Launch day is always going to arrive with some nerves. The game you have spent months – or even years – creating is now ready for real players, but this means that the uncensored player feedback is about to start as well.
There are so many things that can go wrong on launch day. Maybe you promised far more than is actually being delivered and players will be disappointed. Maybe the game has bugs that were not spotted by the QA team. Maybe the game has other technical issues, such as not working on a specific platform.
This list could go on. There are so many things that could go wrong and over the years we have all experienced such problems. Maybe you downloaded Cyberpunk 2077 back in 2020 and found that the geometry of Night City a lot less solid than expected. When Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was released in 2017 the in-game transactions overshadowed the rest of the game – all loot boxes and in-game transactions were quickly removed so players could focus on the game itself.
There are so many disastrous game launches that gaming sites and magazines regularly update their top ten lists. The biggest failures become legendary, which is fun for the games journalists, but not so great if that’s your game they are all LOL’ing about.
So how can you avoid your game entering one of those top ten lists? There are two main aspects that need attention before launch – QA and player support. Needless to say, your game needs to be thoroughly tested before launch, but naturally there will always be some issues that can only be found once a game is out there in the wild. Regardless of your QA processes, building a solid player support strategy long before launch is an essential step to take to guarantee success on launch day.
A solid player support strategy usually requires a player support partner. Some games companies retain player support in-house, but most will work with a specialist partner because supporting a global player base across multiple support channels is a complex operation. Even those companies that retain some of the player support processes in-house usually work with a partner to deliver a majority of player interactions.
These are some of the most important attributes you need to seek out and confirm in a potential player support partner:
- Know-how: how well do they know your game, or games? Who are they hiring to actually manage the player support itself? Are they hiring gamers to understand gamers, or general customer service specialists that have little affinity with games?
- Experience: what is their track record in the games industry? Many Business Process Outsourcers (BPOs) have recently added gaming as their next big source of revenue, but are you ready for your players to be supported by non-specialists? Think carefully about your partner’s role in the games industry because the loyalty of your players will depend on the services that partner provides.
- Scalability: what happens if your game takes off? How can you ensure that you are able to continue managing those player interactions? Does your player support partner have the ability to increase the team if required?
- Flexibility: does your partner insist on planning staffing levels months in advance? What happens when you need to change direction or rapidly scale up? Even if they say that they are ready to change, does the contract allow for fast changes or a pivot in the type of service provided?
- Insight: does your partner offer a vision of what is coming down the track? Are they full of ideas, innovation, and opinions on what might be important in your industry next year? Or, are they just waiting for you to name how much you want to spend on player support? The team managing your player support is right there in the trenches – they should have ideas about what players are saying and thinking right now.
- Synergy: a strong player support strategy will pull together all these threads. Innovation for the future combined with robust day-to-day support. Flexibility and scalability so the player support process can change and grow with time. Experience and insight so the most obvious issues can be avoided. And ideally the ability for direct interaction with the QA team support close the loop on any bugs impacting the player experience.
Think about your game from your players’ perspective. All they see is the game and your brand as the creator of the game. They don’t care about your internal processes. They simply want to play your game without any issues.
A successful launch will not happen because your marketing team planned a great launch party. It requires this synergy of responsibilities between different teams. Your players expect that you tested the game before releasing it and that you are ready to support them whenever they need help.
Some games can recover from a disastrous launch. No Man’s Sky was released with huge sections of the promised game simply missing. It was a text-book gaming disaster, but Hello Games took the criticism on the chin. They listened. They fixed the game and it’s now both popular and an example of how to turn a problematic launch around.
But there are many more games that sink without a trace. A disastrous launch can finish a game – more importantly it can destroy the reputation of a games company that launches a game that is clearly not ready.
You should deliver what you promise. Make sure to test your game thoroughly before releasing it, and have a bullet-proof player support strategy before the game is released so you are ready to guide players on this new journey.
For more information on Testronic and our full range of player support services please visit our website.
CC Photo by Sam Pak