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How gaming startups can listen, learn and level up with players

by Ana Lopez
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Vickie Chen is an 18-year veteran of the gaming industry and is the founder and CEO of Avia Games, Inc.

The looming threat of a global economic crisis has led to a series of market changes, from diminished revenues to a slowdown in development and creation, as companies announced dismissed in gaming media during the first part of this year. However, despite the economic outlook, the gaming sector is expected to pay off $321 billion in 2026, according to a new report from PwC. They note that one of the most important segments is fueling this grow in the gaming industry is social and casual gaming.

So what does this mean for gaming startups in today’s competitive market in the near term? As the market continues to shake, I suggest focusing on nurturing the player community and retaining users. When it comes to cultivating a gaming platform that users value and prefer over others now and in the future, pay attention to three areas of focus: listening, learning, and leveling up.

Listen to players

Given the market conditions, instead of pouring heavy resources into new offerings, focus on player needs and create a foundation ready for future growth. You can have an unparalleled game idea; at the end of the day, however, it doesn’t matter how good the idea is if you don’t cultivate a community of users.

Constantly look for ways to improve, enrich and nurture your user community. It starts with listening, whether through focus groups, player forums or support initiatives.

For example, at my company, we have a dedicated research team tasked with analyzing data, identifying issues, and designing and conducting user surveys to proactively collect feedback. This feedback is then shared with production, marketing and customer service teams to continuously adjust and improve based on real user insight. In addition, we make it easy and accessible for users to access 24/7 customer support if they need help.

It’s critical for businesses to know what works and what needs to be tweaked to better meet gameplay needs.

Learn from players

An in-game or in-app interface, design, and level of usability determine whether a user continues to participate. The app developers and publishers better set for success when it comes to customer satisfaction are the ones with a research team that works closely and collaborates with production, marketing, and customer service teams to learn from players and adapt.

Ensure you have a team dedicated to analyzing data, identifying issues, designing and conducting user surveys, and coordinating interviews and focus group studies so that your company is best placed to be proactive when it comes to to collect and respond to user feedback.

It is also important to have the right infrastructure in place to support listening and learning opportunities for users with very high daily engagement. There’s no question that data is king, but having the right tools for analyzing data is just as important, if not more important, when it comes to learning user preferences and behavior. Analytics can provide deep insights into who users are, how they interact with each other, and more, giving businesses valuable insight to learn from and ultimately enable them to deliver better user experiences.

As well as data learning, it’s just as important to make sure you’re on top of what users are proactively saying about your offering or company in general. Monitoring player reviews, along with following conversations on related forums and social media groups or pages, is an additional way to learn about user demographics, preferences, and more.

Take your business to the next level

Savvy companies will use the insight gained from listening, including pain points, common feedback, and common topics, to share and integrate with other teams to refine the product.

It is this dynamically extracted, direct user feedback that helps developers and publishers continuously adjust and improve their offerings to better meet user needs. This means focusing on feedback, building strong customer support, and improving accessibility, including multiple ways for users to connect with the community and provide support.

And listening goes beyond reading, it also includes acknowledging the feedback through social media channels and support channels and even showing users the ways in which you have incorporated feedback.

Today’s game publishers must be vigilant and committed to consumer needs to earn a place at the top of the leaderboard. I believe user retention is the key to success in such a highly competitive industry.

In addition to listening to user insights, incorporating instant feedback, and using these lessons to improve offerings, it’s also important to provide users with a personalized experience with diverse and engaging content and access to customer support. At the end of the day, it’s all about player preferences, habits, attention, time and spending – and the insights that emerge from this data are critical to guiding product, technology and business decisions.

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