How do you build a community for your game? It’s hard.
It involves dozens, if not hundreds, of hours sculpting an experience that you hope is going to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Even if your game stands head and shoulders above others, it doesn’t mean anything unless you create a game community to help boost your game’s success.
Creating a community is even harder than developing a game – depending on who you ask!
It’s going to take more time and more patience than you may think. It’s going to feel pointless at first. After all, why would you spend time and money doing something that’s going to take months, if not years, to come to fruition?
So let’s apply a step-by-step method on how to build a game community without splashing the cash
So let’s begin with something fairly simple…
Step 1 – Plan and research
Before you jump in and start tweeting a whole bunch of cool stuff with the hope people will say “this game looks awesome, I’m definitely going to invest time and money in this” you’re going to need a strategy if you want to create a game community for your game.
So sit down and plan.
Plan what you’re going to be tweeting, giving away, revealing and so on.
There is no one way to do this, and you’re not Blizzard, so communities won’t just sprout from nowhere.
Players want value for their loyalty. We’re going to need to find a way to give this to them without that brand power behind us.
Good news: It’s simpler than you think!
Gamedonia has a sound guide on planning what social channels you should be using, and what you should be sharing on those channels, such as game updates, company updates, and the odd cat meme.
If you’re feeling confident you’ve got the basics nailed down, the team over at Black Shell Media have taken it a step further to include branding strategies, goals-setting and company positioning; all of which will ultimately affect how your community perceives you, your brand and your game.
You may also be surprised to hear that Reddit has a dedicated GameDev subreddit.
It gives experienced (and aspiring) developers the opportunity share their knowledge across various facets of the gaming ecosystem, of which creating a community is included.
Nevertheless, you don’t need to obsess over planning, just consider what you’re going to do before you go ahead and do it.
On the other hand…
If you’ve suddenly discovered after six months that you’ve shared your emotional, narrative-heavy indie game with nothing more than cat memes and trending hashtags, you may want to go back to the drawing board.
Step 2 – Set up social media. All of them
Yep, all of them.
We don’t mean handpick your favorites, we mean all social medias your fans use.
And you’ll know what they use because you’ve just finished planning and researching 🙂
Twitter is a given. There are plenty of blogs out there that talk about how to create a game community using Twitter. Our mammoth piece on Twitter tips for beginners covers all the essentials on how to create a game community and more.
The real question comes down to resources.
How big is your team? Who can be a dedicated community manager?
More importantly, are your demographics really on all social medias?
If you’ve got a casual “dress em up” game your demographic is likely to only be a #Instajunkie and Snapchat-er.
Remember: You’re doing this during the game development process and beyond.
People want to know your story from start to finish. Even if they’re late to the party, they’re going to want to know everything about your game and its origins.
And social media is how you’re going to tell this story.
Step 3 – Go to events
I had a chat with Mark, the game’s developer, about The Last Word’s story, where his inspiration came from, and several of the game’s features – including the unique mechanic of combining words to create platforms.
Mark saw I liked the game, so asked if I wanted to sign up to the newsletter, which I was more than happy to do.
If nothing else, the newsletter reminded me the game still existed and that I should follow on Twitter and Facebook to keep an even closer eye on its development.
Do you understand what this means?
I’ve gone from casual demo-player with no emotional connection to the game, to curious fan who subscribed to the newsletter, to avid fan who has followed on as many social medias as possible.
You’ll want to strive for a similar funnel if you want to create a game community of your own.
We’ll soon have an events calendar, so you can start planning what events to take your own game to. Some of the most popular UK events include EGX Rezzed, its big brother EGX and Develop: Brighton. Outside the UK, Gamescom provides a number of low-cost alternatives for indie developers who want to showcase their games.
Step 4 – Run your own events
Exhibiting at events is usually fun. You get to meet a whole bunch of gamers and see some incredible games.
You’ll also get a chance to mingle with other developers on the show floor– if you’ve got the time.
But exhibiting comes with huge downsides.It’s a lot of effort to set-up the stand, staffing, and materials – not forgetting the cost of all of that and getting a solid game build available in time.
Some teams find it best to instead run their own gaming meet-ups or events.
It’s never a “come to our event and play our game” sort of thing, so don’t expect it to be all about you.
For starters, nab yourself a pub, bar or other low-cost space for the night, set-up your game as well as a whole load of other cool games and arrange giveaways, along with the promise of a free drink or two to get the party started.
You’re going to find people naturally begin to take an interest in you and future events.
Your only problem from here onwards is topping your previous event!
Step 5 – Blog, Blog, Blog and Blog
Whether you’re a biggie or an indie, chances are your game development story is unique.
If you want to create a game community, this story is what’s going to drive interest during the development period.
And blogs are the easiest and cheapest way to do this.
