Dean Anderson is co-founder and CEO at Playerstate, a global co-creation community for games that's currently in early access.
Creative talent is perhaps one of the game industry's biggest bottlenecks.
In many cases, player communities are burning through content faster than developers can create it.
And it's for this reason that I believe user-generated content will fuel the next generation of games.
With the right conditions, user-generated content (or UGC for short) can be used to expand game experiences, increase player engagement and retention, and function as a form of cost-effective marketing.
First off, it’s worth defining exactly what user-generated content is.
When thinking about UGC, most probably think of game creation platforms like Roblox, game mods, or YouTube and Twitch streamers.
But UGC is a whole lot more than this; it can also be GIFs, memes, fanart, music, or even character or level ideas sketched on the back of a napkin - the possibilities are endless.
When you broaden this definition, UGC can be created for any game.
This was one of the core concepts behind Playerstate, a new global co-creation community for games.
We want to lower the barrier to entry for creators and allow creators of any skill level to create content around or for their favourite games.Dean Anderson
Rather than seeing predominantly technical creators making games on platforms like Roblox, or creating mods for games like Skyrim, we want to lower the barrier to entry for creators and allow creators of any skill level to create content around or for their favourite games.
The benefits of UGC
Many of the industries larger companies are now reaping the rewards of UGC.
- Roblox has more than 115 million monthly active players who enjoy more than 2 billion hours a month of UGC gameplay.
- Electronic Arts has a player community that’s now outperforming its studio Maxis when it comes to the volume of content created for their game, The Sims.
During a recent panel hosted by Protocol Gaming, Electronic Arts’ senior vice president Samantha Ryan stated that Maxis generated around 5,000 pieces of individual clothing for The Sims over the past five years.
“But if you look at one of our biggest UGC sites, they’ve created 39,000 pieces in that same period,” Ryan said. “There’s just no way as a professional development house to keep up with our players.”
That’s why companies like Supercell are working with players to drive engagement and improve marketing economics.
Supercell recently produced a community-created film to promote their game Brawl Stars, where they asked their community to colour in black and white frames of an animated video (essentially a digital colouring-in book).
These frames were then stitched together to create an animated film. Supercell had hundreds of contributors participating in the project, and once it was posted on YouTube, the contributors were pausing the video on the frame they coloured in and sharing it on social media.
As a result of this the video generated over 3 million organic YouTube views!
This is all great for game developers, but UGC is also a win for the players.
Player empowerment is incredibly important, and there is nothing more empowering than having the opportunity to contribute to the things you're most passionate about.
UGC also provides an opportunity to upskill, and get noticed and we are now increasingly seeing new rewarding and monetisation opportunities for creators; mod authors are now able to earn via advertising revenue share models, and through Playerstate community creators can earn recognition, digital goods or cash for creating almost anything they can dream of.
Creating a fair and transparent environment
I strongly believe in the power of UGC, but if UGC is to be widely adopted we need to tread carefully and move forward with consideration and thought.
My biggest fear when it comes to UGC is that developers will view the opportunity as a way to gain access to cheap labour. For UGC to become a new normal, there needs to be a fair and transparent environment for creators to connect and collaborate on projects. And this is another core concept behind Playerstate.
There is nothing more empowering than having the opportunity to contribute to the things you're most passionate about.Dean Anderson
It's a tricky one to get right though. UGC sits at the intersection of the gig and passion economies. Players are an incredibly passionate bunch and will, in many cases, create content and value for developers in return for nothing more than recognition. And this is where things can become exploitative.
At Playerstate, we urge developers to consider how much time they are asking their players to spend on UGC projects, and then consider if they asked a professional to create this content, how much would a professional be paid.
We believe that community creators (professional or not) should be compensated to the same level.
However, there are instances where UGC can be passion-driven, low touch projects like GIFs, memes or crowdsourcing ideas. For projects like this where players do not need to spend a lot of time, their efforts can be rewarded with recognition and digital goods.
On Playerstate, developers have the freedom to choose how they reward community creators, and creators have full transparency over the rewards or compensation on offer. Ultimately, the risk lies with the creator, as it's their choice to choose whether they participate or not, but we will be doing everything we can to monitor projects on the platform and ensure that they are not exploitative.
This thinking is just the starting point for Playerstate and as such we are very open to discussing this topic in an open forum and exploring better, more progressive solutions.
Tips for getting started with UGC
- Get creative! Remember you likely have artists, musicians, designers and more in your community. Don’t limit your briefs to mods and streams.
- Be transparent and reward fairly. Write clear and concise briefs, so your community knows exactly what you expect from them, and what you are prepared to offer in return for their time.
- Keep the barriers to entry as low as possible. Remember, you don’t have to ask for finished assets. Often asking your community for ideas works much better than asking/ expecting polished content from community creators. i.e. you dream it, we make it.
- Use a platform like Playerstate that can streamline the workflow around submissions and rewards and manage both creator and developer IP, so no one gets caught out with a copyright lawsuit (indeed, IP is a real risk here and something a platform like Playerstate can take care of for you).
Consumer demand for a steady stream of high-quality content is greater than ever.
As a developer, UGC is your opportunity to meet that demand, and in the process, drive community engagement, improve your marketing economics and offer up new monetisation opportunities for creators all over the world.
In other words, UGC is the ticket to keeping a healthy, innovative industry.
You can find out more about Playerstate via its website.