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External vs in-game communities: Which is right for your studio?

Yodo1 discusses whether it's worth investing resources to build a community.
External vs in-game communities: Which is right for your studio?

In a nutshell:

● The benefits of external communities
● Alongside the benefits of embedded communities
● And how they can complement each other

As embedded communities gain popularity among game developers, you might be wondering: should I actually invest resources toward building a community?

In this article, we are going to explore the benefits of both external and embedded gaming communities, identify the advantages of each, and look at how they can complement each other.

The Case for External Communities

Aside from being free and easy to set up, external gaming communities bring a number of key benefits to your game.

Minimal learning curve

As of June 2020, Discord had 100 million monthly active users, Facebook 2.7 billion, Twitter 330 million, and Reddit had 330 million.

The odds are high that your gamers have accounts on one or more of these external platforms: they already know what to do, what to expect, and how to behave there. With a minimal learning curve, it’s that much easier for players to join in the fun of your community.

Engaging players outside of the game

You want your game to be on your players' minds even when they’re not playing. If they follow your game on Facebook or Reddit, for example, they’ll be reminded of the fun, catch a glimpse of new features or activities, and be inspired to play and engage more.

Not to be overlooked: keeping people interested in your game through social media contributes to retention.

Having an external platform is also helpful when bugs appear inside the game. And let’s face it, despite our best efforts, we all know it happens.

Should your game fail to launch, you want to be able to communicate with your players and assure them you are aware of and working on the issue. Via external platforms, you can let them know when the game app should be up and running again.

Bringing organic growth

Your game’s community presence on large social media platforms serves as more than a reminder to existing players: it’s also prime real estate for attracting new users.

By taking advantage of these platforms’ larger user base, you are not just reminding people of your existence; you can generate content there and potentially attract new users.

While channels such as Facebook have tweaked their logarithm so that organic reach is not as easy to attain, it is still possible. A great example of this is the latest sensation, Fall Guys. In an interview with Oliver Hindle you can see how the man behind Fall Guys’ social media accounts works his magic.

With a plethora of social media accounts out there, it is not easy to guarantee the kind of success games like Fall Guys and Fortnite have enjoyed, but it is certainly possible and well worth aiming for.

The Case for Embedded Communities

In-game or embedded communities take more to set up and generally are not free. However, their unique benefits can make them more than worth the investment.

Reaching every player

As we covered in the art of engagement, the biggest advantage of embedded gaming communities is that your players are already there and you can reach them where they’re at. This creates the potential for a massive resource that can benefit you and your gamers.

It’s no surprise that the churn rate from bringing players from your game to external online communities is high: if they like the game, they have to leave it and go to another platform to follow your page and check out your content. This is generally something only the most committed gamers do.

In a talk on the power of integrated community, Tara Brannigan of Behaviour Interactive says you’ll be lucky to convert even 5% of your users into Facebook followers—and only about 1% will engage in your online forum.

Having an embedded gaming community means more people will enter and engage with it, as they can flow organically from playing to participating.

Embedded communities such as KTplay consistently have 20 to 30 per cent of a game’s daily active users engaging in the community, a great return on a relatively easy—and worthwhile—investment.

Proactive engagement

Social media is a useful tool, but what you really want is for your most committed players to join your in-app community—and those who do so in the early stages will often turn out to be your most committed fans.

An embedded community puts you right where you want to be, giving you the opportunity to engage everyone. You can share and promote content your audience will be interested in, better learn what encourages them to engage, and keep them constantly involved in your community—and it all happens inside the app.

Here’s an example: for Rodeo Stampede’s 4th anniversary, Yodo1 organised an in-game event that tasked players with designing characters and costumes. Then the gamers all voted on their favourite design and the lucky winner had their creation implemented in the game.

This event tripled the number of community numbers, getting 30 per cent of the game’s daily active members inside and participating. And no wonder! The Rodeo Stampede team found a way to spark community creativity, and generate a lot of buzz in the process.

With in-game events like this, you have the power to proactively engage your core audience—existing gamers—and get their interest in a deeper way, creating even more loyal gamers.

Relating community activity to game performance metrics

The biggest bane with external communities is the inability to relate community behaviour to in-game results.

With an embedded community, you can tie all of your community data to game performance metrics. The insights provided by platforms such as KTplay help you quantify player feedback and sentiment so you can push for the right updates and changes.

The power duo of feedback and data will not only make your voice as a community manager carry more weight, but it will help the whole team better strategize the monetization model, increase retention rates, and improve the overall user experience.

Check out this summary of a webinar GCM hosted with Tara Brannigan and Nicolas Nottin where we discuss how to implement data analytics in a community.

An in-game community benefits your external ones

Even if you have a community inside your game, who says you need to keep it there? It may seem counterintuitive, but by encouraging and promoting external communities on your internal ones—using tools such as KTPlay—you can encourage even more players to join your community or share posts cross-platforms to gain new organic users and increase brand recognition.

Returning to Rodeo Stampede for an example, Yodo1 utilized the embedded community to encourage users to create quality in-game content and post it on Douyin—China’s Tik Tok.

The results? For the very low cost of two Nintendo Switches and some in-game currency, they managed to get over 120 million video views of the user-generated content. By the end of the event, they had a 97 percent increase in organic users.