This article is part of the “The Use of” article series, where we interview Nordic game developers to learn from their experiences regarding a certain topic. Today, the topic is the use of forums.
For this first article in our new article-series: “The Use of”, we have had a talk with Alina Constantin, Creative Director at TinyRedCamel, and Esben Kjær Ravn, CEO at Kong Orange, about their use of forums during the different stages of game development.
One of the games currently in development at Kong Orange is a mobile puzzler called “The Reaper“. Right from the early stages of “The Reaper”, Esben Kjær Ravn explains that he used forums such as TouchArcade to get feedback from the early adapters.
“We are always looking for feedback, early adopter relations, and also of course, eventual customers. Primarily, we just want to be visible to the users we hope one day will play our games, so we can bring them on board as feed-backers as early as possible.”
When a game has been fully developed and is ready to be sold, forums can still be used. However, in relation to “Elf Scare“, one of the games already published by Kong Orange, Esben Kjær Ravn mentions that forums certainly didn’t turn out to be the best platform to drive actual sales from, which is why he prefers using forums while the game is still in development.
“(You should) always try to engage with forum users and create shareable content, but do not expect anyone to engage with or share what you post, because it most likely won’t happen. However, it will certainly NEVER happen if you do not create the content (forums posts) in the first place.”
Creating forum accounts and setting up beautifully-looking threads and posts can turn out to be very time consuming. The time is well spent if you get valuable feedback – sure, but what if all you get is hateful comments and harsh feedback? Esben Kjær Ravn emphasized in our interview, that even though the feedback isn’t always useful, you always have to remember that someone actually took the time to read your thread and write down the comment, word for word.
“No matter how stupid a response can be, you have to remember that somebody made it in response to what you put out there. The fact that someone replied to your thread, immediately validates their response, no matter how idiotic you find it. Because the true value of the response lies in how you interpret and treat it, even if you choose to ignore it.“, Esben Kjær Ravn explains.
Back in March 23, 2014, the first chapter of the desktop and tablet game “Shrug Island“, created Alina Constantin, successfully reached its Kickstarter goal with the support of 465 backers. At that time, Alina Constantin worked as the creative director at Amazu Media, and she was in charge of the successful campaign.
While Alina Constantin used forums actively during the campaign itself, she explains that she started posting about Shrug Island way before the Kickstarter campaign was even setup:
“Before the Kickstarter campaign, we used the Unity forums a lot to get technical feedback on the choices we were making to build its engine. Today, as I continue within a new team, we still use this a lot to gain knowledge on assets and plugins we chose to apply, versus the ones we build ourselves. The Unity community is very present and this has proved highly relevant for production.”
Once the Kickstarter campaign was ready, one of the main issues raised by Alina Constantin was the huge amount of different forums to choose between.
“It’s easy to spread out energy trying to approach too many different places at once, and evaluating direct return in audience or future customers is difficult.”
Instead of posting a thread on every single forum, Alina Constantin therefore recommends focusing on the few forums and communities that you find to be the most valuable for the game you’re developing.
“I began to see a noticeable increase when the action was more focused than spread out. There’s an oversaturation of sales pitches, and few online forums appreciate this.
Having chosen a limited number of places to be regularly active on, I could establish a stronger relationship with specific communities, engage in other conversations than the ones only related to my own project, and provide the readers with information and material where it was best suited.”
Even though there is no doubt that using forums helped successfully fund the Shrug Island Kickstarter campaign, Alina Constantin mentions that it is nearly impossible to say which forum were the most valuable.
“I can’t disassociate it or its consequences from all the other outreaches, so I see it more as a core brick in the foundation.“, Alina says, and continues by emphasizing that:
“Forums seems to be a better tool for community building and outreach, and less for direct marketing purposes.”
In short, there’s no way to say which forum will work best for everyone, but when we asked what forum Alina Constantin had used the most, she mentioned that Kickstarter’s own comment section forum had been very actively used by herself and many of the supporters during the Shrug Island campaign.
“It was very unique to see other people with no previous relationship with me or the game, communicate with each other. We noticed how they formed their own support network and used this project as their channel.”
In small game development teams, posting on forums might not be a top priority. In the end, however, Alina Constantin mentions that sometimes, all you have to do is just put something out there, and try to give the forum users a reason to share your work:
“A core handful of supporters felt inspired to wave the flag and spread the word out through their own places and forums they were familiar with. Giving them the reasons and tools to do that was my focus.”
Have you used forums to generate sales for your game, or get feedback from early adaptors? If so, please share your experience with the rest of the community in the comment section below 🙂