The gaming community, and streamers in particular, have more influence than ever when it comes to game development — both over individual titles and over the direction of the gaming industry as a whole. But can a game built to be watched also be fun to play for the average gamer?
Game developers have realized that it’s the community that keeps games alive; they need to continually nurture and engage with that community for their game to succeed. “Game studio roles that didn’t exist previously, such as community manager, are as important today as game designers were ten years ago,” head of developer relations for Amazon’s Lumberyard game engine Garnett Lee told gamesindustry.biz.
Knowing the value of community, developers can do no greater service to the success of their game than to get it into the hands of a popular Twitch streamer or YouTube gamer. These pro gamers aren’t just excellent beta testers. Online creators on Twitch and YouTube have enormous influence over their audience, and by extension, game sales. With their vast and loyal audiences, streamers and vloggers have a direct impact on how popular a game becomes. Excited streamers show off gameplay to excited fans in a hype-feedback loop until we have another Fortnite situation on our hands and every studio in the industry is trying to figure out whether or not they can build a battle royale game fast enough to catch the trend.
If Ninja is having a good time — or putting on a good show — while trying out a new game on a stream, his audience is likely to give it a shot as well. If not? Well, good luck to those developers.
This relationship benefits both parties. For streamers and vloggers, new games mean new content — just what they need to keep the wheels of their creator career turning. And streamers especially value games that lead to entertaining content — the more engaged the viewer, the higher the watch time and the more revenue that streamer can collect.
In response to this evolution, game engines, including Amazon Lumberyard, are now being built with features designed specifically to support streaming and social interaction. With these new tools, developers will no longer have to rebuild the same social features for each new title. Features like chat-triggered game commands and enhanced metadata displays will be available from the earliest stages of game development, allowing for tighter integration.
Performative gaming — i.e., playing a game for an audience — is now a staple genre for Twitch and YouTube viewers. It’s obvious why developers want to cater more directly to this trend. But what happens when streamers and developers start to prioritize the show over the actual gameplay?
Earlier this year, Outpost Games released their debut title, SOS, and the corresponding Hero platform for stream hosting. The game was envisioned as a mash-up survival game/show that pit players against each other as the audience watches and reacts — with potential in-game consequences.
Outpost wanted SOS to be “as fun to watch as it is to play,” according to studio CEO and co-founder Wright Bagwell. “We formed Outpost Games with the mission to turn every player into a performer, and every game into a stage.” The game is built explicitly for role play and performance, with the presence of an audience factored into the core mechanics of the game.
Not every player is — or wants to be — a performer.
But while some gamers love being the center of attention, there are plenty more who would rather avoid the spotlight. That might be why, on November 12th, 2018, Outpost Games officially shut SOS down.
While streaming is an important part of the gaming ecosystem today, developers need to also recognize that not every player is — or wants to be — a performer. Outpost may have missed the mark with SOS, but streaming and performative gaming will continue to wield influence over the evolution of gaming.