Why It's a Mistake to Treat Player Complaints as White Noise

Mar 03, 2021By Subspace Team

The online game market has exploded over the last few years.

According to estimates, the video game market will hit $200 billion in revenue by 2023.

The global pandemic has only escalated that growth by forcing people indoors, many of whom took up gaming to escape and connect with others globally.

As a result of increased internet traffic from more people logging on to play, network quality problems like lag continues to be a hot-button issue that many game publishers are struggling to figure out.

This is resulting in players and gaming communities flooding to the internet to voice their complaints.

As we will explore in this article, this can lead to many problems for game publishers, including game abandonment, community churn, and losses in revenue.

First, let’s talk about why lag is a huge problem when it comes to gaming.

Why Lag Is Enemy #1 When it Comes To Gaming

We can all agree that lag is a pain.

It’s a problem that haunts publishers and players alike.

On a micro scale, it can cause a single player to leave a game. On a macro scale, one player’s lag can negatively impact the quality of experience for multiple players, as noted in this study from Montana State University.

The lag of just one player can cause a cascading impact on the Quality of Experience (QoE) of other players. … Having a group member lag decreases the experience for everyone. … Current lag mitigation techniques are not sufficient when dealing with this cascading impact and may actually be decreasing the overall QoE of the players.

  • Montana State University Study on The Cascading Impact of Lag on User Experience in Cooperative Multiplayer Games

Since gaming’s popularity is on the rise, this topic has been studied in great detail. In a study by ResearchGate exploring player sensitivity to network quality, you can see the adverse effects network latency has on gameplay over time.

For game publishers, this poses a significant problem. One vocal player with a bad experience can create a ripple effect throughout a game’s online community, especially if they have influence.

Just this year, Call of Duty came under fire during their league playoff series when Trei “Zero” Morris experienced “game-defining connection issues” that ultimately led to his team, The London Royal Ravens losing their series.

This incident led to extensive press coverage from ESPN and a subsequent tweetstorm led by Ravens player @skrapz—who, by the way, has 79,000 followers on Twitter.

As this example perfectly illustrates, lag can put a game publisher in the press for all the wrong reasons.

How Lag Drives Game Abandonment and Community Churn

As noted in this article from VentureBeat, online gaming customers are twice as likely to abandon a game when they experience a network delay (latency) of 500 additional milliseconds. One of the reasons this is a major problem is that players are a very vocal group. They are notorious for letting the world know they are unhappy when poor network conditions ruin their experience.

Now, imagine the impact someone with real influence and a massive following can have when they voice their displeasure with your game.

That’s EXACTLY what happened when Snoop Dogg exploded on EA Sports when Madden servers crashed.

His rant on Instagram directly targeting EA Sports and Bill Gates now has 1.2 million views. That means 1.2 MILLION people were made aware of the server issues at EA Sports, many of whom chimed in voicing their own frustrations with the game.

Not exactly the type of press any game publisher wants to attract.

Now, consider the rise of livestreaming since lockdown began. We now see professional players and popular streamers with millions of fans tuning in to watch them play their favourite games.

What does this mean for game publishers?

Streamers have the influence to negatively impact game downloads, gameplay, and community engagement when faced with lag and other connectivity issues.

Consider these stats from a recent game survey our team at Subspace conducted that identified how players respond to lag interference:

  • 32% of professional players (the people likely to have large streaming audiences) will stop playing a game altogether in response to lag.
  • 42% of non-professional players react to lag by stopping gameplay.

That means 74% (or 1,943) of total players surveyed stop playing a game when lag interferes.

The impact illustrated by these stats can be detrimental to game publishers if the players have big streaming audiences or large followings on social media.

Like what happened with Snoop Dogg, this can lead to bad press.

But, the potential impact goes deeper than that.

When players and the community at large lose interest and abandon games due to lag and connectivity issues, game publishers risk facing a decrease in the ability to generate revenue.

