Kazuki Ohta, CEO and cofounder, Treasure Data.
The video game industry is seemingly on the eve of a golden age of sorts, evidenced by the one billion online gamers that played in 2022. From AAA titles to indie projects, video games are capturing the attention of veteran and novice gamers like never before, setting the foundation for a potentially unprecedented industry boom.
However, while the future of video games is seemingly bright, its continued growth in all aspects is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. In fact, despite breaking records in online gaming instances, global video games sales actually contracted in 2022, exposing some industry-wide vulnerabilities. Developing greater user experience is paramount to ensuring that growth.
With this in mind, video game companies should consider the following factors for future launches.
Today’s video games are living, breathing entities that are constantly evolving with updates involving new content, patches and player events. Developers often have a predetermined roadmap that governs what changes are made to the game and when, but that doesn’t mean player input is not taken into account. Video game companies are hyper-aware of what their core community thinks about a certain in-game bug or the new plotline introduced in the game’s expansion.
Historically, game developers have not had to search far or wide for customer feedback, as they were often confined to a few online spaces such as official message boards and other forums. Game developers can still rely on these channels for qualitative insights into customer preferences and overall sentiment, but the information is limited because it only comes from a certain audience.
To democratize the customer experience so that all can enjoy it, video game companies would do well to establish new channels that allow for even more personalized customer interactions. Email, text and social media are industry standards, but video game companies can go further with self-service tools such as AI-powered chatbots, which can help gamers raise any issues related to tech, gameplay or payments and attempt to resolve them in real time. Companies can also beef up their customer service by standing up a virtual contact center where agents can provide support from their own homes, reducing costs and the logistics typically required for maintaining physical call centers.
While some of these touchpoints do not directly contribute to revenue, they can provide value in the form of customer data. The more first-party data a company has, the better it can tailor the customer experience in and out of the game.
Extending The Customer Journey
Notwithstanding the breathtaking graphics, the sophisticated plots and the intelligent non-playable characters that dominate modern games, the biggest innovation in video games might be around distribution, specifically app-based marketplaces and digital-distribution platforms.
With these new platforms, millions of casual gamers who only crave gameplay when it’s on their terms are able to access and play games whenever it is most convenient for them. Consumers that fit this description may not be the most loyal of gamers; they won’t be testing out the beta of the new game or purchasing the premium edition when it comes out. What they will do is bring in more value than just the typical, one-time player who downloads the game only to waste storage space in the cloud and on their devices.
The goal should be to design a customer experience that extends beyond the typical in-game user experience to include out-of-game touchpoints as well, and in a manner that is friendly to experienced gamers as well as new ones. It should be acknowledged that video game developers and distributors have made great strides in implementing intuitive in-game interfaces that resonate with even the most uninitiated gamers.
Savvy video game publishers, such as Rockstar Games, have created out-of-game social clubs that encourage players to share their personal information to access game rewards and other opportunities for brand interactions. Yet, I believe more can be done. With attractive enough incentives, video game companies can hook even the casual gamer and foster true customer loyalty. This creates a whole new channel that can be monetized or, at a minimum, used to drive customer touchpoints that yield valuable insights about a game’s audience.
All things considered, video game companies do a relatively good job designing games for every member of the gaming community, not just the core players.
These companies typically have access to data capabilities that can shed light on in-game behavior, allowing them to make changes for the next update or the game’s sequel, not to mention the in-game AI that enables the world to adapt in real time based on a player’s journey. Unfortunately, it’s often the customer experience that exists outside of the pause menu that leaves a substantial number of consumers feeling left out.
As competition for eyeballs continues to grow, video game developers must find the right balance of omnichannel marketing and gamer support to ensure that players can stay up-to-date on the latest offerings. This can be a fine line, as players do not want to be flooded with communications about another rare item available in the game. To toe this line, companies require robust customer data infrastructure that empowers addressable media.
Just as online streamers can leverage identity-resolution technologies to authenticate users and segment audiences, video game developers and distributors should likewise prioritize these strategies and tools to get the most out of their user data, no matter the channel. Once these companies get a better sense of who their audience is, the better they can personalize and tailor the customer experience.
The video game industry cannot continue to settle on in-game data to inform future decision making. They need to open up their data infrastructure to take into account other ecosystems that collect customer data. Only then can they begin to construct a world that satisfies everybody, not just a niche community. Video game companies have the opportunity to put the gamer first by aligning their customer experience strategies with technology.