Monday, November 19, 2007

Video Games and Community Based Marketing

Information Aesthetics just posted some interesting data looking at certain statistics in Half Life 2 - a popular video game. The statistics make for some interesting reading if you are a video game enthusiast - play time, average completion time, heat-maps of 'maps' showing difficult and easy areas, etc.

What's really interesting though, is that you can get this information at all. The information is used by the game's designers, Valve, to understand what is and isn't working. It's used to tweak and refine further versions or updates. This is like Microsoft releasing its Office QA data. Or Apple its OS usage studies (Apple does do those, right?).

But then, video game companies, particularly ones that make PC based titles, are unsung heroes of community based marketing. Community based initiatives are passe in the video game industry. You can't release a major title without a solid community based strategy. And this isn't just about forums for complaints or questions - it's encouraging fan sites, player development of additions or modifications to the game, community days and events etc.

Even development is, in some ways, a community based task. Video games tend to have massive betas with extremely good mechanisms for player feedback. Most developers keep a close eye on player reactions when changes or additions are made.

Valve releasing data on play time etc. is just one example of this type of mentality - the more information we give out about the product, the better ideas, help and support we get back from the player community.

It's a great way to run a business.

Of course, not all the lessons are easily transferred outside of the industry. Gamers tend to be pretty fanatical. They play for the fun, the escape, the community. Users of business productivity apps are harder to engage. But not impossible.

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