Many people see community engagement as a COST. It's hard to see an immediate return on investment.
For example, it can lead to word of mouth marketing, which may reduce the amount you need to spend on advertising… but it is difficult to measure the exact amount you can save. For indie game studios with limited budgets, it may seem more important to focus on game development and marketing instead.
But there are many ways in which a community can help you save money.
We have seen this firsthand through our work with over 10 game development studios. In this case study, based on specific examples from our experience, we will prove just how valuable it can be.
Table of contents
- RAPID wishlist growth - influencer ambassadors
- SAVING money by preventing costly mistakes - player feedback
- PRESERVING time and resources - giveaway competitions
- EASY access to beta testers - engaged community
- LEVEL UP your game ratings - comment moderation
1⃣ RAPID wishlist growth - influencer ambassadors
The first step we take when preparing influencer outreach is mapping out all the pieces of content that were created about your game on the Chinese social media (HeyBox, Bili Bili, Douyin). We also check for similar titles and genres, creating a custom-made database. Not only is it tailor-made for you, but also always accessible - even after we finish our cooperation.
💡 You can also do this by yourself - following the tips from our Douyin guide (no Chinese needed!).
But then what?
It’s simple: get to know them!
The key is establishing a relationship - the so-called 关系 (guanxi).
You have probably seen the results we achieved with Games Operators in our latest case study:
- +58k HeyBox wishlists in 2 weeks
- 33 influencers posted
- +102 posted videos
- Infection Free Zone on 6th place of Heybox's most awaited list and beating games like Hades 2.
But do you remember that influencers have published the videos free of charge?
Avoid thinking about it as selling, but rather contacting a potential partner. So after creating a database, contacting them in a personalized and non-intrusive manner will take you a long way. If you were a content creator: wouldn't you want to be contacted by your beloved studio?
Influencers are a huge part of game communities, especially in China - there, almost everything is relationship-based. It’s not only a new distribution channel. They can be your biggest fans and advocates. Think about it as about a mutual relationship - they enjoy playing your games, their community has new content to watch… And you can reduce your reliance on expensive advertising campaigns.
2⃣ SAVING money by preventing costly mistakes - player feedback
By gathering feedback directly from players, you can identify and address any pain points before they become widespread. This can help you avoid costly QA testing procedures and improve the overall player experience.
Committed fans play a crucial role in providing you with valuable comments. They can offer insights on game balancing, mechanics, and cultural differences, which will help you tailor your game and marketing efforts to better meet the needs and preferences of your target audience.
What is their favorite feature? What needs improvement? Utilising their insights can help you make informed decisions about future updates and additions to your game - and at the same time, show that you care about their opinions.
It can also help you to solve bigger issues. Case in point - Sniperkamp, an active member of the Infection Free Zone community. His attention to detail has been invaluable to the team at Games Operators S.A.
3️⃣ PRESERVING time and resources - giveaway competitions
You can work with your community to answer some of your burning questions - but you can also use their help to solve the challenges you might be facing.
One way to do it are giveaway posts. They are a great way to engage your community - Chinese players love competition and always appreciate the chance to win something for free.
There are two parts to consider:
- What will be the prize?
- What is the task - or, in other words, what your community can help you with?
Most often, the prizes are game keys - it’s an enjoyable reward that encourages participation. There are also other options - physical merchandise, in-game items or even making custom easter-eggs for the winner.
As for the second part, you don’t have to limit yourself to asking about features or opinions. Check what we did with Mythic Owl. The developer wanted their game to support Chinese, but needed ideas for localising the title:
And their community delivered - they have managed to gather over 70 ideas for Harmony’s Odyssey - or rather 小魔女星拼乐.
Gamers are the best source of inspiration for game development, and bringing them together in a community makes for an even more exciting and creative experience. Challenges like this give them a sense of co-creation, making them feel more invested in your game. What’s more, they help you save time and resources by providing fresh and unique solutions.
4️⃣ EASY access to beta testers - engaged community
One of the benefits of working with an engaged community is that they are often invested in the success of your game - and simply want to see it do well. So when you have excited and enthusiastic fans, it’s easier to gather the required group of testers. Who wouldn’t want to try the game out before anyone else?
Let’s look at the response to our latest post for Pandemic Train, where we asked for help with beta testing:
As Pandemic Train was a smaller title, it didn’t get much spotlight in comparison to Infection Free Zone. Our goal was to show that it was as fun as the other game.
We appealed to the existing fans of IFZ, encouraging them to check it out. The response was very enthusiastic - over 50 people applied for the beta test while we only had 20 spots. The post generated over 12k views and 120+ comments ORGANICALLY. No need for expensive advertising when you have an engaged and passionate Chinese community.
Beta tests can also be a great way to build hype and anticipation - as players get a chance to experience it before its official release. Not only do they provide feedback that can help improve the game, but they also help to find bugs that might have been overlooked during in-house testing.
5️⃣ LEVEL UP your game ratings - comment moderation
Speaking of the official premiere: community engagement doesn’t end on creating content for your social media. It also includes comment moderation and management.
Good reviews can make or break the official launch of your game. If there is a moment in which interacting with players becomes necessary, I would say this is the time. Avoiding it is ignoring people’s criticism or technical difficulties. It will make you seem as if you don’t care about your players - an image no studio could afford to have. Even high numbers of wishlists won’t save you in case of backlash.
But that’s the worst case scenario. Taking time to quickly identify and fix bugs that may appear during that critical period may help you boost your ratings instead.
Thanks to community management in the first 7 days after Model Builder’s launch, the ratings went up from 75% to 80%.
How did we achieve this?
The key was listening to community’s feedback - and quick communication with the studio. We monitored both Steam and the Chinese social media, addressing any arising issues before they became widespread. During our cooperation, 7 hotfixes were quickly implemented to improve the game - which would be impossible without the community's help in reporting bugs. By leveraging them during your game's premiere, you can not only generate excitement and buzz around your game, but also avoid negative reviews and potential loss of revenue.
Many wonderful things can happen once you establish a presence in Chinese social media channels.
When it comes to community engagement, the benefits may seem intangible at first glance. But when done right, the bond between the players and developers tightens. The game becomes a common interest that brings you together, working with the same goal in mind. It stops being just a quick pastime, but an important part of their daily lives. Maybe they will surprise you with a free localisation for your game - or save you from an unexpected image crisis.
Has your own community surprised you with anything?
If you want to know more about how to interact with Chinese gamers - or learn other ways to increase wishlists from China - book a free discovery call!
Thank you for reading and wish you all the best!
Huqiao 琥桥's team