GDC 2018: The Challenges of Managing and Bridging Cross-Platform Communities

Managing cross-platform communities is rapidly becoming a bigger point in MMO development. Cryptic ported their games from PC to console, other publisher do the same, or even explore the mobile market. Expanding the community this way is relatively easy, bringing them together and dealing with the different needs and expectations however is not. That’s why at this year’s GDC 2018, a full panel was held on bridging cross-platform communities. It’s a topic relevant to Neverwinter, and gladly MOP’s Andrew Ross wrote an excellent summary. We definitely recommend reading the full piece, as we’ll only touch on the most important things in this one. There’s also a full video of the panel available in the GDC Vault, but only to subscribed members.

First of all, bringing players together is not as easy. There’s progress on cross-platform play, but we’re not nearly where we would need to be. That’s why there’s always a natural competition between platforms. Who gets content first, gets treated the best, nets the most money for the company?

[su_quote]Maybe this has happened to you before: The game you’re playing announces it’ll suddenly be on a new platform, and then content starts to dry up. Fans argue back and forth about which platform is getting the best experience, and which is costing development time for the other, and you know what? Both sides might be right. Our panelists, all with community manager backgrounds, are more than just PR and marketing people. They understand the developer teams, intentions, and timelines.

Yes, with some titles, the team isn’t big enough to work on the new dungeon and overhaul the UI for mobile. Yes, the PC game gets things earlier because it’s the firstborn, the main coders are used to programming for it, and sweet-baby-Blackthorn are mobile drivers unstable!

Then there’s marketing and monetization. Sometimes, when a fan loves a game but that game gives preference to another platform, it creates a space for anger. It’s hard for a CM to just say, “Sorry, we’re releasing on Platform X first because the advertising money we’re saving by doing so gives us a budget to hire new people for more content!” so it’s just “business purposes.”[/su_quote]

Treat the Player Base as a Whole

This isn’t easy to solve because playerbases on different platforms usually have little common ground. They might use different ways of communication, run different versions of the game, and experience different ingame economies. They essentially play different games, which is why there can be animosity. One interesting idea thrown out at the panel to help solve this divide was to treat the player base as a whole. Let’s say one platform suffers from an outage and you want to hand out compensation. The brought up concept suggests not only giving it to the specific platform’s players, but to everyone. It’s one game, one community, one compensation. In terms of Neverwinter, it obviously would also be ideal to run the same events across all platforms and give everyone new content updates at the same time. That’s unfortunately unlikely though.

Centralized Communication Platform

Another important aspect talked about was a centralized communication platform. Neverwinter technically already has that in Arcgames, but console players usually need an extra device such as PC or tablet to access the message board. It would make much more sense to be able to access Arcgames (or whatever) from within the game’s UI. Such an embedded community hub would direct all players, regardless of the platform they plan on, to the same place.

[su_quote]Imagine having a kind of in-game lobby or diary where, in-world, your character was accessing forums, fan art, fan fiction, patch notes, developer insights, tutorials, ciphers and/or ARGs hinting at the next expansion’s content. It could do a lot to help with immersion, especially if the “lobby” is a library where people’s character physically moves on-screen while you load the relevant community hub.[/su_quote]

It’s certainly an interesting topic to talk and think about. Overall we agree that developers, also Cryptic, have to do a much better job bridging their communities to get everyone on the same page and help prevent the natural competition between platforms. The concepts and ideas are out there though, and we’re sure it’s something that will improve over time.

What’s your take on the topic? Share your thoughts on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit the corresponding thread on our message board!

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