Defining the Player Experience Gap: Why Gaming Companies Need to Level Up Player Engagement

Player engagement and player experience are closely interconnected in the realm of video games. Player engagement refers to the extent to which players are captivated, involved, and invested in a game.

Player engagement is influenced by many different factors, including gameplay mechanics, progression systems, graphics, storytelling, content updates, and in-game events. However, an element that is often overlooked is the effect of inadequate player support and community management.  

When facing issues while playing a game, players expect them to be resolved quickly, either by getting help from fellow players in the community or by contacting player support.  

Gaming involves an emotional attachment which is hard to compare with any other product or service. Being unable to get an issue resolved not only leads to frustration and dissatisfaction; it can severely diminish player engagement. 

Effects of Having Disengaged Players 

Having disengaged players can have several negative consequences for a game, affecting both its short-term and long-term success. The key consequences of having disengaged players: 

Declining Player Retention: when disengaged, players are more likely to stop playing a game. This leads to a decline in player retention, meaning fewer active players over time. A shrinking player base can negatively impact the game’s ecosystem and overall success. 

Reduced Monetization Opportunities: Disengaged players are less likely to spend money on in-game purchases, limiting monetization opportunities for the game. They may be less motivated to invest in cosmetic items, expansions, or premium features, resulting in decreased revenue generation for the game company. 

Negative Word-of-Mouth: Disengaged players who are dissatisfied with their experience may spread negative word-of-mouth about the game. This can deter potential new players from trying or purchasing the game. Negative reviews, social media posts, or forum discussions can significantly impact the game’s reputation and potential success, leading to lower sales and diminished market presence. 

Poor Community Interaction: Disengaged players are less likely to actively participate in the game’s community. They may be less inclined to engage in discussions, provide feedback, or contribute positively to the community environment. This lack of involvement can result in a less vibrant and supportive community, affecting the overall social experience for other players. 

Impact on Development Priorities: Disengaged players may not provide valuable feedback or suggestions for improving the game. This lack of input can hinder the development team’s understanding of player preferences and needs. Without insights from disengaged players, the game company may struggle to make informed decisions about updates, patches, and future content, potentially missing opportunities for improvement. 

Missed Opportunities for Upselling and Expansion: Disengaged players who have already purchased the base game may be less likely to invest in additional expansions, DLCs, or sequels. This results in missed opportunities for upselling and expanding the game’s revenue streams. Disengagement can limit the game’s potential for ongoing monetization and growth. 

The Complexity of Player Support  

In comparison with customer support in other industries, there is lots of room for improvement when it comes to player support for video games. While it’s important to note that there are exceptions and variations, here are some general points of observation:

Response Times: Video game companies often face challenges in meeting prompt response times due to unanticipated, significant volume swings and the complexity of game-related issues.  

Technical Complexity: Video games can be highly complex software products, with a wide range of technical issues that players may encounter. Troubleshooting and resolving these issues can be more challenging compared to industries where the products are relatively simpler or more standardized. This complexity can lead to longer resolution times for player support. 

Community and Self-Help Resources: In the video game industry, companies often rely on community forums, knowledge bases, and self-help resources to address common player concerns. While these resources can provide helpful information, they may not always fully meet the specific needs of players.  

Support Channels: Video game companies typically offer support through a limited amount of support channels: mostly email and online ticketing systems, sometimes complemented with online chat. The (lack of) availability of diverse channels can impact the accessibility and convenience of player support. 

Proactive Communication: communicating proactively to provide updates or inform players about known issues is crucial to prevent getting overflowed with inquiries. While some game companies actively engage with the player community and provide regular updates, many others are lacking proactive communication, leading to a detrimental experience. 

The Player Experience Gap 

Player expectations in combination with the complexity of supporting a game and the fact that many video game companies do not consider it a priority are leading to a so-called “Player Experience Gap”.  

Bridging the player experience gap is more than nice to have. In the highly competitive landscape of the video game industry, negative player experiences lead to disengaged players, which in turn contribute to player churn and several other negative side-effects. The abundance of gaming options and the constant release of new titles means players have numerous alternatives to choose from. 

It’s worth noting that the video game industry has made efforts to improve player support in the past decade. Some companies have expanded their support resources, increased transparency, and invested in more responsive communication. However, there is still room for improvement to meet the ever-evolving needs and expectations of players. 

The challenge is to find the right balance between people and technology. While technology offers automation and scalability, the human element adds empathy and personalized assistance. Especially for games, where the emotional attachment to the game is such an important aspect. While technology enables gaming companies to handle common player inquiries more efficiently, it’s crucial to have support agents who truly understand the players’ point of view to provide a human touch and handle complex issues.  

In conclusion, the negative effects of inadequate player support can be detrimental to both players and gaming companies. Insufficient or ineffective support leads to frustrated players, resulting in a range of negative consequences. Players may become dissatisfied, leading to reduced engagement, negative word-of-mouth, and even churn, impacting the game’s reputation and revenue. Investing in robust player support to mitigate these negative effects is a must in today’s competitive landscape. It will help to ensure a positive player experience, foster player satisfaction, and build a strong and loyal player base.

Learn more about how we can help you to bridge the player experience gap.

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