Designing an Immersive Gaming Experience
4 Lessons the Gaming Industry Can Take from Theme Park Support Experiences
It’s the grand opening of your favorite theme park — but you are lost, and staff is nowhere to be found. In order to find someone supportive, you stumble through the park to an office building located beyond the gates. “CUSTOMER SUPPORT,” the sign in front of the building reads. There, the front desk asks you to wait for 20 minutes. It’s almost your turn to speak to an agent, but now they want you to fill out a form with personal information, including your name, birthday, and last digits of your social security, before recalling a number from something called two-factor authentication.
If this was your experience, it would likely be the last time you visited that theme park. Of course, this just isn’t the way they operate. Theme parks have nearly perfected the art of integrating customer support into the experience as a whole. They stand head and shoulders above those companies that still treat customer support as a separate process from the core experience.
If gaming is a service, support should be integrated
Gaming companies aim for the same immersive experiences as theme parks, yet they are far behind the curve. Games are becoming more expensive to produce, yet the price tag hasn’t changed in over a decade. Today’s game publishers look for new ways to capitalize on blockbuster games in the long term by providing add-on services through paid content expansion, in-game cosmetics, or shifting to a game-as-a-service (GaaS) business model.
In this way, they are part of the experience economy and should use customer support to facilitate a memorable experience that keeps players immersed. However, many game companies treat customer support as a means for troubleshooting transactional and technical difficulties, causing friction during gameplay and breaking immersion.
Our recent engagement with a global gaming company helped shape our perspective on how game publishers and digital entertainment providers can integrate support into the core experience. In that experience, we learned four important lessons you can apply to your gaming support strategy:
How to integrate support into the gaming experience
1. Educate through experience
Since the dawn of video games, game designers have been trying to perfect the formula for a perfectly immersive experience. Good game design mimics intuitive product design and naturally teaches players core mechanics through playing. Ubiquitous mobile devices make this even more critical as mobile gamers are increasingly casual users with no prior experience, and many face a steep learning curve into traditional action-heavy games. To onboard and assist these new players, publishers can take lessons from the original Mario game. No one remembered playing a tutorial level from Mario, yet every Mario player instinctively knows to jump over bricks, collect coins and avoid evil mushrooms. It’s a shining example of a game that immerse players from the get-go with improved accessibility and a soft learning curve.
2. Use in-game characters and objects
It is inevitable that games crash and players run into obstacles, no matter how excellent your tutorial level may be. How might we create immersive support for players who run into challenges mid-game?
Here, we can take inspiration from fiction. In the movie Ready Player One, the protagonist was assisted by an A.I. butler that serves as an encyclopedia, reminding the player of the rules and sometimes offering a dull sense of humor. Maybe in the near future, players can ask for help directly from an in-game source, often called a non-playable character (NPC), allowing the player to be supported while staying engaged.
3. Don’t interrupt the gameplay
In the same line of thought, Stadia — Google’s cloud gaming platform and a newcomer to the gaming industry — integrated the Google Assistant into its game controller and let players ask for help with the click of a button. After all, what difference does it make whether we receive help from a customer agent, a talking magic book, or a smart, slightly passive-aggressive A.I.?
Immersive support means the player does not need to exit their game and switch to a different device, and voice support is perfect for this.
4. Leverage the community
Lastly, how a game engages with the community and is tailored to streamers has become an essential part of many games’ marketing strategies. It should also be core to your support strategy.
In the age of Twitch, games live and die by their community. You can hardly find a crowd that is so passionate and resourceful. Some more capable members of the community even create helpful tools such as troubleshooting scripts and game wikis in the absence of official support. Tapping into the power of community can be a way to elevate customer support while helping players feel included and their efforts rewarded.
Embedding support through the gameplay experience in these ways requires cross-functional collaboration and the integration of customer support much earlier in a game’s development cycle. How players are supported throughout their gaming journey is an integral part of their memory of your brand. What impression are you making?