OPINION: Dovetail Games on how to turn gaming communities into developers

Lizzie Wilding, VP of publishing at Dovetail Games (pictured right), tells MCV how turning your community into developers can benefit both your business and the industry as a whole.

A lot gets written about game communities. There is excellent advice on how to listen, how to empower and entertain your audiences, the huge value modding can offer, and when you should deliver updates and new content that will keep your community supported and your game successful. 

However, an area not often discussed is what’s beyond that. What’s past the Steam Workshop and modding communities? If your community really love a game, shouldn’t you open your doors and invite a deeper involvement with your business?

I believe the next step is working directly with your own community modders and creators to formally publish and sell add-on content together. Given the right tools, your creators are development specialists already, crafting content that is personal to them and also highly appealing to a section of your audience. 

Give their work the status, scale of awareness and recognition it deserves. They will quickly become third-party developers and gain strong financial reward for that work. Your players can become collectors of that huge range of content, broadening their hobby. You are introducing new developers to the industry. Your titles become boundless. Everyone wins.

If your community love a game, shouldn’t you open your doors and invite a deeper involvement with your business?

Lizzie Wilding, Dovetail Games

Now this is easier in some genres than others. Working with simulation titles does mean that even one person at home can work on a new train route, while larger teams can effectively operate as small development companies. 

There are many reasons why offering publishing deals to your content creators can be complex, but once you are through any early teething troubles and into a pattern of releases, modders and creators get an agile way of being formally paid for their work. We’ve paid some of Dovetail Games’ incredible community of developers six figures plus for their sales of add-on content. Content that players love. 

Obviously, long-term thinking is key. Try and apply any of your usual calculations to this content at your peril. The developers (rightly) own their own timeline for delivery and what sort of content arrives, but respect their work and these ever-growing collections of content are valuable for a long time, with a very long tail. Does opening up your titles with this kind of publishing activity keep both your company and your products honest? I think the short answer is yes. Your add-on developers will tell you where you need to work on your tools, game and process; while your players will selectively choose what content they do and don’t want. 

So, what could you get for this? Your community will demonstrate their talent as creators, with good financial reward. Players get choice and expansions beyond your own internal limits. Everyone gets the benefit. And it won’t stop you from adding your own first party content. 

As indie publishing ramps up once again in this latest phase of our industry, everyone is digging for more. I believe some companies are digging in the wrong place. Look inwards as well as outwards for your next big thing. It’s the future of community. 

Lizzie Wilding is VP of Publishing at Dovetail Games and has a 20-year games career managing publishing, marketing and live service teams. She strives to be a perpetual champion of online communities

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