of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.
The Ugly – No Man’s Sky (Hello Games)
What was promised to be the biggest and best space exploration game ever by Hello Games dropped on August 9th of this year. Promotional videos showing beautiful worlds full of life and color gave way to the harsh truth of emptiness. The procedurally generated space exploration game has over 18 quintillion unique planets. Surely, with that many unique planets, there will always be something to do. Sean Murray, Hello Games’ director, hinted at the multiplayer elements in the game multiple times before the release. Most notably in an interview with GameSpot in March 2016:
“So when you do [meet a player onnline], we want you to be aware of it, and we want you to have a sense of it, and we want it to be a real moment. But it’s not like you go off and play deathmatch together. . .”
What players soon found out was that the game had no multiplayer features.
“We are both in the same station but cannot see each other…”
- TheGalacticCactus via reddit
Sean Murray’s reaction on Twitter was less than stellar.
And it gets worse. NMS official Twitter has been silent since release.
And here is their last tweet:
We’re totally focused on customer support right now. Then we’ll move onto improving and adding features to the game 👍
— Sean Murray (@NoMansSky) August 18, 2016
So where’s the customer support?
Beyond the marketing, the game seems to be pretty enjoyable for some. Many of friends play the game and say it’s fun. It’s simple, but fun. No Man’s Sky was overhyped and marketed as something it turned out not to be. If it weren’t for the marketing strategy, many people wouldn’t be so displeased with it and it wouldn’t be one of the most refunded games on Steam.
UPDATE: On Oct 28th, Hello Games claimed to be hacked as their Twitter accoun published a post saying that No Man’s Sky was a mistake.
The Bad – Pokemon Go! (Niantic)
The problem with Pokemon Go isn’t its marketing or even the product. It’s a widely used, addictive mobile game. Yeah it’s lost some of the initial wonder and majesty it had during release, but its still a great product and still largely played. You’re probably thinking, “what’s so bad about it then?” Their pre-release marketing was great, the product is good and improving, the problem lies with their post-release community management. Niantic had numerous server issues during the first weeks of launch, and they “fixed” the problem with a questionable tactic: removing the tracking feature. They then made some updates, but all the while, the company remained silent. That is, until they got Pokevision (a popular 3rd party tracking feature) shut down. The useless tracking feature and Niantic’s silence made many players leave.
In a time when it is so easy to be transparent, or not entirely opaque, Niantic’s unresponsiveness was disenchanting for the community. They wanted answers and Niantic delivered silence.
Through all the darkness, Niantic showed some promise as a Halloween event gave hope to the dwindling fanbase. The update shortened the distance needed for “candies” using the buddy system, doubled “candies” gained, and made “spooky pokemon” more common.
Niantic’s failures weren’t as ugly as No Man’s Sky, but were pretty bad. In the very least, Niantic is doing better and has been more active on Twitter and more interactive with their player base.
The Good – Rocket League (Psyonix)
Rocket League is the follow up to Psyonix’s Supersonic Arobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars (a kind of car soccer game). It release on July 7th of 2015 and has been a hit ever since. There was very little marketing done and it’s major success was a surprise to everyone, including the developers. The game is already one of the most watched competitive games and is still growing.
The game’s growing fanbase is largely due to Psyonix’s relentless commitment to the players. The game gets free content almost monthly and bugs are quickly fixed. The developers often communicate directly with their fans, and have often fixed bugs and taken suggestions that were pointed out or made on Reddit.
Rolling out free content consistently along with paid DLC is a great business move for Psyonix. The free content includes maps and game modes and the DLC is essentially new skins for the cars. Players will happily pay for the DLC to support the company they love. The players create content and post it to Reddit, knowing the developers will see it (and most likely comment on it). It’s great to feel that you are being listened to, and when you are, you will reward the company that produces your happiness.
So we have two polar opposites in No Man’s Sky (over-hyped and over-promised) and Rocket League (under-hyped and over-delivered), and Niantic that could learn from Psyonix’s communication. I, and most of the gaming community, would love to see all game developer’s take Psyonix’s route. It creates a good atmosphere for gaming, and the business benefits are incredible.