Let me show you exactly how this works:
When you feel like you’ve achieved something you want to share, make a quick note of it and what it entailed. Before you know it, you’ll have racked up a number of achievements and reached several milestones.
Enough to form a weekly dev blog/diary I should think.
There are a few ways to go about this:
Some do their developer diaries in traditional formats as seen above, noting down all weekly achievements in the form of a blog post projected through social media. It’s super easy, quick and doesn’t cost a dime.
Game Academy’s guide on starting your own dev diary tells you all you need to know. It teaches you how to tell a great story that’s both entertaining yet informative.
But remember this:
YOUR MISTAKES ARE INTERESTING! A good story isn’t without its protagonist overcoming obstacles!
If writing isn’t necessarily for you, or you have the resources to create something more visual, video diaries might be a better option.
They give you the opportunity to tell your story with the team that created the game. This also puts a face on your company and allows you to truly show emotion and passion for your project.
As part of their video content strategy, developers Joint Custody narrated their journey by talking about Scéal’s standout features, such as the games music, art, graphics, and story.
Using PeoplePerHour, we were able to source a local cameraman, and produce a low-cost standing banner to act as background material as a team member talked on camera for a few minutes on their given knowledge areas.
If you really loathe talking in front of a camera or feel you don’t have the written ability or discipline required to produce a weekly diary, you can produce a commentary video instead.
Commentary videos are simply you talking over a gameplay video. You can do it for free, requires very little effort, and can be pretty interesting. A good example of one can be found here.
So how will this help create a game community exactly?
Think about it like this:
- You’ll attract people who want to hear your story. Nothing forced!
- They will share your stories, helping widen reach
- Reach will lead to new communities. Potentially journalists too
See what’s happening? Your one piece of content has reached a number of new and different communities.
Step 6 – Run and take part in Game Jams
Hundreds of Game Jams take place each and every year, bringing in dozens of game devs each and every time.
But what makes them so special, and how can they help create a game community for your game?
For starters, let’s just break down what a Game Jam actually is:
A Game Jam is a gathering of game developers to create games within a 24, 48 or 72-hour window.
Game jams are ridiculously popular with independent game developers because it gives them a chance to create with fellow devs and with others in different disciplines – such as art and design.
If you’re a developer that sources creative online, meeting artists or designers face-to-face is often a rarity!
Not only that, but fans are actively watching and commenting on everything going on via Twitch, as we saw from this years Global Game Jam.
Super popular game jams include the aforementioned Global Game Jam that organise and runs Jams worldwide, as well as the Indie Game Jam. You can check out every global Game Jam by visiting a number of online calendars, such as Itch.io’s calendar.
So we know the popular Jam sites, we know when Jams are being run, the question is: How the heck do we go about running our own Game Jam?
- Check out what popular games conferences/events are local to you using calendars such as this or this
- Spread the word via social and by submitting your event on any of the calendars we’ve already mentioned
- Check game events aren’t running their own Jams. For example, Creative Assembly frequently run Game Jams at Rezzed, so your attendance figures are going to be extremely low if you’re going head-to-head with them
- Set your parameters: How long are you going to run it for? How many games are going to be created? Itch.io has a superb guide on getting started, with Emily Thomforde of RCPL recently posting an incredibly detailed breakdown of on-the-day structure.
This is all well and good, but how is this going to help create a game community exactly?
Think of it like this:
- You’ll get Twitch gaming folk checking out your event
- You’ll get the dev community checking you out
- You’ll get a social push from the Game Jam calendar guys
- Jams will give you more fuel for EVEN MORE CONTENT MARKETING. You’ll be sharing your story on the blog pages of Gamasutra and submit guest posts on sites such as Pocket Gamer
It looks like we’re starting to paint a familiar picture here…
We’re seeing how a single action can help build a wealth of new and unique communities based on reach, with the help of others.
Step 7 – Speak to devs
Bottom line is: devs are important.
You’ll be glad to know that speaking to them about how to create a game community will help boost your games success.
They’ll know things you don’t know, and more importantly, they’ll tell you what worked for them in the past.
But how do you go about this you say?
The best way is to use dedicated game developer forums.
If you want to hone in on your game dev audience even further, HTML 5,Amazon, Unity and Unreal each has their own forums. This ensures your questions are hyper relevant to your platform, engine, and player demographics.
Chances are that this is a lot to digest.
But, as with game development, speaking to other people from other cultures, backgrounds, and specialities not only expands your own horizons but also allows you to understand new markets; particularly good if this is your first game on a platform you’ve never developed on.
Step 8 – Pretend you know what you’re talking about
You’re probably out of your comfort zone when you’re not talking about game development.
You probably feel like half the stuff in this blog post has gone over your head.
But chances are you can probably put together a piece of content on… something.
You might not know what that something is just yet, but as we’ve seen it’s pretty easy to talk about your game.
