From Age of Conan to Warhammer Online, a few of the events I've been able to catch are festivals, races, plays, fishing contests, tavern storytelling nights, quests (yes, quests), treasure/scavenger hunts, trivia contests, arena duels, gambling nights, musical concerts, war games, horse races, weddings, dance-offs, terraforming challenges, auctions, jousts, fashion shows, tournaments, funerals, crafter fairs, and more contests than can even be mentioned. These examples aren't restricted to any one genre, either; creatively concocted events run the gamut and include themeparks like Aion, MOBAs like SMITE, and more -- and not just sandboxes.
As you might have noticed, that's quite a bit of content, content that comes at no cost to the the studio! So why is it these events can be so hard to find? With so much free content at their fingertips, it would behoove studios to make it the norm to support and promote these events. And the tools they need to do so are already at their disposal.
Let's look at it logistically. There are way more players than there are devs (if not, that's a totally different problem). And we understand that devs have a lot to do -- they can't sit back and whip up weekly stuff for content-hungry players. But the playerbase can! Players who enjoy a game will look for and find ways to spend more time in it, not reasons to leave. Some of those players take it upon themselves to create, plan, and organize new content, giving fellow players even more things to do. And players engaged in content are happier players who stay and play longer. For games with subscriptions, more to do means renewed subs in order to do it; for games with a cash shop, more time in game increases the odds players will spend.
Game studios need to take advantage of all this! It doesn't make sense to hide content away from your players, does it? So make it easy for them to find it; a little effort will go a long way. Devs owe it to themselves to expend a bit of time to get the word out there and even offer additional support to these larger endeavors whenever possible. And no studio is exempt; a game doesn't even need to have an overabundance of PGC tools to do this. In fact, we're already using most of the tools already.
There are different ways to approach this. Pretty much every game has a launcher, and advertising via that launchpad is the best way to make sure everyone who enters game gets at least a cursory glance at an event. Of course, making it look appealing and catchy is more likely to grab the players' attention and lead them to click for more details. I'll flat out admit that I have clicked on more announcements seen on Aion's launcher than I have ever searched on the forums. And plenty of things would escape me if I didn't notice them there. It also serves as a good reminder to hit up an event when it draws near without having to dig through posts.
Even beyond that initial blurb, many games have the built-in ability to broadcast messages across the server, utilized mostly for official events and important messages (like emergency maintenance). The one that comes to mind first is Vanguard, but it's by no means alone. So why not put this broadcast message to use announcing player events? It's not as if it's unheard of; Aion recently used this feature during a player's wedding proposal. Games just need to make more use of this capability to give a shout-out to player events. If they don't have this ability, they should add it. A little initial effort will lead to long-term rewards.
If you have a calendar already, awesome! Just assign someone to input large-scale player events on it. If you don't have one, put one in! In this case, I think a little bit of programming would go a long way.
Even if devs can't do anything too elaborate because of manpower or programming constraints, a little token for a prize is always possible. Most event planners will already have goodies lined up, but any great idea could be pulled off better with something a little extra. And not all players with the creativity and ability to plan these events are rich enough in-game to fund the whole endeavor. