Stardock Producer Shares Four Tips For Building Loyal Fans

from the that's-how-its-done dept

If I had to choose one company as the antithesis to Ubisoft's boneheaded take on business, I would probably choose Stardock. Stardock is one of those companies that continues to do everything right while many other companies in the video game industry insist it is wrong. So, it really comes as no surprise that Stardock producer Jon Shafer wrote that respecting your fans should be one of the most important aspects of doing business. He makes four very good points in this essay that I think all entertainment companies can learn from.

First up, Jon speaks about the importance of demos to a project's success:
When you don't put out a demo, some people will start asking questions… is it because the game isn't any good and the developer is afraid people will find out? Did they run out of time and the lack of a demo is a sign that the game is sloppy and unfinished? You don't want players asking those questions -- you want them trying out your awesome game and telling everyone they know about it.
We have spoken numerous times about the importance of fans being able to sample entertainment before they buy. We have seen study after study that shows that those who have the ability to try things out before dropping money for it, are much more likely to not only buy, but buy more. Why would you deny your fans the ability to try out your game, music, book or movie? A nice demo can go a long way.

Next up, Jon shares some words about interacting with fans:
As developers working on the oft-mundane, daily tasks required in making a piece of software, we often lose sight of the fact that there are also many players who love our work. For them the opportunity to talk with someone that worked on their favorite game is incredibly exciting (something we are occasionally reminded of when we get to meet the creators of our favorite games!).
Ah. The old adage of connecting with fans. What this does is make sure that not only that the fans like your work, but that they also like you. We know that it is far easier for customers to buy something from a company or a person they actually like. The best way to gain that affection is to put yourself out there and communicate with your fans.

Then, Jon speaks about giving fans ownership:
Players like having ownership. It's one of the reasons why they're playing games (an active form of entertainment) rather than experiencing a self-contained work in another medium. The absolute best way to hand over the keys to your game is to make it moddable. Many of the most beloved and long-lasting games of all time are also highly moddable, and their communities live on long after the last official update. Why? Because the players took ownership and had a vested interest in the longevity and overall success of the game. This sort of relationship between player and game is only possible when the players have the power to reshape the game to their liking.
While modding itself is unique to gaming, the idea behind it is as old as recorded media. The idea behind modding is pretty close to that of remixing in other media. This desire to reshape and make our own the entertainment we consume is something that should be embraced by successful creators. Doing so not only gains you more fans, but also ensures that your work will live on in the hearts and minds of those who enjoy it.

Finally, Jon speaks on piracy:
Ah, the elephant in the room. I’ll just put it this way: if the CIA can get hacked, you’re not going to be able to prevent your game from being cracked. Sorry. You can't stop piracy. Focus on building up a fanbase and higher sales through goodwill instead of trying to bend the internet to your will. If you're spending a ton of effort trying to "win the war" on piracy, then you're wasting resources you could have been used to make better games. The reason why studios like Blizzard and Valve are so successful and beloved is because they focus on delivering the best games possible, time and money be damned. Don't make enemies of paying customers by making them jump through hoops. As history shows us, in most wars there are no winners -- only losers.
We are already well aware of Stardock's official position on piracy. It would rather maximize sales than waste resources fighting a losing battle. This is something that many people within the entertainment industry need to learn. Piracy is a symptom of far larger problems. By wasting time and money fighting it, you are shifting resources away from those areas that truly matter to the end consumer.

While these four points are nothing new to many of us here, they are things that too many still have not learned or refuse to recognize. It is time to stop the war on fans and begin to embrace them and their culture. Times are changing. People do not consume entertainment in the same ways they did ten years ago. Fans know what they like and know who provides it. Those who refuse to adapt are going to be left behind.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2012 @ 8:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Again, love how you ignore, literally, almost everything I said and nitpick at a handful of things to continue on your tirade about piracy, which has almost nothing to do with the actual article.

    "The problem of piracy is that it's an all or nothing sort of thing. People don't pirate a "sample", they take the whole damn thing - and in as good condition and as high quality as the original. Why would they buy it after that, except perhaps as some sort of tip jar morality play?"

    NO ONE BUT YOU IS TALKING ABOUT PIRACY. The original point was about demos. You went off on full copies. I made a valid comparison for a game demo to the equivalent "demo" of a movie, book and album.

    "There are those who rip games apart, change things, and so on (see the post above yours). Things don't stop at just pirating the game, some feel the need and desire to re-engineer it, or to use the technology to their own ends. None of which contributes to selling anything or moving the main company forward."

    Modding contributes to selling a game and moving a company forward. They see what some want from their game, per the mods made available, and incorporate them to the next iteration of the game or add them to the current version themselves making them "official".

    Again, get over piracy. Not relevant to the article at all. Focus on the article.

    "Sort of missing it, aren't you? If the market is demanding something that is not realistic, and the company chooses not to meet it, why does it justify piracy? Does your boss not paying you more the mimimum wage justify robbing people so you have enough money to party? Does it justify you forcing your way for free into a theater to see a movie? What you are doing is stating the common justification for piracy. If a company doesn't meet your desires or wants, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE - it's not a permission slip for piracy. Once you get over that mental block, the rest of your post makes so much less sense, really!"

    No, the one missing the point, as it pertains to the article and proper discussion at hand, is YOU. As for the market, what is unrealistic about their demands? Reasonable prices? No DRM? No windowed releases? You consider all that "unrealistic"? If a company doesn't meet people's desires they will go somewhere else. Whether that somewhere else is legal or not is irrelevant. That you don't like it, also irrelevant. Someone will meet the demand, if you're not willing to then that's on you.

    And again, no one is justifying piracy or discussing piracy, it's all you.

    "This is key: if you have the full product already, full use, without restriction, then payment is but a tip. It's a way of saying thanks. "

    That's if you have the full product already. But in order to get it, you must pay first. The only people getting it that way are people pirating it, which again, is not what the article is about. Why you insist on essentially repeating yourself over and over is beyond me? Try and stick to the topic at hand. I know it's tough when you want to stand on your podium and bitch, but try and get off your cross, okay? You just might learn a thing or two.

    "Is that willful ignorance on your behalf, or are you just trying to be misleading? You purchase RIGHTS. Stop looking at the shiny disk or whatever, that is just a carrying medium. What you are buying is a license, you are purchasing a collection of rights. Yes, they are sometimes limited, mostly in the manner that doesn't allow you to bang out 50 copies for your best friends."

    No, that is not willful ignorance on my behalf. I know how things work and I know that I am purchasing certain rights and the limitations included. However, I am not the majority. And most customers aren't aware about purchasing "rights". They think if they pay for something they can do with it as they please. "Yes, they are sometimes limited". That is the key point I made, and it's not "sometimes", it's "always". And it's not just to prevent you from sending copies to 50 friends, it's to limit your usage and to force you to spend more money to get the same product again in a different format or be accessible on another device. Essentially, taking advantage of your position and feeling entitled to take more money for what should already be possible/allowable but for which you have had certainly laws to prevent.

    Now, again, who's the entitled bunch? Because from a consumer perspective, it's you and your type. If you want to be up front about the "rights" we purchase, by all means go for it. Put it on each and every dvd, cd, and book in standard and easily understandable terms, no legalese (which only confuses people and thus leads to problems). Then let's see if people still want to buy your stuff knowing full well what they can and can't do with it, what limitations it may or may not have, what features are (un)surprisingly missing or cost extra and so on and so forth.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.