Posted May 23, 2017
The gaming industry can be a dog-eat-dog world.
With a market estimated at $23.5 billion in the U.S. alone, video-game studios are perpetually locked in a cutthroat battle to produce the next big thing — the best graphics, the best storytelling, the best soundtracks.
Console game makers can spend millions of dollars on production costs alone. Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, released in 2014, cost in excess of $68 million to produce. Meanwhile, the multinational game studio reported last year that the online-only multiplayer game Tom Clancy’s The Division — which is reported to have cost nearly $90 million to produce — had grossed more than $330 million in its first five days of release.
When that much money is on the line, gaming companies need to be focused on customer acquisition and retention. But to understand the success of the gaming industry, one must also study what motivates gamers to invest substantial amounts of money and time into certain games.
And it’s becoming increasingly apparent that it isn’t necessarily a game on its own that sets it apart, but rather the community and customer service around it. Here are some ways that gaming companies can earn a competitive advantage through customer service, including contact center outsourcing.
What gamers care about when it comes to customer service
Gamers really, really, really love certain games, to the extent that they spend hours a day and lots of hard-earned cash playing them, and many more hours talking about them on blogs and in online forums.
Take World of Warcraft, for example. Released in 2004 and still played by millions today, the computer-based game is the most-subscribed massive-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) to ever exist. Players spend upwards of 22 hours a week on the game. They also pay monthly subscriptions of $13–15 (longer subscriptions get preferential rates), and that’s not including the in-game costs to, say, change an avatar or buy a pet.
Considering their investment, they want to know that a game developer loves them back.
When a game crashes in the middle of a raid, or the graphics frame rate is unbearably slow, a gamer wants to be able to get quick help from someone who can empathize with them. After all, any amount of time the game is paused due to a glitch or more complicated technical problem is too much time. As a result, staffing customer-service teams with gamers is of utmost importance for this very reason.
Thankfully, some parts of a gamers’ experience are relatively predictable, making the development of a smooth customer service approach a little easier.
Most gamers’ first lines of defense are to seek out advice on the game developer’s community forums, non-proprietary gaming message boards like GameSpot, Gamesforum or GameFAQs, as well as online bulletin boards like Reddit. Game developers need to have a good social-listening infrastructure in place to detect these conversations and respond quickly, before negative comments about a game can spread across multiple channels. Having customer-service reps (CSRs) interacting on these boards can help build loyalty and trust in the gaming community.
Protecting gaming studios’ reputations means troll control
Online gamer communities are necessary channels for players to talk to one another, including helping each other troubleshoot issues. It’s also extremely valuable for game developers to use these boards as an opportunity to connect with their audiences. But since forums also attract trolls, developers must do what they can to ensure those trolls don’t ruin the experience for their players. “Users who experience online gaming toxicity [meaning rude, abusive and bullying behavior] are over three times more likely to quit the game,” says Chris Priebe, CEO of Two Hat Security and cloud-based gaming-intelligence company Community Sift.
Gaming studios should consider outsourcing at least some of the more laborious forum monitoring and interaction, Priebe continues. “Game developers should keep their focus on developing great games, and find ways to support their customers which don’t distract them from that.”
Investing in technology solutions to help mitigate the negative impacts of trolls can also prove successful. The popular online game League of Legends, for example, decided to combat the harassment found in the gaming world through artificial intelligence (AI). Players were able to teach an AI what constituted racist, homophobic or misogynistic language, and with time, the AI was able to recognize when abusive terms were used, and send feedback to offenders.
Outsourcing support can help developers stay focused
It’s crucial to have the right tools in place to meet gamers’ needs in all stages of the customer journey. However, this has become more challenging as digital delivery of games (including Google Play/Apple App Store) bypasses the retailer for many game purchases.
Outsourcing support to contact centers becomes an even more attractive prospect in these situations, as the right outsourcing partner comes equipped with the people, processes and technology to collect, analyze and present user feedback in ways that gaming companies often don’t have the internal bandwidth to support.
Outsourcing these functions, along with other customer service responsibilities, enables game developers to focus on their core competencies of bringing innovative, exciting and entertaining games to market. Game developers can avoid investing in the real estate, human resources and technology related to running a support center by working with an outsourcing partner.
Regardless of who operates the player support operation, hiring gamers who understand the passion for playing helps protect a game developer’s reputation while keeping players happily engaged. In the games industry, attracting players makes a game successful. Keeping them engaged can turn it into a blockbuster.