当我采访5th Planet首席执行官Robert Winkler时，我们探讨了他的公司的平台政策和他们从默黙无闻的小工作室发展到拥有多款成功游戏的行业领先公司的经过。他的热情非常有感染力，特别是当谈到他们最大的游戏《Dawn of the Dragons》的一名超级粉丝Zoe。根据Inside Social App所称，这款游戏在2012年创造了1千万美元的收益。
Zoe是他们最重要的一名超级粉丝。她在《Dawn of the Dragons》花了几千美元，但因为这款游戏的性质，她花的钱并不只是用于个人狂欢。《Dawn of the Dragons》是一款合作游戏，Zoe花的钱是给其他玩家买礼物的，帮助他们一起完成任务。她的大方慷慨——不别说她本身就是一名技术高超的玩家，使她成为其他玩家心目中的“女神”。
当Zoe第一次充值一大笔钱时，5th Planet联系她，确认她那么做是正常行为。Winkler解释道：“我们跟她本人联系，是因为我们希望她玩我们的游戏确实是快乐的。但我们对她的了解基本上限于她发表在论坛上的东西。她是个豪爽的人。”Zoe对《Dawn of the Dragons》非常痴迷，“乐善好施”是她的爱好，也是她与其他玩家保持联系的方式。
“我们把25%的资金用于社区管理。”Robert Winkler认为与玩家建立积极的关系不只是简单地投入预算。“我个人也花了很多时间经营玩家社区。我们在周末时会去探访玩家，倾听他们对游戏设计的反馈。这种调查每一次要花1.5万美元。”5th Planet每个月都会组织一次这种调查，Winkler很乐意与玩家们共度周末，尽管他已有四个孩子和一个即将出生的宝宝，但他觉得“值得啊。”
《Dawn of the Dragons》对玩家的吸引力是很强的，单是在Facebook上，日活跃玩家就不下1万，月活跃玩家高达5万。我问Winkler，5th Planet是否采用了某些惯用的营销手段来建立玩家基础，例如交叉推广。他否定了——他们只在“体验和社区”上投入。“玩家更愿意在不同平台上玩同一款游戏，而不是在同一个平台上玩其他5th Planet游戏。”
我感到惊讶：为什么人们要在Kongregate和Facebook这些不同的平台上玩同一款游戏？部分是因为可以体验到各个平台的特定功能。Winkler解释道：“Kongregate有即时聊天，Facebook有社交整合， Armor Games有评论组。”所有这些小社交功能都会对玩游戏产生微妙的影响。追求圆满的人就是希望体验到游戏提供的所有东西。
这种想法与社区认同感大有关系。5th Planet论坛把徽章显示在玩家的用户显示框里，每一个徽章都代表一个他们玩这款游戏所在的平台。如果一个人只在一个平台上玩《Dawn of the Dragons》，那么他在论坛社区的权威就比较小。
“We treat all our players like whales”: Community management at 5th Planet games
By Zoya Street
“Zoe is a god to people.”
I was interviewing Robert Winkler, CEO of 5th Planet Games. We’d been talking about his company’s platform policy (hit everything all the time) and their growth from ramen-profitable start-up to leading developer with a portfolio of hit titles. His enthusiasm was infectious, particularly when talking about the super-fans of their biggest game, Dawn of the Dragons. According to Inside Social Apps, the game made $10 million in revenue in 2012.
Zoe is one of their most important super-fans. She spends thousands of dollars in Dragons, but because of the nature of the game, this isn’t just a personal indulgence. Dragons is a co-operative game, and the money she spends is a gift to other users, helping them to succeed in raids together. Her famed generosity — not to mention her personal prowess as a highly skilled player — has made her a hero in the game’s community.
When Zoe first began spending huge sums of money, 5th Planet got in touch with her to make sure that everything was okay. “We spoke to her personally because we want to make her happy,” said Winkler, “but most of what we know about her is from what she posts in the forums. She’s very open.” Zoe’s engagement with Dragons is communitarian; this is her hobby, and it’s a way she connects with other people.
Community management is often an under-valued aspect of game development. In fact, many people don’t consider it to be part of game development at all, instead treating it as a peripheral function or even outsourcing it to remote operators. But for 5th Planet, it’s a vital part of their business.
“25% of our payroll is in support or community management.” Robert Winkler’s commitment to building those positive relationships with and between players goes beyond simple budgeting. “I personally commit a lot of my time to it. We fly our players out for a weekend to spend time listening to them and getting feedback on design documents. Each time it costs $15000″ 5th Planet carry out one of these ‘council’s every month, and Winkler is happy to spend the weekend with players even though he has four children and a fifth on the way. “It’s worth it,” he told me.
When anti-developer trolling began to emerge, they turned to the community itself to ask how to solve it. “Players in a council told us to do video interviews so that people would understand how passionate we are,” he explained. They followed that advice, and have managed to shield themselves from some of the worst excesses of passionate fandom. “We show that there is a person and a face behind what they’re doing.”
Dawn of the Dragons has very healthy user engagement, with at least 10,000 daily active users and 50,000 monthly active users on the Facebook app alone (source: appdata). I asked Winkler if 5th Planet is using any of the more common marketing techniques to build a userbase across their network of games; cross-promotion, for example. He said no — their investment is in “stories and communities.” “Users are more likely to play the same game across different platforms than to play other 5th Planet Games on the same platform,” he revealed.
I was surprised: why would people go from Kongregate to Facebook just to play the exact same game? Part of it is about experiencing the unique features of each platform. “Kongregate has livechat, Facebook has social integration, Armor Games has comments threads,” Winkler explained, and all of these little social features subtly change the nature of play. Completionists want to know that they’ve experienced everything the game has to offer.
This urge to complete the set is underscored by community recognition. The 5th Planet forums show badges next to players’ user handles, one for each platform that they have played the game on. Someone who has only played Dawn of the Dragons on one platform has less authority in the forum community.
5th Planet’s investment in the community goes all the way to the design of new game content. “Zoe has the best magic in the game,” said Winkler, “She’s very high level.” In fact, Zoe at one point hit the highest level in the game. When they added further levels, they dedicated the content to her personally. “We used her likeness for the art.”
It’s not just super-fans who get star treatment at 5th Planet, either. “There are so many people around Zoe that helped to get her where she is, and they have never spent a dollar,” Winkler acknowledged. “We treat every player like a whale… Our goal with customer service is to go beyond satisfaction. We want to delight players.”(source:gamesbrief)