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How gaming player support is evolving with chatbot technology

Posted November 8, 2017
gamer on headset

Getting player support just got a whole lot easier for the millions of gamers who have downloaded Kabam’s Marvel Contest of Champions (MCOC) free-to-play mobile game. But it’s not exactly a person they should be thanking for the help — rather, it’s a chatbot.

Officially known as the “MCOC Infobot,” it interacts with players by answering simple questions, providing high-score information and directing them to relevant FAQs.

In the 24/7, high-speed world of gaming, chatbots like the MCOC Infobot are proving to be a valuable, emerging asset for gaming companies. “There are few industries, or communities, in the world where things can spread as quickly as they will among gamers,” observes Suneet Bhatt, chief growth officer of customer service software provider Help Scout. “It’s a fanatical community, so word of issues like an outage or a bug gets passed on immediately.”

Chatbots are stepping in to help meet the gaming community’s heightened expectations of customer service. From lowering player support costs to speeding up resolution times, there are plenty of incentives for companies to embrace the latest innovations in chatbot technology. Especially since experts suggest that chatbots will only become more prevalent – and more integrated – in games and gaming culture.

Managing gamers’ support expectations

Although chatbots are enabling quicker, more efficient customer service, there are still limitations to the technology that can harm their perception among users. “The big challenge that people are having with chatbots is expectation management,” says Bhatt. “Many companies, gaming ones included, like to give their chatbots a human name. As a result, customers have a certain expectation of that bot interacting on a highly human level. So, while it’s a cute branding play, you’re setting a poor user expectation.”

Setting the right expectation is only half of the gaming-support equation. To meet and exceed those expectations, smart gaming companies must also use chatbots to bridge the gap between automated and human support. “The gaming industry has prioritized creating an excellent product, but the end user/gamer has not necessarily been a top priority from a service standpoint,” Bhatt says. “Gamers are typically forced towards self-service channels, and about 70 percent of the time can’t find an answer. That’s why relying on self-service isn’t the best strategy for gaming companies.”

Emerging areas of gaming-support chatbots

Integrating chatbots in gamer service and support presents a unique set of challenges, including where to implement them in the customer or player journey.

Increasingly, gaming companies are realizing the answer to that question lies in developing chatbots for secondary support channels, since gamers like to communicate, congregate and organize on messaging services like WhatsApp, Line and Discord. Line is one of the biggest messaging apps in Asia, the largest tech IPO of 2016 and a popular mode of MCOC gamer communication prior to the Infobot (which is also a secondary app outside of the game). Discord, billed as the “Slack for gaming,” is also red-hot with 45 million users and counting.

Chike Agbai, CEO and founder of chatbot developer Azumo, says he’s seeing a huge spike in customer service chatbots for secondary channels like these. “We’re working with a gaming company on a chatbot system that, over time, will be more conversational on these channels as well,” Agbai says. “The user can inform the bot of an issue, and have the bot begin the process automation necessary to fix the problem.”

While offering service on secondary channels via chatbots is important given their popularity with gamers, it’s also integral to help players get the support they need directly in the game itself. Instead of dropping off because they can’t master the controls, or there’s a problem with their account, gamers can quickly get advice from a chatbot and resume play. The longer gamers play, the more invested they become, driving spending and, ultimately, revenue.

In the future, Agbai predicts chatbots that are hyper-specific to each game will be the ones to drive the most return. “Each game has its own lexicon, assets and characters,” he continues. “This means that gaming support chatbots will need to be highly game-specific, and rely on very good natural-language capabilities.”

Agbai’s company Azumo utilizes BITL (pronounced “beetle”) technology, which is short for “bot in the loop.” Proprietary to Azumo, BITL allows for interactive switching between a chatbot and human running the support interaction. Agents are then able to focus more on high-value, analytical interactions.

While it remains to be seen how technologies like BITL will evolve, it’s clear that the industry is heading towards tighter integration between chatbots and humans.

Future trends in gaming support chatbots

Jerry Leisure, head of player experience at mobile-gaming giant Kabam, envisions a world where chatbots will become ubiquitous across all areas of the gaming experience. “In the future, all of our games will integrate with in-game chatbots,” he says. “Gaming companies may even willingly allow third-party chatbots into their games. So long as players get the answer they need, it’s an opportunity for both engagement and retention.”

Leisure is also confident about the combination of gaming chatbots and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and WeChat. “No single one of these is adopted globally,” he says, “but that represents a huge opportunity for gaming companies that could potentially integrate these apps and channels into one single bot. The goal is to provide an elevated level of chatbot service across borders, in every language, and on the support channel of the gamer’s choice.”

Agbai sees voice integration as a key next step for chatbots in gaming, as well as many other industries. “Once speech-to-text engines mature a bit more, you’ll start to see much more integration of voice recognition in gamer support bots. This will even allow much of the gaming itself to be driven by voice and could be a huge market opportunity to help gaming companies provide more seamless, in-game support,” he predicts.

If you’re considering employing an app to help your customers, Bhatt suggests first defining your customer service strategy then finding the technology that enables and optimizes it.

In the end, using chatbots isn’t a replacement for human support teams. Instead, “it’s all about using bot technology in-context to keep players gaming, and to enable human support reps to focus on high-value problem solving,” Bhatt says.

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