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MediaPost has written an article on the success of making gamers part of the creative process. Swedish indie studio Arrowhead Games developes the game Magicka which has a startling success, being a continuing part of the rise of indie game developers. Another success case mentioned in MediaPost is Zero Point Software, developing a title called "Interstellar Marines."
Both companies, while not having multimillion-dollar project budgets, nonetheless manage to create compelling and innovative games, avoiding the pitfalls of genre and industry tropes that often bedevil big-name triple-A titles from major publishers like EA and Activision.
How does Arrowhead Games and Zero Point Software achieve it?
Players who try out "Magicka" and sell it to their friends feel as if they partially own the success of the title; they're part of the magic (no pun intended) that "Magicka" brings to its fans.
Zero Point has asked gamers to get involved in the development process, using their forums and Facebook page to encourage players to try out early alpha builds of the title, promote the game through their social media channels, ask the developers questions about the title, and even provide feedback about the title and pre-purchase to support the title's continuing development.
Why do gamers advocate so much more strongly for a game like "Magicka" and "Interstellar Marines" than they do for more mainstream material?
They key is involving fans in the development / creative process of games and giving them a sense of ownership of the brand. And like the article ends, "once your consumer owns the brand, he's already bought the product."
Co-creation processes brings the best of both worlds, at the one hand, fans influence the creative process. Involving them in this process means a better adapted game to the needs of the audience. Partaking and visible influence in the output.
On the other hand, the business part, co-creation brings cost-savings. As MediaPost refers to Zero Point, they asked their players to promote the game via social media channels. This does not only saves on advertising and marketing budget, but the effect is better as well. Word of Mouth is such a better vehicle than advertising, coming from a third party, nothing to gain. Increase in ROI, and simultaneously involve the crowd, again giving the feeling of ownership to the success.
One of the basics tells us that retention can be up to seven times cheaper than acquiring new customers. Because there's less investement in advertising this is already true. But it's even more true if we understand that we live in an environment where “the purpose of a business is to create a customer…who creates customers” - Shiv Singh. Not only is churn lower due to the ownership, but with the right tools, the sales process is outsourced as well, to much more credible advocates.
Co-creation is a form of orchestrated virality, causing a snowball-effect amongst the audience, in terms of visibility, ownership, cost savings and better returns.
Necessity is the mother of invention
Is that still valid? Even if the neccesity isn't present, such as actually having multi-million dollars to spend, co-creation will bring the difference. What -often- smaller game developers have in advantage of big companies like EA and Activision, is there less rigid organisational structure, making it possible to adapt faster to social media input and delivering it in the supply chain where it has to go to. This doesn't mean large corporations can't, but transformation doesn't happen swiftly and easily. More stakeholders to convince, more policies to reform, more roles to change. Perhaps the new "Big" is "Small".