It was Richard Branson who said that “to succeed in business you need to be original, but you also need to understand what your customers want.” This has never been more true for games developers, as intense competition for gamers’ money and eyeballs is set to ratchet up a notch this year.
While the boom in microtransactions, paid-for DLCs and games-as-a-service helps to create gamer stickiness, the paradox is that this very stickiness will likely lead to gamers channelling their efforts into fewer titles. In this climate, it’s beholden upon games developers to get closer to their fans to ensure their games make the cut.
Research is key. But it needs to be meaningful. So much of the ad hoc commentary on forums is anything but – and any insightful comments often end up getting inadvertently kicked into the digital long grass.
Games developers might choose to take a leaf out of Total War YouTuber and data influencer Lionheartx10’s book. At the end of 2017, with the aim of boosting engagement with his 280,000+ viewers, Lionheartx10 (pictured below) solicited opinion on what gets them excited and what leaves them cold about Total War: Warhammer 1 and 2.
Pictured above: Total War YouTuber and data influencer Lionheartx10
Realising that legacy social platforms such as Twitter and Reddit don’t have the real-time, granular analysis tools required, he chose to use Qutee, our new digital comments and discussion platform.
Lionheartx10 takes up the story: “I started by creating two Qutee discussions to look at the "Good vs Bad" in both games and received over 1,200 comments, most of them incredibly detailed. I was blown away by the results. Using Qutee’s analysis tools, I was able to mine this rich seam of information to discover what Total War fans really think of the first two Warhammer games – and what they’d like to see in future versions. This insight formed the basis for a 1.5 hour ‘state of play’ YouTube video discussion, which I made with fellow social influencer Jackie Fish. So far the video has been viewed over 9,000 times.”
Lionheartx10’s video is definitely worth a watch, but here’s a snapshot of some of the key findings:
Total War: Warhammer 1
Players like the variety of units, think the visuals and animations look fantastic, love the trait system, and think the Fantasy World element is done well. They also love the modding, although many of them feel that Creative Assembly should offer more moddability tools.
Also positive is that over half (55 per cent) of respondents say they have spent 100-400 hours playing Total War: Warhammer 1, which reinforces the longstanding value for money that Total War games offer.
On the downside, the general consensus is that: sieges are a massive step backwards for the Total War franchise; the combat animations are less 'synched' compared to those in previous titles; and the lack of expansion on diplomatic options and lack of naval battles need to be resolved.
Total War: Warhammer 2
Gamers love the powerful magic functionality and think the suitable climate system is a vast improvement on the original regional occupation system.
They are less impressed, though, by the limited pool of battle maps, and the lack of any substantial improvements on the sieges front. The other main gripe concerns the rather lacklustre state of multiplayer gameplay: although ‘free for all’ has been added, the community would love to see far more new features in the next version, including support for 4-6 player multiplayer campaigns.
It’s easy to see how this approach to mining genuine human sentiment could help indie games developers looking for a ready-made community platform, as well as larger games developers (either directly or via data influencers) to understand their fans better and keep them loyal. The battle for gamer retention is already in full swing. Winning the (total) war will require not just a great game, but a powerful, real-time customer interface too.