Fan feedback and customer interaction is the games industry’s great advantage over other entertainment fields, Valve’s managing director has said.
Gabe Newell stated that developers were in a unique position in being able to engage with users about their projects, with the ability to make changes in a matter of hours.
He explained that other sectors such as the film industry did not have the same opportunity to make customers happy, as once a movie had released, there was little that could be done to change it.
“What I think is best for the industry is that games developers used to be very far away from their customers,” said Newell in a podcast interview with Seven Day Cooldown.
“Nowadays you can have a game developer talking to a customer while they’re playing a game and fix an issue, or improve the experience, and do that in a matter of hours, if not minutes.
“Steven Spielberg [by comparison] is pretty much screwed. By the time he gets feedback on his movie, it’s too late. He’s done. Everything he could do to make customers happy, he’s lost that opportunity by the time he can get reactions from his customers.”
“The closer developers are to their customers, and the more the line blurs between both, that gives us a gigantic advantage over any other entertainment field.”
Newell said that it was much easier for developers to make things better for their customers once they were in discussion with them, as it would help identify problems, allowing them to make informed decisions on what changes to make.
He added: “Back when I was at Microsoft, you would make a decision and it would be five years before anybody would be affected by that decision. You could be at a completely different company, or on a different project, before you got any feedback.”
The Valve boss’s comments come after Bioware received criticism from a section of fans about the ending to its blockbuster title Mass Effect 3, which also sparked an online petition for it to be changed.
The studio has since bowed to pressure from users, and is currently developing an Extended Cut in the form of free DLC to “expand upon the events” that took place in the game’s conclusion.
"Since launch, we have had time to listen to the feedback from our most passionate fans and we are responding,” said Bioware co-founder Ray Muzyka.
“With the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut we think we have struck a good balance in delivering the answers players are looking for while maintaining the team's artistic vision for the end of this story arc in the Mass Effect universe.”
The game’s executive producer Casey Hudson added: "We have reprioritised our post-launch development efforts to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalised for each player."he end of this story arc in the Mass Effect universe."