MMO developers and communication channels

Here are two questions that I think are pertinent for any MMO player: How often should developers communicate with players and through which channels should they communicate?

These are questions that bounce around in my mind a lot because I’m not only a player but also an MMO journalist that is seeking and using such communication in my articles. What I’ve come to realize over the course of a decade or so of doing this is that there is no standard answer to either one. And that can be incredibly frustrating.

The best studios are the ones where they communicate regularly (at least weekly for longer dev diaries or wrap-up posts) and engage daily (answering smaller questions and addressing concerns) through as many communication channels as is available to them. But what I find is that many CMs end up slacking off on the frequency and favoring just one or two channels while ignoring all of the rest. When this happens, information is passed along haphazardly to just a fraction of the playerbase while the community team pats itself on the back and says “mission accomplished!”

One of my first initiatives as a senior pastor when I came to my church was to make sure that communication was top-notch. That meant different committees had to be talking to each other and that we were doing ALL that we could to get important info out through as many channels as we could. Previously, they relied on printed Sunday bulletins for all announcements. Now, we use bulletins, text messaging, a weekly email newsletter, powerpoints on posted monitors, flyers, Facebook, and a website. I cannot depend on everyone using just one channel, so I use all of them to get the coverage as complete as possible.

I’d think this would be the type of thinking with studios, but nope. To pick on one I’m familiar with, Standing Stone Games (LOTRO, DDO) tucks away almost all of its dev/player communication either in scattered forum posts or in lengthy livestreams during which a CM is playing a game and might or might not talk about something important. Really important announcements go to Twitter. There haven’t been dev diaries (blog posts) in ages. There isn’t any sort of dev Q&A session with the actual devs. We hear from the producer just once a year in a longer post. I’m constantly dinging the studio for its poor communication because it has so many more avenues for quick and more comprehensive coverage.

Consider how many channels a studio has:

  • The website (dev diaries, videos, pages)
  • Forum interaction
  • Livestreams
  • AMA sessions (Reddit, etc.)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Other social media
  • The launcher
  • The in-game welcome announcement on the chat panel and mail system
  • In-game popup screens (welcome)
  • Press releases to media outlets
  • Interviews
  • Email newsletters

If you wanted maximum player interaction, you’d take to the forums, Reddit, and Twitter. If you want the most comprehensive coverage, especially for announcements, you’d leverage email, the launcher, and in-game popups. If you’d want the most publicity, media outlets, YouTube, and interviews would be the way to go. But my point is that you wouldn’t get complacent and rely on just a small handful of these, because you’re going to miss people while thinking that you did your job by getting info out there.

2 thoughts on “MMO developers and communication channels

  1. I’ve never expected (or particularly wanted) games producers to communicate anything at all via any channel other than the necessary information on downtime or game changes that can be included on the launcher or in-game broadcasts. Literally everything else, however it’s dressed up, is PR. Press releases have one purpose alone, to promote the commercial interests of the company running the game. It’s one hundred per cent up to the company how they choose to disseminate that information.

    As a blogger, I’m always interested to see anything a company responsible for games I might want to write about has to say but as a player, in many ways the hobby was more immersive for me when producers communicated less frequently, the names of the developers were largely unknown and the first I knew about changes or developments was when I encountered them during play.

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