With a little help from my community

The ultimate goal of any aspiring game developer is to harness a dedicated army of passionate, loyal, even fanatic followers to become their number one game marketers. Sounds great, but how do you make it happen?

Enter the Community Manager. By a Pocket Gamer definition, community management is a new way of thinking about communication between a game publisher or developer and their customers. They represent the opinions and hopes of the community, but also the realities faced by the developers. Community Manager is the online face of the game and the voice of the game studio.

Job description

When browsing through open Community Manager jobs, you quickly realize how wide the job description is. Community Managers seem to be hybrids of digital marketing experts, skillful communicators, meticulous data analysts and creative brand builders.

Top skills are usually linked to communication (community engagement, moderation, content creation and storytelling), digital marketing (social media platforms, user acquisition, social media advertising tools), analytics (planning and analysing digital trends and social media channels), visual and concept design, as well as co-creation with developers.

On top of these, you can expect a long list of soft skills. According to Pocket Gamer, best community managers are empathetic, good communicators, flexible, passionate, highly organized, have good judgement skills and are able to enable others. The last skill is particularly important, as the ultimate goal of community management is to grow a self-sustainable community by engaging with the community and finding the top candidates to promote your game.  

Expert insight

To get a deeper understanding, I turned to Leena Viitanen, who is a board member of Women in Games Finland. Leena started her career as a producer at Sulake’s Habbo Hotel Finland, where her role included executing and producing user activations, sales campaigns, live events and competitions, as well as managing Habbo’s social media sites.

After Sulake, Leena worked as a Senior Community Manager at Unity Technologies, managing a 30 million gamer community Everplay. Her tasks included creating and managing the community, acting as the voice and face of Everplay, activating and supporting players and managing social media channels. Currently Leena is working at Siili Solutions as a Communications Manager being mainly in charge of internal communications.

For Leena, Community Manager is the most important link between gamers and game developers. Without a dedicated person to engage and inform the community and keep the developers up to date on the wishes of the gamers, it’s likely to be just hit and miss. There can be successful games without prominent community managers, but is there a tight community? Probably not, or it exists out of the developers’ reach.

As for the essential characteristics of a great Community Manager, Leena lists tough skin, empathy, common sense, calmness, as well as communication, interpretation and social skills. Also personality matters, some community managers are the true stars of the community. Leena’s pro tip for aspiring Community Managers is to learn the basics of communications and educate yourself on games and on how successful communities works.

Super community

Over to Julius Fondem, the Associate Producer at Ubisoft RedLynx, a multiplatform game development studio located in Helsinki. Julius introduced the success story of Trials Rising at the IGDA March gathering in Helsinki. Julius is the right person to explain how the magic really happens.

Julius confirms that in today’s saturated game market, building a strong community is more important than ever. Every game development team should start building a community way before their first game launch. A strong community can be utilised for a variety of tasks from concept development to bug fixes.

When Ubisoft RedLynx started developing the Trials Rising game, they were already receiving a lot of feedback from the community. The main platforms used were Discord, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook and Ubisoft forums. Also Reddit feedback was very important after each launch.

With Trials Rising, the community involvement started with feedback on previous games. The players were asked directly what they wanted to see in the new game. Early on involvement included everything from the game idea and its leading principles to creative choices. The team openly shared their ideas, plans and graphics with the community.

Ubisoft RedLynx also hired people directly from the community, such as John Lloyd, the Community Developer of Trials Rising. They also established the Trials Elite program, a group of 20 of hardcore players, who worked directly as a part of the developer team providing early feedback.  

Trials Rising was released on February 26 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The game deputed in top ten in Nintendo Switch chart – thanks to a little help from their friends, the loyal community.