Where Have All the Gamers Gone?

The rising popularity and convenience of smartphones have paved the way for success for casual games such as Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Infinity Blade. But do not let the term “mobile gaming” fool you – according to a survey by Mocospace, 96% of respondents play mobile games at home.

What does this mean for people in the video game industry? The good news is that these folks are still raking in the money. The bad news? Game sales are “on their lowest level since 2006”.

If you were a video game giant, what would you do to resuscitate sales?

Some have turned to social networking to reconnect with its users. Nintendo, creator of the world-famous moustachioed plumber, had a while back its own cozy discussion forum but has since closed it down. While it is unclear why Nintendo had made this move, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the forum had stopped helping Nintendo achieve an intended purpose. On the other hand, Nintendo is experiencing success with its Facebook community, which currently has 1,859,478 likes, with 30,910 from this month alone. If you scroll down the page and read some of the posts, you will see an immense number of likes, comments, and shares – one post in July has 2,011 likes, 947 comments, and 114 shares.

Sony Playstation is well known for game franchises such as Resistance and Uncharted. Unlike its rival Nintendo, however, the company maintains an active virtual community. Its Facebook page currently has 24,268,160 likes and one its posts in July even has 8,604 likes, 290 comments, and 603 shares. Needless to say, Sony Playstation is winning the race based on numbers alone.

There can be many explanations for this, including external, indirect factors such as differences in target audience, product pricing, product lineup, and in other aspects. Let us look at how the companies differ in terms of their social networking activity.

Unfortunately, we cannot compare their discussion forums because Nintendo’s is no longer in existence. A quick look at that of Sony Playstation reveals an extensive list of sub-communities tailored for fans of specific games, which suggests that the company wants to have something for everyone as well as encourage in-depth game discussions.

With respect to the Facebook communities, I noticed that both companies post on a frequent basis but Nintendo has on a few occasions gone one to two weeks without putting up a post. In an era where brands are fighting for the public’s attention, a pause in communications could very well transform a happy fan into a disinterested user. Nintendo may want to put on its thinking cap and increase its outreach efforts.

After looking a bit further into both Facebook pages, I was flabbergasted to discover that neither brand responds to user comments! Granted, it may be difficult to deal with a large number of commenters, but users who want to speak directly with the brand will eventually get tired of seeing their comments disappear into a black hole. Thankfully, the nature of Facebook facilitates user-to-user discussions so this sort of activity can keep people somewhat interested in the two Facebook pages. Nonetheless, Nintendo and Sony Playstation can benefit immensely from becoming an active participant in the discussions.

If video game companies want to regain their market positions and compete against mobile gaming, they had better smarten up and pull out all the stops. And what is the first thing that they should do? They need to start chatting with people and stop talking at them.

What else do you think they should do to increase user engagement?

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