When developing a video game using an original intellectual property (IP), one of the primary goals creators have is connecting to an audience. On the development side, the entire process fixates on making a fun and captivating game so more and more players will enjoy the experience. From a marketing perspective, however, there’s more to the equation.
Having an audience before a game launches is a surefire way to build a brand and encourage discoverability in digital game stores when the title finally releases. In order to build an audience, developers need to establish a true connection with fans both inside and outside the game before it is even completed. Dedicated fans can boost awareness of a game simply by engaging with and creating meaningful, authentic, and shareable content. Using social outreach in a variety of channels, developers can begin to build an online community and connect with their audience well before the launch of a game.
Our work with Until You Fall shines as a strong example of building community through social platforms. In this VR sword-fighting title, Until You Fall sets players in a menacing neon landscape where they are the sole hope to destroy the vicious monsters that now occupy it. This single-player experience, at its core, strives to embody the essence of becoming an epic warrior through satisfying interactions and challenging battles with a “lone survivor” lore. From the start we wanted to build a community of engaged and loyal champions willing to come together and evangelize the game.
Because our game is an original IP that players had never heard of before, we started by testing the waters. We encouraged our developers to share snippets and sneak peeks of their work across their own social networks, using specific hashtags to uncover potential target audiences for the game.
The next step in the process was creating specific social media channels for the game to separate it from our corporate messaging. Schell Games works on a large number of games in a diverse array of genres, so setting up individual channels for our major titles allows us to keep all of the latest announcements, developments, and community engagement for that game consolidated into one place. Additionally, most games are better known for their titles rather than the companies who develop them. Creating unique social channels for our original IPs allows them to develop their own differing identities, branding, and communities.
Our community continued to grow through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Using these platforms, we were able to update players on the progress of the game’s development, promote our convention and trade show appearances, provide creative messaging for the company’s family and friends to share, and build the Until You Fall brand through its mysterious lore. In August 2019, the game released in Early Access, and our focus shifted to promotion, recruitment, and directing players to our primary hub for the game’s community: our Discord.
We're just one week away from our Early Access release! You can find Until You Fall on @steam_games here: https://t.co/rIKI8wJ49z and make sure you join our Discord channel for the most up-to-date information about the game: https://t.co/Sg7XzqoRgO pic.twitter.com/CiwLUtlUNM
— Until You Fall (@UntilYouFallVR) August 21, 2019
Discord is a well-known social platform within the gaming community. As a free service that works both on desktop and mobile, Discord describes itself as “the only free and secure voice, video, and text app designed for gamers.” We started our Discord in April 2019, from scratch, and continued to promote the channel as the “go to” source to learn more about the game and to communicate with our developers directly.
Many members of our dev team became active participants in the community, which only helped to encourage more involvement and recruitment to the server. By August 2019, we had reached 300 members, and then in September 2019 when the game came to Early Access, we almost doubled the number to 570. The momentum continued to grow from there.
With channels dedicated to sharing battle tactics and gameplay strategies to posting pictures of real-life pets or favorite memes, the Discord builds community through the basis of friendly communication – both revolving around Until You Fall and not. It has become the central hub for our community members to share, learn, and grow.
To encourage daily interactions, our developers are quite active on the server. We created two specific channels for players to interact even more with our team: one to report any in-game issues or bugs they experienced and another for them to share their ideas, suggestions, and feedback for what they’d like to see added to or modified in the game. These channels have been critical in growing the Discord server, as they reassure the players that “we are listening,” and that their involvement in the community matters.
Once a month, members of the Discord community have access to a new challenge for a chance to earn rewards and prizes. Typically, these challenges involve completing in-game feats like reaching the final boss of the game with a specific set of weapons. We also implemented more creative-based tasks, such as submitting fan art or humorous screenshots. The prizes for completing the challenges varies, but we regularly reward the victors with physical swag and exclusive Until You Fall-themed merchandise.
The challenges serve as a way to engage with players’ competitive side, effectively turning the single-player game into a multiplayer experience. And the results couldn’t be more wholesome and satisfying. Skilled Until You Fall veterans compete for the fastest speed run of the game while also encouraging and mentoring newcomers or less-skilled players. The community has taken it upon itself to train lesser-skilled members and truly embrace the game’s challenges. In fact, when Until You Fall was included in the Virtual Athletics League’s VR Fitness Summit in early September 2020, all three of the finalists for the tournament were active members of the Discord community.
Until You Fall has had an exciting past few months. The game launched in its 1.0 version across four different platforms (Steam, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and PlayStation®VR). We collaborated with multiple influencers and streamers to showcase the game across wider audiences. Our Discord server community has grown to more than 2,300 members in just over a year, consistently bringing in well over 150 new members each month since April 2020. Our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels are trending solidly upward as well. The game continues to receive positive acclaim from critics and fans alike. In fact, it is nominated in the VR Game of the Year category at the Fourth International VR Awards. The game has a strong forward momentum, and much of its success is attributed to its community.