Let’s face it, certain game companies have made us skeptical of both their products and motivations throughout the years. Some believe these companies care more about their shareholders than their customers. But for every sketchy big game corporation, there are those that stand out as trustworthy leaders of the industry. Bethesda, Rockstar, CD Projekt Red, and Nintendo are all prominent companies earning player trust through high-quality products, gamer-first experiences, transparency and properly managing player expectations. Here’s a look at how each company is creating “shut up and take my money” experiences for gamers.
CD Projekt Red
2017 was one of the biggest, if not one of the most important years for Nintendo. If you remember, it was only a couple of years ago that Nintendo was struggling with their tech, their games, their company, and their overall identity. Talks with gamers always lead to a nostalgiac reminisce of old Nintendo and a depressing sigh of the current state of the company. With the release of their hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch, and mega-hit games like Zelda and Mario, Nintendo is back on top and rightly so. As a sure sign of trust amongst consumers, Gamers are now excited to see what Nintendo has next for them and here’s why:
Switching Up The Experience
There was a problem with the Nintendo Wii.
Nintendo had always pushed the boundaries of gaming through innovation. With the Nintendo Wii and the introduction of motion controls into the gaming ecosystem, Nintendo looked to be on top again with a brand new innovative concept. In fact, both Sony and Microsoft hopped onto the motion control bandwagon with their own creative takes on it.
However, it didn’t last long.
The thing with technology is that the more it evolves, the more intuitive it becomes. Technology at it’s best is something you can use the way you want to use it. It’s supposed to create flow within your everyday routines, making it easier to get more done. Technology at it’s worst forces you to use it the way it needs to be used and can become frustrating. The Wii and the Wii U was the latter and players weren’t interested in using a technology that just didn’t feel right.
So what did Nintendo do? They switched it up.
The Nintendo Switch is a far cry from the Wii and Wii U. The new system provides players with a mobile gaming experience and console gaming experience. The Switch also offers both motion control and classic controls of games. Needless to say, gamers are able to use the tech they want to use it, rather than how IT needs to be used. The Nintendo Switch, at its core, is the spearhead of what Nintendo represents in the gaming industry; innovative and fun.
Byt Switching up the experience and delivering something truly special, Nintendo took the first step in the right direction of gaining players trust again. But as we know in the gaming industry, a console is only as good as it’s games. In fact, it was one Nintendo exec who said it best. “the name of the game is the game”.
The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of Fresh Air
When Breath Of The Wild was first revealed, I wasn’t too sure about it.
The memory of Link in a blue shirt taking down some weird ancient alien-type thing (which I would later learn was a Guardian) didn’t inspire much faith. And why should it? Personally, Nintendo didn’t have a great track record with games. I disliked the gaming experience on the Wii and Wii U I avoided Nintendo like the plague, even ignoring releases of franchises that were dear to me (Mario, Zelda).
Breath Of The Wild is one of the best games of all time. Seriously. It came off a year where it won the prestigious Game of The Year Award, had gaudy review scores and was a beautiful blend of design and mechanics that were just… fun! And really, that’s where Nintendo shines.
Nintendo’s biggest strength (aside from its goliath IP’s) is its game design. They are masters at creating fun experiences and design-wise, Breath Of The Wild is a masterpiece. If you have the time, PLEASE check out the GDC video below. It’s the Breath Of The Wild team talking about the artwork, mechanics, and environment of the game and their innovative multiplicative gameplay.
High-quality games such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild that leveraged the strengths of what the Nintendo Switch had to offer gamers second step in earning player trust. But there is one important factor to consider in Nintendo’s road to the top again.
When you look around at the gaming industry, specifically Microsoft and Sony, these companies stick to promoting dark, violent and deep storytelling experiences for gamers. Not that that’s a bad thing! I’m a huge fan of the Last Of Us, Halo, Gear Of War, God Of War… I’m also aware that Sony and Microsoft have a number of other games of a variety of different tones. But Nintendo is simply just a breath of fresh air with it’s colorful, cartoony worlds and non-ultra-violent combat. With Nintendo, we just get something a little different, something a little familiar. When I play Breath Of The Wild or Super Mario Odyssey I can’t help but think “This is what gaming should be. Just fun”.
So how is Nintendo earning player trust?
Nintendo has absolutely crushed consumer and industry expectations. In fact, most studio-heads predicted the Nintendo Switch was just a fad. But as sales of both hardware and games still grow, it’s becoming more and more clear the Switch is here to stay.
Nintendo also put in the work to deliver some extremely high-quality products. Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Kart 8 as well as many other first and third party games.
Nintendo has used a combination of high-quality products with both its game and console, partnered with gamer-first experiences (single player story has driven games!!!) to really over deliver with both the industry consumer expectations.
Bethesda had a good 2017.
Last year Bethesda announced Skyrim VR and Doom VFR making the jump into virtual reality. They also released Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2. All their games received great review scores and are a testament to why Bethesda is earning player trust. High-quality, single player, story-driven campaigns. Something I’ve heard multiple gamers say is “I’ll buy whatever Bethesda slaps their name on.” So here’s how Bethesda is earning player trust.