It’s quite simple actually:
Gather what you’ve got, and let’s put together some business results and lesson learned!
By reflecting on everything that’s gone on, you’re going to uncover trends, facts, and interesting statistics the world wants to hear!
So, let’s get all that information and write it up in the form of a post and share it via….
Now we know that’ll help create a game community via reach, but now you’ll get the added degree of professionalism that’s associated with having a strong presence on these business channels.
Look what we’re doing; we’re widening that net again.
It’s also going to help improve your written ability and help you, your game, and your company rank better on Google.
We’re not going to go into SEO and keyword research here, but if you’d like to start dabbling in the SEO waters you can check out this beginners guide.
Step 9 – Tell the world you’ve levelled up
Congratulations, you’ve won!
You’ve planned a communication strategy, posted on the right social medias, gone to (and run) events, blogged about the game development process and shared with the world everything you’ve learned from creating your game.
Now tell the world about this, your latest adventure:
Creating a community from nothing.
You see, by learning this new skill, you’ve got yet another weapon to add to your inventory (pun intended).
Best of all, they’re going so many new things you’ll discover that’ll be unique to you.
How you say?
You might find that going to events did absolutely nothing for you, your game, or your brand BUT your blog post on Gamasutra about creating meaningful video game protagonists was something smaller sites picked up as a good consumer-facing story.
It’s a given that not every step is necessarily relevant for your game; taking your casual city-builder to Gamescom for instance won’t help you create a game community in any way, shape or form but posting a whole bunch of really nice artwork on social medias will build that targeted community you’re after.
Here’s the deal:
You have this new skill. However you obtained it – and the world wants to know.
Again, blogging on Gamasutra about these lessons is a great starting point, but you can take it to the next level by doing things such as speaking at events to add another feather in your cap.
Start off small and local. If you’re in the UK, apply to speak at events such as Pocket Gamer Connects London with your newfound lessons.
Even if you’ve never spoken publically before, don’t worry! Being on the indie track means your audience is likely to be 50 people max and you’ll get a free ticket to the event.
If you want to take it to more formal levels, hosting a webinar is very effective. There are a ton out there, but here are a few we know of:
As can be seen, some are platform specific, and some don’t openly let you host your own webinar (unless you ask politely) so you’re going to have to do a little bit of digging to get what you’re after.
But these webinar opportunities are out there to help you create a game community, and if they’re free, you should be using them!
Step 10 – Create a game community by copying the best
If you’ve done ALL of the above and you’re REALLY stuck for ideas on how to create a game community you can do the one thing that the industry has been doing for years:
Copy the best.
That DOESN’T mean steal. We’re not taking anything away from anyone. We’re simply replicating what others have done well, and where possible, taking it one step further.
So let’s copy best, starting with the team behind the exceptional game Rocket League.
For those who aren’t aware of Rocket League, it has quickly amassed a huge following in a short space of time. It’s constantly being patched to provide the best user-experience possible and has now ventured into the realms of eSports.
So how did they create a game community in the first place and what can we learn from them?
A few things worked in their favour to help get the ball rolling (awful pun, I apologise):
They released the game in July 2015 – with very few other releases that month – and it was included as a free game as part of the PS Plus scheme, which lead to 6 million downloads and a lot of buzz.
If you’re not lucky enough to have Sony behind you, or the ability to give your game away for free, Justin French of indie game studio Dream Harvest put out this piece on how to create a game community for a video game, with reference to their game Failure. His main points were:
- You don’t have to go it alone – tools such as CoPromote,Promoter, and Presskit() can help get the word out
- You need a site for your game and a studio site. Why? Because it allows for fans to be invested in your brand and each subsequent product. A static landing page on a corporate site doesn’t say “emotionally invest” now does it?
- Create profiles on IndieDB and Playfield. This snippet from the Dream Harvest team tells us how you can use these sites to help create a game community:
“To get into the top posts [on these sites] you need to use particular trending hashtags and then people must comment or vote on the images or otherwise engage with them. We drove quite a bit of traffic to the site in the run up to Gamescom as Playfield were running a competition to win booth space and have your trailer shown off at their booth as part of a show reel. We ended up coming 6th and got to be part of the show reel by placing in the top 10.”
So let’s summarise…..
We’ve covered a lot to say the least. If you’re still head scratching, worry not.
We’ve repeated the point that creating a community to boost your games success takes time and a whole load of effort.
As we’ve also seen it’s going to take a bit of luck, ensuring that each piece of the puzzle fits together to produce magical results.
In reality, this is all theory, but you can use this knowledge as a foundation to create a game community of your own.
Vitally important last and final point: You’re going to have to make sure you’ve got a standout game in the first place.
If you’ve got that, you’ve got a fighting chance of creating a strong community for your game.
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