This is a guest column from Berlin developer Wooga.
Creating a strong community is vital for retention and engagement for any game.
And it’s key to give your players a platform to celebrate their love for the game in an authentic way that brings them together.
For us, that platform was a contest. To commemorate our hit game June's Journey's second anniversary, we focused on creating a moment of genuine connection with our audience.
We not only succeeded in celebrating our player’s love of the game authentically, but we also achieved a reach of 4.2 million, 70% of which was organic.
It was overwhelming to see the positive response in our community, but it was several months of hard work and lessons learned. With that in mind, we wanted to take some time to share our learnings with the wider games industry.
These are our tips for creating genuine moments with your players.
1. Setting the tone will engage your audience
At Wooga, one of our values is to be close to our players. To commemorate June’s Journey’s anniversary, we focused on bringing this value to life to create a shared experience that celebrated the game, and the unique connection players have with it.
The June’s Journey Hidden Talents contest targeted a global audience of players with the goal of bringing them to our Berlin studio and capture real moments of connection on camera.
Here’s the first of twelve videos from that visit that we posted on our Facebook page. The campaign started in June and lasted through October when the final video was published.
Whenever you’re engaging with your audience, whether it’s creating a video or a Facebook post, your content sets the tone of that interaction. Starting a contest is no different. You want to inspire your fans to get involved, and you want to share the energy that you hope they’ll mirror.
We created this short video, which we shared with the community via our Facebook page. All the contestants had to do was submit a one minute video of themselves demonstrating their talents. Easy, right?
2. Your community may need a little encouragement
We started the contest in June, giving players a 30-day deadline. Our announcement was one of the most viewed videos on the page ever, and we were really excited about the fans’ reactions. We thought all we just had to wait for the entries started flooding in, but by the end of the first week, we hadn’t received a single entry. We were ready to call this campaign a total flop but didn’t want to give up just yet.
You want to inspire your fans to get involved, and you want to share the energy that you hope they’ll mirror.
With a coordinated effort of Facebook posts, videos, emails and push notifications, we reminded our audience of the contest throughout the countdown to the deadline. Plus, we created a YouTube channel to share the videos we'd received so far. And then, on the 30th, 12 hours before the deadline, we came to work to find more than 120 videos waiting for us.
Certainly, some people only heard about the message towards the end of the contest and left it until the last minute to submit their entries, but many simply needed that time to perfect their talents and videos. Creating a contest is an important (and nerve-wracking) exercise in patience.
3. Careful budgeting and planning is crucial
Of course, the number one criteria to pick our winners was their talent shown in their video. But it was also important for us to look at their passion for the game and enthusiasm to visit our studio.
With a short window of 48 hours to choose our winners, it was important to plan the event carefully. Crucially, we needed to ensure that our winners were able to get to our location on the planned days to avoid things ending in disaster. We were upfront about this in our terms and conditions, and we also called our first round of nominees to ensure they could travel in that time frame.
But, of course, not everything goes to plan, and one of our chosen winners, Arwa, couldn’t get her visa from Egypt in time. We quickly called our runner up and confirmed she could make it, and we flew Arwa to visit at a later date when her visa came through.
Once we’d chosen our winners, we shared them and their talents in this Winner Announcement, which conveys the difficulty of choosing just five videos from so many amazing candidates.
4. Organization can make or break an experience
To bring players together in an authentic way, we carefully project managed every detail. We were used to organizing events, campaigns and projects, but that was nothing compared to getting people from different countries around the world to the same place at the same time.
To mitigate potential issues, we used simple tools that everyone has access to, like Google Calendar, to help everyone visualize what needed to happen and when. We also divided the tasks of capturing footage and keeping our visitors happy, so it was clear who was doing what.
Although you might feel like a broken record, it’s important to repeat relevant information again and again and again. We sent emails, paper schedules, and reminders, and our guests still forgot details because they weren’t as focussed as we were — and that’s okay, we didn’t expect them to be.
