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Game Fan Sites and Their Relationship to the Games They Represent

Introduction

When it comes to video game fan sites, there is something that they all have in common: they are designed to help support the game they are created about. For example, TERA fan sites are there to help support the game TERA. As such, the fan site owners generally want to go for a more symbiotic relationship, where the fan site and the game feed off each other and both become more successful as a result of their work. Through this article I want to look at the importance of forming strong relationships, as well as the things that game companies can do to help foster them. I will also be looking at a couple of the game publishers and the effects of their decisions with relation to working with their fan sites.

Benefit 1: Traffic

This actually works both ways, when utilized properly, but will always result in the game's site being visited more frequently. Fan sites are a great way for people that are still looking in to the game or are looking for updates to decide whether they want to jump (back) in to it again. The fan sites offer a pretty solid view of what the game is currently like, any hot topics that are going on within the game, and what to look forward to in the near and distant future. As a result, they are like a news site for gamers, only instead of focusing on every game out there, they focus on just one. This makes the data much more relevant because they are run by people who play the game and actively take part in it. It, of course, does not mean that there is no bias; it simply means that you are dealing with people who actually play the game, rather than just someone who was sent a press release that they can share. The difference between these two is massive, and it shows pretty clearly.

If a game publisher is properly supporting their fan sites, they will also drive traffic back towards them. This benefits both sites, in that it helps get more awareness for the fan site, while giving the game's players another place to go for information. While forums and the official sites are great sources, sometimes you need different opinions or other information that just can not be found anywhere else. This is where the fan sites start to bring in the real benefit.

Benefit 2: Longevity

Another benefit, and one you may not have already taken in to consideration, is that fan sites help keep games alive longer. When someone is searching for a game and they find a lot of fan sites that are updated and have awesome information, that is a sort of social call that says “hey, this game is worth us spending our time writing about, so maybe you should check it out too!” The opposite can also happen. When major fan sites for a game start to shut down, players take that as a cue that there is something bad happening with it and they should also go ahead and jump ship. After all, if the game's biggest supporters are leaving already, that should mean that there is something wrong, right?

Just because a fan site drops their support for a game does not necessarily mean it is going through issues, though. Sometimes a fan site drops because of other reasons, like the lack of time to continue running it or things like moving on to a new game (which in no way means that the older one is bad, simply that the fan site owner wants to give something new a run). None of this alters our perception, however, that if support for a game starts to drop it is a “sure sign” that the game is going through problems.

Benefit 3: Spreading the Work Load

When I bring this up, what I mean is in relation to things like creating guides and keeping up with the latest news. When there are fan sites out that are covering this information, they are cutting down greatly on the job the developers have to do. After all, if all of the information is already being covered in great detail, there is no real need to keep creating the same type of information to share. This in itself also benefits the fan sites in that they get exclusive guides. There is no real fear of going through the work to analyze and write up a guide for a game, just to have the game's developers do the same thing and everyone go to the official source instead. What will usually happen is that links will be shared to the fan site’s guides to help people find their way to it easier, while lessening the burden on the publishers and developers.

It is worth noting, however, that this does not always ring true. For example, TERA ended up releasing their own guides for dungeons. The same goes for Lineage II, to a point, and even games like AION. What is important to note, though, is that while each of these did help support their own guides, the fan site versions help bring new opinions and such to them. There have been many times where someone will read a guide on an official site and still be confused, whereas they can then check out some fan sites and figure out exactly what they are not understanding. This is not to say that one is better or worse than the other, they are simply different and as humans we each have different learning styles and we take in information in different ways.

How Game Publishers Can Help Show Support

There are many ways in which the game publishers can help show support for their fan sites Depending on how many fan sites there are and how involved they are with the publishers in regards to getting out there in front of the public will decide which methods are viable and which are not. To handle this section, I will cover what actual game publishers have done to show support (or the lack of), to help better illustrate the effects they can have.

TERA: The Exiled Realm of Arborea

TERA's publishers, En Masse, have always been supportive of their fan sites They keep in touch and do a great job at working with fan site owners to see what they can do to enhance the relationship they all have and boost the benefits both of them receive. They are very responsive to requests and comments, and help with things like:

  • Event planning (with rewards and how to get the rewards to the winners)
  • Helping sponsor threads and website posts to get fan sites in the spotlight
  • Things like interviews to help players get to better know fan site owners
  • Social media pushes on behalf of fan sites

RIFT: Planes of Telara

RIFT: Planes of Telara is run by Trion Worlds. Their fan site support has been dwindling off, but in the beginning they were very good. They did a few major things that helped out:

  • Created a special forum specifically for fan site owners to communicate with one another and with Trion's staff (which, sadly, was not trafficked too often by either group)
  • Allowed for posting new article links and information on the main forums for visibility (they were moved to another section after a few days, but that was more than enough time for people to see it and respond)
  • Created a weekly or so article for their blog that showcased the latest and greatest fan site articles. Not everything was included; just the good items. This gave benefits in that the sites got visibility and recognition for their work
  • Social promotions in the form of re-tweets and Facebook likes and shares. These were pretty rare and only happened when dealing with very good articles, but when they happened the exposure was massive

Sadly, all of these died off after a month or so. What they did do, however, is show how much value there is in fan sites and game publishers working together to promote each other. I am hoping that at some point these benefits come back full circle and kick in again so we can really rock the community once again in the future!

Guild Wars 2

The situation with Guild Wars 2 goes a little backwards. Sadly, Arena Net does not give their fan sites much support. Their reasoning for it is that they do not want to play favorites (or at least that is the idea they are trying to push out) so each fan site is completely on their own. This causes a couple of problems:

  • Fan sites are very limited in where they can get to because there is no official source out there promoting them. Many people will only visit official sites because they know that they are safe. When a publisher vouches for one (by linking to it on their site, doing social promotions, etc.) they are essentially telling everyone that the site is safe and they can visit it freely
  • There is no real synergy between the publisher and fan site owners. Rather than working together to achieve goals and increase awareness of one another, each is treated as an entirely different entity. As a result, neither of them is reaching their full potential

I am actually a bit surprised that at this day and age, when gaming blogs and such are becoming more and more popular, a company like Arena Net would not support them. It is hard to really understand where they are coming from, too, because they would directly benefit from just having a single community manager that deals with the various fan sites. Essentially everyone would win. And it does not even have to get to the point where the company is playing favorites; even if they are just picking out the best fan site articles from week to week, regardless of their sources, that would still go a long way.

My Opinion

In my personal case, I find it hard to really stand behind a company that will not work to ensure everyone is getting mutual benefits. In the case of the fan sites, for example, I feel that if someone is taking the time to get one together, deal with marketing it, and keeping it updated, the game publisher they are supporting should give some support back to them. This creates a sort of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” situation. It does not even take a lot of work or time to create a system that is beneficial to both groups, but it does go a long way towards helping show gratitude. Otherwise, essentially what is being said (such as in the case of Guild Wars 2) is that the publisher does not really care who does and does not support them. If they did, they would be willing to take the little bit of time and effort to ensure that the fan site owners can tell they are happy with the situation, and it makes the fan site owner feel a lot better about spending their own time and effort as well.

Conclusion

I think game companies are moving in the right direction in terms of fostering better relationships between themselves, their communities and the various fan sites that help support them. We do have a long way to go before things really start to shine, but it is a little sad when dealing with companies like Arena Net that do not want to support their supporters. This causes people not to want to keep supporting them, and it turns in to a pretty bad situation. I really hope that as new companies emerge and older companies start to analyze what is going on, they become much more supportive. In the end, everyone will win!

Games


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