Skryim (and other high-quality games)
Skyrim is an extremely immersive fantasy experience that has each player gain the power of the Dragonborn in order to defeat their mighty enemies.
Skyrim is one of the best video games of all time and I would die defending that statement.
Bethesda knows this too, which is why you’ve seen it on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. Bethesda is getting Skyrim into the hands of as many players as possible because they build trust from Skyim outward.
Skyim is an experience that really encapsulates what Bethesda is trying to accomplish. That is, become the leader in extremely immersive, high-quality, single player, story-driven experiences. You can see that with Dishonored, The Evil Within 2, Wolfenstein 2, Doom and Fallout 4. It’s how they’ve diversified from other gaming companies and they’re not it even subtle about it.
Bethesda has declared war, taking the first shot at game companies like EA who have been in the news for all the wrong reason lately.
Low Wait Times and Managing Expectations
Bethesda has another interesting strategy that I think we can all get onboard with.
We’ve seen it before, games get announced WAY before they should only to have gamers hearts broken with delays and cancellations.
Bethesda however, announces games only months before they’re actually released. It’s a great strategy for a single reason: it manages consumer expectations.
The goal is always to under-promise and over-deliver and Bethesda is doing that. In fact, they’re going as far as to even withhold review copies from games journalists to keep expectation management out of the hands of websites like Metacritic and IGN and keep it in-house.
They’re banking on the reputation they’ve built with games like Skyrim and Fallout to sell their newest games while avoiding any over-hype that comes with long release windows and big reviews scores.
So how is Bethesda earning trust among players?
Bethesda is managing expectations with short release windows and allowing gamers to create their own thoughts on the game. With a reputation for high-quality games already, there’s no need for stellar reviews (although, they have a habit of getting high review scores). Instead, they leverage the work they’ve done and keep player expectation management in-house.
Rockstar, the controversial studio behind Grand Theft Auto was once known as the studio behind the game where you could kill hookers with a baseball bat. They’ve been in the news as journalists attempt to pin violent behavior playing these types of games. In fact, there have been petitions to ban Grand Theft Auto by various groups but to no avail. So with so much controversy and seemingly bad stuff surrounding Grand Theft Auto and Rockstar, why do they have one of the best selling games of all time and one of the most anticipated games of the year?
They Built Something Greater Than A Game
Rockstar set out to make the biggest game they’ve ever made. And not just in size but in quality. I mean realistically, every game studio wants to always be improving their craft and making better games, but Rockstar had bigger ideas.
What they ended creating was much more than a game. It was an entire world.
GTA V, and more specifically, GTA Online is an entire world with infinite possibilities. From flying jets to riding tanks, from scuba diving to searching for aliens, GTA V is one of the biggest sandbox games ever made and happens to have a big community behind it.
That’s probably why the game has been played 1.03 billion times, with an average daily high of 65,732 players per hour and has quickly moved into the 4th best selling game of all time . Over time, players have discovered that there’s much more to GTA V than stealing cars. Rockstar created something much more special than a game. They created a world for the player to run amok with their friends.
In fact, GTA V’s impact on players is best summed up in this No Clip documentary.
If you don’t have time to watch the video I’ll say this, the game is set up so that it creates pockets of friends and communities all over the world. People build relationships, create stories and memories in-game, and it’s something that goes beyond a simple video game and becomes important to the human beings that play it. It’s something that Rockstar now has a responsibility to facilitate properly or risk really damaging it’s player base.
One more point I wanted to make was that Rockstar also focuses on high-quality single-player story experiences. GTA V had one of the best storylines featured in a game. Red Dead Redemption had a similarly amazing story. Because of this focus on storytelling, Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the hottest, most anticipated games this year. Gamers appreciate the experiences that Rockstar creates because it focuses on immersing the player into something they couldn’t experience without it. And everytime Gamers put their trust in Rockstar to deliver, they seem to accomplish it and then some.
DLC and microtransactionshave been a hot topic since the tail end of 2017. But the truth is, most games have DLC and microtransactions. It’s nothing new to gamers, it’s just some companies pull it off much better than others.
Rockstar pulls off DLC and Microstransaction and here’s why it actually builds trust with gamers.
The company has an interesting model and it’s similar to what CD Projekt Red does. If you’re not familiar with loss leaders as a strategy it’s nothing new to the business world. In fact, Barbie was often sold at cost or even at a loss and the company would make their money selling her clothes and accessories.
It’s a simple strategy: low barrier to entry > high-value creation > expand on the experience.
Rockstar (and CD Projekt Red) have a similar strategy only that it’s backward.
They released a high-quality product that us gamers paid full price for, Grand Theft Auto 5. Then, they release their DLC for free and even go as far as to advertise it with expensive TV spots. That free DLC does 2 things.
- It drives new sales of their original product, Grand Theft Auto V.
- It drives the current player base back into the game.
So they drive the sales of their original product by providing extra stuff and new experiences for gamers. Similar to the Barbie strategy but again, backwards.
