Are Developer Updates becoming the new Press Release?
Developer updates are the semi-regular updates that game developers release. The game development teams often release these updates as blog posts on their dedicated websites. In the posts, the developers will provide information on upcoming projects, wrap up recent events, address fan concerns or queries, or provide insight on beliefs or decisions.
Why are developer updates important?
Developer updates are great ways for the game developers to connect with their players in a more casual, humanizing method.
Typically, players only interact with the development team through the game itself. Players’ opinions on the developers are based entirely on their likes and dislikes of the game. Updates or changes to the game influence their stance towards the developers.
Developer updates are a way of bridging that gap and showing the people behind the game. They provide valuable context on why they made certain decisions. This can help address fan concerns and benefit from putting game philosophies on the public record. Developers can communicate with fans on their decision-making process and can also be held accountable for promises.
In the best cases, it can help popularize a game even further. The head of the development team for Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch is Jeff Kaplan. He established himself as the development team’s face as a human figure for the fans to latch on through video developer updates.
These updates led to a fan known as “dinoflask” creating parodies by editing together footage from the updates in comedic ways. This made Jeff Kaplan a beloved memetic figure. Kaplan’s good-natured acceptance of the joke further increased fan appreciation of him and his team.
In addition to helping fans be more aware of the people behind the screens, developer updates are also great ways to condense information.
As with Scruffy’s above example, developer updates can use easily understood formats to simplify the complicated process of game development for the average fan to understand.
so this… is the power… of making fun.. of jeff kaplan…
(thanks jeff, couldn't have done it without you) pic.twitter.com/6qxRIeCeKn
— dinoflask (@dinoflask) June 3, 2018
How do fans receive information?
Once the developer updates are published, the development team will then promote it through social media channels. Common social media platforms used are YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit.
Developers release updates on both personal social media accounts and the game’s main channels.
For fans who browse these social media platforms, this helps ensure they know the new updates. These updates likely gain more traction from social media links rather than fans going to the website directly. It is also common for content creators and third-party news sites to release their content addressing the recent updates. For example, gameplay patches are a regular update that is redistributed by third parties. Knowing that fans will read these updates also allows developers to use them to seed future interest and stoke fan excitement.
Riot Games, for instance, used their champion roadmap update to build excitement and tease upcoming new releases. In a blog post written by Ryan “Reav3” Mireles, lead champion producer for League of Legends, the development team teased at the next three new champions. It confirmed that Dr. Mundo would be receiving a Visual and Gameplay Update (VGU). It also previewed the Spirit Blossoms event that recently concluded.
The champions teased were a sleep-inducing jungler, an out-of-body assassin, and a stylish thrill-seeking marksman. They turned out to be Lillia the Bashful Bloom, Yone the Unforgotten, and (the currently unreleased) Samira the Desert Rose.
Developer update posts are replacing press releases
Developer updates are now a norm for most video game companies. Because the developers themselves often write them, the updates have a more personal feel than blanket press release statements. They are also easily accessible through common social media channels and work as both community management and marketing.
In times when the public is becoming increasingly skeptical of digital media, it is essential to retain the trust of your fans and players with regular, honest communication.
We believe players resonate more when putting a face to the updates or news they are recieving. At the very least, if they don’t like the changes, we are guaranteed some memes and content being created around it.