The Impact Lag Has On Revenue Potential

The way game publishers make money has changed.

In the past, physical sales drove the bottom line.

Now, community engagement, in-game purchases, and digital sales drive profits.

So, when players, their friends, and the spectator community abandon a game, publishers’ ability to drive profits from these avenues severely decreases.

Let’s put this into perspective.

In 2020, 91% of the industry’s revenue of USD $174.9 billion revenue was made through digital sales, up from 79% in 2019.

What’s even more interesting is the rise of in-game purchases due to the popularity of free-to-play (F2P) games.

In fact, more than 85% of industry revenue comes from free-to-play games..

These in-game purchases include:

  • enhancements (like additional lives)
  • currency
  • personalized avatars
  • ad-free experiences
  • unrestricted playing time

Now, just imagine how much money is being left on the table when lag causes players and the spectator community to abandon games.

Speaking of spectators…

A 2016 study from Twitch claimed 25% of game sales stemmed from spectators watching streams of the game and making a purchase within 24 hours.

More interestingly, Twitch data scientist Danny Hernandez and his team found mid-tier Twitch streamers—those with audiences between 33 and 3,333 viewers—are responsible for 46% of game sales.

This is an incredible form of advertising for game publishers—and one that is threatened when lag causes players to abandon games and influence the spectator community.

You might be asking, “ok, so what is the solution to this problem?”

Well, let’s dive into that.

How Game Publishers Are Solving Their Lag Problems Today

Recognizing that lag and connectivity issues cannot continue to plague their games, major players in the gaming industry are now developing their own private networks or are looking at strategic partnerships to upgrade their networks and improve gameplay and player experience.

Riot Games recently accomplished this when they successfully created their own network for League of Legends players to play on.

The graph below shows improvements in the number of Riot Games players who play at under 80 ms ping since Riot created its own network.

Although the outcome has been good, Riot notes that creating a private network came with many difficulties, challenges, and risks.

So, it’s obvious that industry leaders recognize the importance of player and community engagement and the need to invest in better network infrastructure.

You might be asking, “so what are the solutions out there for publishers to leverage today?”

The Future of Real-Time Online Gaming

Subspace is on a mission to significantly change the landscape of the games industry by providing game publishers with a platform to operate, deploy, and scale their games.

Our groundbreaking multiplayer network infrastructure and services platform provide the lowest latency, most reliable real-time, and fully controllable network possible for the world’s biggest games.

What does this mean for you as a publisher?

  • Expansion in playable latency
  • Increased matchmaking pool sizes
  • Improved player engagement
  • Decreased player churn
  • Increased revenue

How do we do it?

  • We currently have infrastructure in hundreds of cities across the globe and continue to grow our presence.
  • Today, Subspace has millions of players on our platform playing on PC, Playstation, Xbox, Switch, iOS, and Android.
  • Our team collects over three billion network quality data points from over 400 million player devices across the globe every month.
  • This allows Subspace to understand player networks in a way very few people can.

From a publisher standpoint, this becomes a significant competitive advantage, allowing you to bypass the limitations of commodity internet and create a superior low latency experience.

As a result, you can:

  1. Increase your total addressable market
  2. Drastically improve player experience and community engagement
  3. Maximize your revenue opportunities

This is the future of real-time online gaming.

Conclusion

As we have discussed in this article, it is essential not to ignore player complaints, as they can negatively impact revenue, lead to game abandonment and result in community churn.

The game publishers who do this will be the ones who win in the long run.

The Subspace team is made up of passionate players driven by their vision for a world in which the player experience is exceptional for everyone, regardless of location.

When your game traffic is on Subspace, our PacketAccelerator reduces latency and accelerates packets, while Subspace GlobalTURN allows you to run TURN globally, without having to deploy or manage servers of your own.

We would love to discuss how we can help you, as a game publisher, drive user engagement and improve revenue opportunities.

Are you ready to step into the future of real-time gaming?

Want to start building on Subspace today? Sign up here.


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