Game developers need to adopt a more proactive approach towards communication
Looking at the case of Valve Corporation, they have been exceptionally bad when it comes to communication, especially regarding Dota 2.
In the gaming industry and the world of esports many game developers are guilty of making promises to fans that they are unable to keep. This has led to some developers choosing an alternative of being very secretive of their plans and as such they refuse to communicate, in some cases even going so far as to not explain their decisions.
Looking at some of the biggest players in the industry and the behaviour they have shown in this regard, the most famous case of a company that refuses to talk to the community about upcoming features is Valve Corporation, the giant behind both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
On the other side of the spectrum there are people such as Peter Molyneux who have made a reputation for overpromising on their upcoming games. The situation with companies and personalities like Molyneux are spread across the industry. The biggest examples that come to mind in this regard are Watch Dogs in 2012, the game trailer that was shown during E3 that year had significantly better graphics than the actual game. Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are both games that promised to offer players dedicated Multiplayer servers, yet this feature was never added to the actual game.
Looking at the case of Valve Corporation, they have been exceptionally bad when it comes to communication, especially regarding Dota 2. The issue is so extreme that many Dota 2 fans have even switched to other games such as League of Legends (LoL) since Riot Games is more proactive with their communication. This is a major issue because the competitive environment for Dota 2 is richest in the world, with 14 out of 15 richest gamers being Dota 2 players. LoL on the other hand has even seen a decline in the cumulative yearly prize pool across all tournaments.
The justification given by Valve for their lack of communication is one that has only come in the recent times, with a blog post stating they are afraid to disappoint fans by making unachievable promises. The very same post also promises fans that Valve Corporation will be more proactive with communication in the future. This post was made alongside the release of an in-game event. The result of this has been very promising for the game, reaching its highest player count at the start of October this year (after five straight months of a decline in player count leading into October).
The other major example in terms of lack of communication is when game developers make controversial decisions without informing involved parties, the most recent of which is in the world of Rainbow Six Siege. The developer Ubisoft on 12 November decided to kick a team (eUnited) out of their professional league even though the team had managed to retain their right to their spot (based on league results). The reasoning behind the kick was due to the team sponsor having backed out of the esport. The decision has left fans extremely frustrated, even more so by the fact that the players involved found out through a Twitter post instead of being told privately. While this kick is within the rules of the league, the team that was supposed to be relegated instead (Tempo Storm) is also without a sponsor and hence plays independently.
While sharing does lead to the risk of disappointing fans, it a better than the alternative. Lack of communication altogether denies the game developer the option of explaining their more controversial decisions to involved parties and as such there is often little room for reconciliation. The decision made by Valve Corporation in the recent few weeks and the success it seems to be bringing to the game of Dota 2 is only further evidence in favour of adopting a more proactive approach towards communication. In the days to come we will probably see more developers choosing to go down this route as well.
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