Which brings us to the next point...
5. Complications can be magical
So, you’ve picked your fantastic winners, you’ve organized your event, but that doesn’t mean that everything will go swimmingly. In fact, when things go wrong, it can unite people.
If something happens, as long as you can rise above it and maintain the viewpoint that we’re all here for fun, it looks even better.
We had all the key ingredients for nightmare live event management — a short deadline, a small team of four, and what we like to call the “human fun factor,” (working with people who you don’t know, who surprise you with unexpected problems!). We agreed not to let our players see us sweat and tried to be open about anything that didn’t go the way we planned it.
To deal with surprises that will inevitably occur, it’s best to be flexible in your expectations and accommodating in your schedule. As long as you do your best to understand and cater to your guests' needs, the story will unfold in a way that puts them and your game in the best light.
For instance, since our winners were on camera for a long period of time, we gave them a 'green room' where they could relax and unwind. That way, when they were on camera, they were ready to be in the spotlight and engage with the content we presented to them.
6. Authenticity brings real meaning to work
A key component of any project should be taking the time to share your enthusiasm and passion with your colleagues. As a marketing team, we shared our strategy and our learnings regularly with the rest of the Wooga family to bring awareness to the contest.
One of our company values is “One Company,” having everyone collaborate to achieve a common goal and outstanding results as a team.
A positive side effect of sharing what we were working on was that we got more help. Another one of our company values is “One Company,” having everyone collaborate to achieve a common goal and outstanding results as a team. So, a variety of people from outside the marketing team were keen to share their ideas and get on board with the project.
Events like this one can be quite eye-opening for the team -- if you’re a developer, a writer, or an artist, you might come to work every day and work on the game, but you may not feel close to the community. You rarely get to experience the pure enjoyment that comes from playing something that you’re so close to, so this is a great opportunity to remind them and create excitement.
7. Capturing insights will improve your marketing plan
Behind each game, there’s a unique story and different reason why your players connect with it. One of the most insightful things we learned from this experience is that our players in real life differed from what our marketing data had told us.
What data tells us about the June’s Journey players is that they’re women, aged 55-64, American, love crafts and cooking, and they’re not tech-savvy. After meeting our players in real life, we can say that those terms do not do any of them justice.
Take, for instance, Juan Antonio. A young man from Spain, he doesn’t fit any of those categories, but he’s a hardcore player of hidden object games. He enjoys the strategy behind June’s Journey and challenges himself to always achieve the highest scores. He’s also so charming and funny that he has his own set of fans now!
Getting genuine insights about our audience has helped us provide better service and more compelling marketing for them, rather than assuming that everyone connected with the game in the same way.
The power of authenticity - what the numbers tell us
So what did the contest achieve for us? We spent around $80,000 from start to finish to bring our players to Berlin and produce all of the materials needed to capture their visit. When looking at the results, the first thing to consider was the impact on the reach of the brand.
On Facebook, we reached 3 million, via email 1.1 million, and via YouTube, 140,000. Overall, we reached 4.2 million people, 70% of which was organic, which we’re really proud of.
Overall, we reached 4.2 million people, 70% of which was organic.
We had a consistent brand event in-game and outside of the game, working very closely across marketing and production. Most exciting to us, we were lucky enough to get featured by Google for a full week and by Amazon.
This helped us get 160,000 new installs, basically for free.
So, what’s the trick?
Beyond the numbers, we received heart-warming comments such as “this brought a tear to my eye,” and “I feel like we’re part of a big family.” Seeing the community so happy also makes for happy Woogas.
For the team, it brought another level of meaning to their work. Our players value every aspect of the game, and we take pride in the fact that their efforts have made such an impact on so many people.
Even now, today, we’re in touch with all of our winners, because in that time, we connected with them and became friends. As long as you’re open and receptive to who they are, you can create these moments that are really beautiful.
That’s the real trick to capturing genuine insights and moments with your players—there is no trick.
Interested in working at Wooga? Check out our latest jobs.