User-generated content (UGC) gives power to players while ultimately supporting game developers. It has become so popular in games that it doesn’t just come in one form and can range from game modding to creating avatars or even just sharing screenshots and images across social media.
Studies show that UGC influences and converts potential audiences into buying, or in this case playing, more games — as it acts as authentic proof that it is popular and worth playing. Content that is made directly by users is proven to increase user engagement overall. In fact, it has been found that there is a 28% increase in customer engagement when user-generated content and official product videos merge and work together.
This type of influence works because UGC is trusted much more by the audience than the brand’s advertising. It is more organic and therefore seems authentic and genuine — we tend to trust other people’s judgment. For example, research shows that millennials trust UGC 50% more than the original content generated by brands. UGC is so powerful that brands crave to have their audience create content, as it shows the experience of a product or game, increases a game’s life and helps build a community. Global gaming titans such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and The Sims have UGC strategies that have proven successful within their communities.
UGC is now considered such a valuable tool in game development, that should be considered from the early stages of a games ideation. It allows developers to gain clear insight into the mind of their users- and to find out what is most important to them. Players might screenshot and share their achievements across social media, showcase their avatars, or even create their own modifications or worlds within games- all leading to the creation of some sort of user generated content. UGC opens a dialogue between the developer and the player like never before.
By analysing the types of content that is shared, along with the frequency of each, game developers have the opportunity to understand what their players enjoy, and want to see more of. This helps them to know what areas to spend most of their time and money focussing on, as well as what parts are not as popular.
User-generated content can showcase the creativity and space in which people build their own realities within games. It is a chance for developers to view those realities and get a peek inside their players’ heads. It can be used to expand the overall game experience, increase user engagement and retention within the game, and also act as a cost-effective form of marketing. This is incredibly powerful marketing, as users bring in continuous fresh content, which significantly enhances player experience, as there is always something fresh and exciting to enjoy.
Games that are heavily run with user generated content have many benefits and pitfalls that game developers need to be aware of when integrating UGC into their games.
Advantages of UGC to developers:
- Gaining insight into what is most important to players can help fuel and strengthen the next generation of games, improving future versions of the game itself. It can also influence more people to play the game as they see something they are attracted to and want to play themselves.
- Sharing UGC allows players to feel like a crucial part of the community, as they are the ones creating the life and spark of the game.
- UGC allows developers to analyze what is important to their players, and new organic traffic can be generated by viral content due to word-of-mouth.
Disadvantages of UGC to developers:
- UGC always poses the risk of having negative content associated with the game- which developers may fear that this may tarnish their image. Moderation and community guidelines are key to ensuring UGC is managed correctly.
- Games that are popular with user-generated content require close supervision. Game developers will be unable to monitor every piece of content, but they must oversee and monitor to ensure that nothing discriminatory is published which could threaten your reputation.
There are many ways that game developers can make their games more attractive to UGC creators, which can result in more people playing their games, talking about their games, and investing their time and money into their brand.
By investing time and research into the type of content that will appeal to their audience, and get the most engagement, game developers can think of unique trends which their audiences are likely to follow. Starting a trend that will interest their audience and make them feel like they want to get involved, will help create hype around your video game and give players a reason to talk about it.
For example, starting game challenges on Tik Tok, such as Temple Run green screen- which allowed players to enter into the game themselves by using the green screen feature to play as the avatar within the game. This will not only get your users engaged in fun activities associated with your game, but it will also increase the brand visibility.
Encourage your community to share their experiences
Knowing what your target market is passionate about and the type of content they like to create and engage with is essential, and inviting your audience to share their experiences will make them feel valued. This shows that you are interested in receiving ideas from them, and they are part of the game development process. It will help you to understand your audience better, build upon your brand message around their concerns, and make your messages clear and relevant directly to them. Monitoring various hashtags and keywords on social media platforms can help you to gain deeper insight into the content that your players share the most.
Create incredible experiences within games
By making your content engaging and creative, this will ignite the spark for your players to share their content with one another. Asking your players to share their experiences as they enjoy your game is an excellent way to create shareable content. It’s also easy to integrate into a game by adding social media share buttons and shortcuts to virtual photography mechanics.
Make it easy for players to get creative in game
It is important for developers to consider what creative opportunities they will offer players as early as possible. For example in The Sims, Divinity:Original Sin 2 and Grand Theft Auto they have substantial modding communities, all built around UGC, while Roblox and YAHAHA make it easy for users to create their own content. Developers should focus on creating features which encourage UGC such as customisable features within the games, and buttons which allow the opportunity for sharing. They should make creative guides for their users, and host competitions which encourage this creativity. For example, in the game Genshin Impact, there is a competition where users must take several pictures around the world on their various quests.
Overall, game developers should focus on empowering their users to get involved and create within the communities of games they are passionate about. It’s not only proven beneficial for the users to get involved and create, but it is also useful for the game developers who can make their games stronger by analyzing what is important to their players. Developers need to understand the importance that UGC can have on their game and consider implementing strategies from the early planning stages throughout the game development process. These methods of engaging users and encouraging them to get involved with UGC excites fans and create stronger communities for the games themselves.
About the author
Darya Steel is the Chief Community Manager of Gameram, an innovative community driven app for mobile gamers across the globe to share their video game achievements, make new friends and explore new games.
Headquartered in Cyprus, Gameram prides itself on creating a welcoming space for mobile gamers to openly share their passion and accomplishments with likeminded people.