At Kolibri Games, we like to talk about our goal of becoming the most player-centric games company in the world, how we develop “games as a service” and why LiveOps are great. While all the technical steps we take in following this approach are super important, in this edition, we’d like to discuss another side of this approach that is just as tedious to execute and truly distinguishes a good from a great service games developer: community management.
Last year, we placed first on Deloitte’s list of Germany’s fastest-growing rising stars and the Red Herring named us on their 2018 list of game-changing enterprises across the globe. These awards were an amazing recognition for all of our hard work, but none of it would have been possible without the millions out there playing our games.
To shed some light on how much of an impact our players have on our day-to-day work, one of our Community Managers will walk you through what “managing a community” means at Kolibri Games, how we do it and how we collect, evaluate and integrate feedback from our players.
Although only a few percent of our players actually contact us with suggestions or requests about our games, having over ten million monthly active users still means that thousands of messages end up in our different inboxes every day. We have made it our goal to become the most player-centric games company in the world, and while that mission surely sounds sexy on paper, in practice it means a lot of work.
An important step towards becoming truly player-centric is taking your community serious, and we have done so from day one: Back in our early days, in the shared flat of our founders, our Co-CEO Janosch responded to player requests and helped with any issues. Today, we have established a strong community management team that is deeply integrated into our development processes and many communication channels through which players can get in contact. Our Idle Miner Tycoon social media channels (2+ million followers on Facebook and 1,6+ million followers on Instagram) have become lively places of interaction between players and with our community managers. Our mission is quite simple: We want our players to enjoy our games. How we can get there is a little less obvious and representing the voice of millions of players, places a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.
Over time, we have figured out a few key principles and processes that allow us to stay on track in achieving this mission. One of them is to ensure that our players can contact us right away, in an unmediated manner, without having to go through any additional portals or channels: Our team is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We check all store reviews for our games and engage with the community through Reddit and Discord. Additionally, we proactively look for feedback: After publishing a new feature we want to know what the community thinks about it as quickly as possible.
What’s all the fuss about some store reviews or Facebook comments? The answer is simply that, without player feedback, we would never be entirely certain if we are moving our games in the right direction. In fact, most of Idle Miner Tycoon’s best and most-liked features started with simple requests by players: The community asked for more rewards for participating in event mines, so we gave them badges to show off their achievements. Players asked for a way to support us, so we introduced in-app purchases. Players wanted to connect with friends, so gave them the chance to complete expeditions together and see each other’s progress. It’s our responsibility to put the wishes of our community front and center because not doing so would put us out of a job.
You can imagine that all this is by no means an easy task. It already wasn’t easy when Idle Miner Tycoon had a few thousand players a day and it has gotten exponentially harder now that our player numbers have skyrocketed. Yet, we have established another key process that allows us to process all these contact points and has proven to be beneficial in more than one way: our weekly Community Presentation.
Every week, the Community Team (in the form of myself or one of my colleagues) prepares a presentation to everyone working on the game, compiling all feedback, requests or issues raised in the past week. With thousands of incoming messages a day, it takes structured and well-planned work to properly reflect all this data. To easily get an overview of topics that are circulating, we permanently run a set of statistics. For example, we tag incoming support emails, depending on their content, allowing us to get a comprehensive overview over which topics players mention most frequently. The same counts for any messages we receive via social media or other channels. In addition, we have a player support tool, that helps us to further categorize and analyze requests we get. With such a system in place, most of the analytic pre-work for our Community Presentation is done in advance. The result is a presentable overview of topics, in which trends are easily recognizable.
In addition to these more quantitative forms of feedback, we receive a lot of in-depth suggestions via channels like Discord and Reddit that is worth carefully dissecting. Here, dedicated players really take the time to formulate their thoughts and wishes about our game and we often reach out to individual players and contributors on our forums to understand their feedback even better.
Preparing a comprehensive Community Presentation like this does require a lot of preparation, but it pays off in many ways. On the one hand, it serves as a way to update the entire team about the current state of the product, what the next steps are and what problems are occurring. On the other hand, it’s a great motivational tool, showing the team that their work has a real impact on thousands of players every day. Not everyone in the team has the time to be as involved with the community as we are, so taking extra time to forward all the feedback is absolutely worth it.
In addition, all the learnings and conclusions the team can draw from our analysis of the week’s community feedback later serves as a foundation on which we further develop our games. Our product managers recognize reoccurring feedback, see what features are in the backlog and can prioritize accordingly.
Sure, in many ways we are doing more work than technically required. Trying to respond to messages as quickly as possible, responding to reviews, reaching out to individual players — these are all things that we do, not because they are vital for us to function as a games company (in fact, many companies do well without), but we do because we believe we owe them to our players and our goal: becoming the most player-centric games company out there.
LiveOps and “games as a service” are becoming more and more of a paradigm. Many companies are jumping on the trend and are starting to recognize the power that agile game development holds. What many forget: there is no LiveOps and no “games as a service” without players. An engaged player community is the key to a successful implementation of this approach. Yes, taking care of a community, and maybe even doing more than technically necessary, is an investment, but eventually, every player counts!