While there have been some great case studies on specific community engagement activities and the immediate impact they have, there has been little insight into the long-term impact of an ongoing program that consists of a string of activities. Until now. Raptr has compiled a fascinating chart that clearly shows how much more playtime a game can get with dedicated community support.
The results are telling: Games with active community support have 89% more playtime on average compared with games that have minimal activities. This pattern continued many months past launch.
Raptr looked at two sets of games during the course of this study; ones that had ongoing community engagement activities vs. games that had minimal support. Playtime data of Raptr’s 15 million users for 20 games, both on console and PC, form the basis of this chart. All of the games were released within the last year and half, and represent a good cross section of genres, platforms, and publishers. Games like Assassin’s Creed 2, Mass Effect 3, Madden NFL 2012, Skyrim, and StarCraft 2 are included.
So what defines “community-engagement activities”? Based on Raptr’s definition of Community as a Service, there are three distinct categories of community activities. First, there are activities that keep a gamer in-game more often or for longer periods. This could be something like giving users mod tools to create their own content, which ultimately results in more content to play. Second, there are activities that happen outside of playing games, whether a user watches an eSport, or discusses strategies in forums with other players or community managers. Third, there are community engagement activities that encourage loyalty, such as offering a string of rewards to keep a player playing more like, such as achievements.
So what defines “active/ongoing”? In this study, if a game had some significant community engagement activity planned at an interval of at least one a month for many months after launch, it was put into the active category.
Once all the data was compiled and averaged out, it was evident that starting in the month right after a game launches, community activities have a noticeable impact on how much a user will play a game. And this elevated level of playing continued more than six months out. Generally speaking, in the past most game companies planned the vast majority of their promotional efforts around launch in order to drive the highest level of sales. But what more and more game companies are realizing is that supporting a game after it launches has a significant upside. Companies that still haven’t figured this out have their games fall by the wayside faster.
Having a large, engaged fanbase leads to some clear long-term benefits. For example, when a publisher launches for-pay DLC, having an active fanbase dramatically reduces marketing costs to reach those users. In addition, an active fanbase becomes a powerful word-of-mouth network, keeping a game buzz worthy for a much longer period of time.