Managing Expectations in The Virtual World 

There has been a lot of growth in the gaming industry over the past few years, with companies focusing more on communication with players as multiplayer gaming evolves. That being said, most companies are struggling to effectively maintain channels of communication with players resulting in misinformation, rumors, and dissatisfied customers. Half-finished games with anywhere from weeks to months of radio silence have been a reoccurring trend recently. For example, “Halo: Infinite” was released without multiple promised features that are still not present. This begs the question: What can we, as PR professionals, learn from this situation?

Look at Who Is Doing It Right

Of course, not every single game out at the moment has these issues, and learning from those that are succeeding can help us understand how to avoid frustrated customers.

A great example of this is the multiplayer pirate game “Sea of Thieves” by Rare Studios, which is owned by Microsoft. “Sea of Thieves” was released in 2018 and since has been updated regularly, changing drastically over the last four years. To keep players updated, Rare has a YouTube channel where they post developer updates and connect with the community. Everything a player would need to know is present on the channel. For players who do not use YouTube, patch notes are readily available in-game, showing the newest features since the last update.

To this day, many online games that are updated often do not have any messages in-game showing what was added. This lack of communication is why many players go to YouTube to watch people who summarize all the changes instead of reading the patch notes themselves. This leaves the doors wide open for misinformation and speculation because there is no direct communication from the developers to the players. Rare’s use of YouTube content not only informs players but builds a relationship between those working on the game and the community that plays it.

What This Means for PR Professionals

The techniques we use for non-profit organizations, celebrities, corporations, and even small businesses are still applicable to video games. We want our audience to find information easily; it should not be a hassle. If the audience is going to a third-party source to get that information, emulating what that third party is doing is a good move. Keeping our audience informed, as we know, reduces frustration. If people understand what is happening, there is less reason to be upset. Games incorporating this approach and keeping players updated will, in the long run, have less pushback. It is understandable that players out of the loop would be upset when something is changed without any warning.

Tyler Blanchard, Account Associate


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