Steamworks Development Virtual Conference 2021 addressed how they use updates to communicate with customers.
In a virtual conference last week, which was also published on their Youtube channel, Steamwork Development has given customers insight into how they communicate.
Gautam Babbar a Valve Corporation developer breaks down the methods of communication Steamworks has adopted with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) players. In a video that is just over 10 minutes long, community members are able to further understand how Steamworks approaches upgrading gameplay.
Developers pay close attention to conversation happening online regarding CS:GO and take note of any feedback. Customers communicate in game and online through various forums discussing problems or places that could use improvement.
Reason for not responding directly
In order to keep customer feedback unfiltered, Steamworks Development’s team does not directly respond to any commentary posted online. Instead, they prioritize updates and bug fixes based upon how frequent customers comment upon a problem. When many customers across multiple platforms are talking about a bug, the priority is to post an update addressing that problem. Prioritization of bug fixes is based on a wide range of community feedback. Since there are so many different areas of the game that interest customers, prioritization is a critical part of how Steamworks stays on top of customer demands.
By refraining from directly responding to feedback online, Steamworks also maintains flexibility in how they respond. Holding back from talking about future plans before implementation is key because plans may always change. During difficult times, shipping updates that directly address issues in gameplay is the chosen method of communicating by Steamworks.
All updates released in the game reflect conversations customers are having within the community online. Steamworks does not regularly communicate outside of updates. Developers collect data from various players and analyze player behavior in order to pinpoint problems and flaws in the game. Data is collected from a wide range of player behaviors including time spent in different game modes, weapon usage and connectivity to data centers. They are required to pinpoint actual solutions to underlying problems discussed on various forums regarding CS:GO.
Steamworks Development originally launched in 2012 and has maintained this method of communication and updates since then. They deem it as the most effective way to address common issues and to maintain flexibility in solving them. Updates are released instead of spoken about.
One of the main goals for Steamworks developers is improving player retention. When initially launching the biggest issue was keeping players in the game. The reality of CS:GO and esports overall is that without consistent players there would be no growth or improvement. Steamworks addressed players falling off by updating the matchmaking in-game. Pairing players with similar skill levels made gameplay far more enjoyable and players tend to stay in the game. Players were still leaving the game but developers quickly noticed that those who left didn’t utilize the matchmaking feature.
Using games updates as a strategy
A smart thing Steamworks Developments did when launching was utilizing the window of opportunity when they first launched. They planned for future updates including map workshop, item customization and esports. When they launched, they didn’t expect player retention to be a prominent issue, but it was. Making tweaks to the game during that time especially helped to keep players interested in the game. It is important for Steamworks to continue to update and communicate through game changes to show players that the game continues to improve and change over time.
There are components to updates like how it is communicated to customers. This is an important part of the update and the main way CS:GO players learn about updates is through the CS:GO client. The client has a news feed on the main page that features the newest updates to clients. In-game communication is the most effective in communicating to customers.
By updating the user interface (UI) and client, players are kept in the know about when a new update is active. Large updates are written about on various websites that are also linked to in-game. Steam changes that affect customers are communicated directly through social media and blogs. Esports partner events are also communicated this way.
Social media and blogs are useful in providing fans with entertainment and connectivity outside of the client. Steamworks finds that Twitter is very useful to highlight esports and community content.
The Steam Workshop
Being on Steam provides a network effective for Steamworks. Customers are able to connect with developers and with each other to communicate about their experience. The workshop lets Steam customers be creative and share their art with the CSGO community. Lots of maps and weapon finishes originated from the workshop and have made their way into the game.
Steam Community Channels
Other types of communication include Friends Lists, where players can see their friends’ progress in a CS:GO match, community hubs, markets, Steam events and announcements. Although the content is similar to Steamworks blog posts, Steam has a larger reach including active customers, new ones, or those who have taken a break from the game. Events and announcements show up in multiple places on steam, the library is what’s new section is useful for engaging players. The feed view is good for players to catch up on recent updates.
Community’s reaction to this conference
Feedback for this conference from the community hasn’t been very good. Although many players acknowledge that the best way to keep players in the game is by listening to their feedback and implementing changes accordingly. Others felt as though this portion of the conference failed to acknowledge the lack of updates overall. The community feels as though this approach of communication is frustrating because there is no way of knowing what is being worked on.
Steamworks Development closes out this part of the conference stating that these are the methods of communication that have worked in the past but they are consistently evaluating and bettering their practices.