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How to adapt gaming player support to modern tech disruptors

Posted October 25, 2017
gamer with VR headset

We’ve come a long way from Pong of the 70’s. No longer tethered to a console and controller, the gaming industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Last year, mobile gaming alone generated 37 percent of all video-game revenue according to Mediakix. Meanwhile, digital distributor Steam says it attracts anywhere from eight to 13 million gamers per day. Add to that the more than 100 million unique users that log onto live streaming platform Twitch, and it’s easy to see that the gaming industry is in the midst of a new golden age.

Between streaming services, mobile devices, graphic innovations and virtual reality (VR), new technology is improving the quality and accessibility of games, while innovating the gaming experience itself. Whether it’s offering in-app mobile assistance, or player support within a VR environment, gaming companies are seeking ways to adjust to these new innovations and expectations, shifting their approach to customer service and the user experience.

Here are some of the most significant trends currently disrupting the gaming industry’s approach to player support, and what gaming companies can do to keep pace.

Mobile player support isn’t one-size-fits-all

While the gaming console isn’t dead, mobile gaming has experienced a huge surge in adoption. As the mobile gaming landscape becomes more and more competitive, smart games companies can enhance the value of their brand through better service. “Think about all the different entertainment uses of a mobile device. Games have a ton of competition for eyeballs,” says Jerry Leisure, the senior director of player experience at mobile-game developer Kabam. “You want yours to stand out as the number-one entertainment option on people’s phones, and service can be part of that differentiation.”

Leisureexplains that service personalization is the best approach when it comes to mobile — and especially freemium — gaming. Players spend varying amounts of time and money on their favorite games, and some only play occasionally. “Being able to identify what will help each different player persona — and what will help keep each one engaged with the game — I think that is the real secret sauce. It’s one of the key disruption points in the transition from console to mobile gaming,” Leisure says.

The pressure is on for gaming-as-a-service

Brick-and-mortar video game retailers may soon become a thing of the past. As platforms like X-Box shift away from selling games via brick-and-mortar stores and towards offering monthly subscriptions, more pressure is on service teams to deliver great support lest people get frustrated and cancel, notes John Custy, a gaming customer service consultant at JPC Group. “A monthly subscription isn’t as big of an investment as a console,” says Custy. “But, if I’m paying for it and it’s underperforming to my expectations, retention is going to be difficult.”

To combat switching costs, Leisure says games companies should leverage big data to increase player retention. “All our internal player data is integrated with support tools,” he says. “Our agents can tell at any given time where the player has progressed in the game, how many posts they have in our community forum, and what support tickets they’ve submitted. Frontline agents can the take a 360 degree view of the player, and think about how to retain them,” Leisure says.

Based on Kabam’s analysis, Leisure says the number-one reason why players leave a game is because they didn’t feel their issue was properly resolved. “Empowering our agents with data, and getting them to focus on retention, has been critical in helping us keep players playing,” he says.

Service impact of streaming and virtual reality

Gamers have been posting tutorials and troubleshooting tips on YouTube and forums for years, making self-support one of the leading customer service channels. Twitch — a live-streaming video platform on which some of the best players livestream gameplay and tutorials — has capitalized on this to build its huge user base.

The next step in the revolution will require gaming companies to integrate tutorials and self-service into the games themselves, especially as virtual- and augmented-reality (VR/AR) gaming gains popularity. Headsets like the Oculus Rift make gaming a completely immersive experience; players won’t want to take the headset off to troubleshoot the game. That means game-makers will be forced to think about ways to offer virtual, in-game support in an immersive 3D environment.

Custy says this will likely lead to more exciting ways of educating players. Instead of watching a YouTube video, calling support or browsing FAQs, gamers could potentially tap into an in-game and interactive AI-powered virtual assistant, he says.

New technologies like these can be overwhelming to both game-makers and players, and it’s unlikely that the pace of innovation will slow down anytime soon. The key to keeping players playing, say experts, is continuing to drive personalization, a goal that games companies can pursue no matter what the next big disruption is.

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