In speaking to a number of gamers online, one thing was clear among the GTA V community. When Rockstar says something, they deliver.
No company is safe from criticism and mistakes. Rockstar is not a perfect company. But what they do right is create transparency through their social channels, own up to their mistakes and fix it.
Rockstar is one of the only companies that when posting saying things like “we postponed the game to work on it and won’t be out for another year” I’m perfectly cool with it cause they deliver smash hits and give us what we want. pic.twitter.com/PI2b6yjhZQ
— SomeCanadianGuy📷 (@JMcanulty91) January 4, 2018
When companies like Rockstar, EA and Bungie come under fire from their community, they have an opportunity that not many get, to do something awesome. When all eyes are on you, you have the opportunity to control the next steps, to fix the problem, to create good-will amongst your supporters and followers. Some seize the opportunity and some flub it. Rockstar is one of the few companies that when they say they’re going to fix something, they do it, creating trust amongst its player.
So how is Rockstar earning trust among players?
Rockstar combines community development, transparency, and their player-first business model to create trust amongst its players. They develop worlds that people find friends and build communities in. Rockstar then creates experiences for these groups and communities. When something goes wrong. Rockstar fixes it. And in the end, Rockstar drives more sales of it’s product through free DLC packs that push the idea of again, building communities.
CD Projekt Red
CD Projekt Red is the Polish studio behind The Witcher series. They’re rebels with a cause and have quickly jumped to the top of gamers favorite studios list.
Rebellious Beginnings – Thinking Inside The Box
CD Projekt Red comes from rebellious beginnings. In the early days, the company would sell bootleg copies of popular video games because they weren’t available in Poland back when they first began. Eventually, they ended up making a living of selling games (legally) in Poland when they struck a number of deals to be Poland’s exclusive supplier of games. Their big break came when they had the opportunity to sell the very popular RPG, Baldur’s Gate.
But there was a problem.
Bootleg games were still popular and CD Projekt Red was competing with something they started. So they did something that they would become a habit for years to come.
They thought inside the box.
To compete with bootleggers, they would include extra items in the box of the games they sold. These would be collectible items like maps, trinkets, and guides that gamers really appreciated and valued. They also focused on a high-quality experience. While the bootleg games featured really shotty polish voice their games would feature crisp polish translations for a seamless and professional experience.
And their most recent game, The Witcher 3, followed suit with their early beginnings.
The game came with a Map of all of the Northern Realms as well as the soundtrack for the game. Their quests were exciting and memorable and their DLC work was of a very high quality.
The Players Journey – In-game and out
CD Projekt Red thinks about the player’s journey, and not just in the game. From start to finish, the studio makes sure each and every gamer feels appreciated. As mentioned, before you even begin the game, each player is given added value with all the great stuff CD Projekt Red includes with their games (maps, CD’s). But the real effort is in their gameplay.
When CD Projekt Red began development of the Witcher 3, they wanted to make the biggest game they’ve ever made. They’ve had experience making and playing RPG’s in the past (The Witcher, The Witcher 2, Baldurs Gate) and knew they had to go big or go home if they wanted to put Poland on the game development map.
They had something to prove.
CD Projekt Red wanted to prove that Polish RPG’s could be as good, if not better, than North American RPG’s. So they set out to make the biggest and best RPG they possibly could.
But there’s one thing specifically that stands out to gamers. One thing that made the experience truly special.
When CD Projekt began work on the Witcher 3, they vowed to not have any “fetch quest”. These are quests you often find in RPG’s that task the player with collecting a number of items for no reason other than that the game requires it of them. These type of quests have been ingrained in North American RPG’s and are often expected, although seen as fillers and time waster to make the gameplay longer.
So CD Projekt made sure to change this.
With every quest in the Witcher 3, you’ll notice there’s a significant story to tell. CD Projekt Red wanted to make sure that every quest had a point, had a story, and had some sort of twist in the end. They wanted to make each and every quest memorable.
It’s this type of player-first mentality that makes CD Projekt Red truly special game creators in the industry.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Showing gamers how much they’re appreciated doesn’t stop once the game is completed for the studio. In fact, it carries over much further.
CD Projekt Red has a similar business model to Rockstar. They release a high-quality product that us gamers pay full-price for. In this case, it’s The Witcher 3. Then they go on to release significant, high-quality chunks of FREE DLC. In fact, in the same fashion as Rockstar they utilize the free DLC to push sales of their original product. This gives old players a reason to jump back in, new players a reason to jump in for the first time AND makes all players feel very appreciated for supporting the company in the first place.
So how is CD Projekt Red earning trust among players?
CD Projekt Red prides themselves on giving gamers value and making them feel important every step of the way. From the very beginning of opening the box, gamers are given extra value with maps, CD’s and other special offers. During gameplay, gamers notice the subtle details and nods from the quality of the product that CD Projekt Red acknowledges their consumers time is important and doesn’t want to waste it. In the end, players are given more high-quality stories in the beautiful worlds that the company creates.
CD Projekt Red acknowledges the importance of its players and makes them feel appreciated every step of the way.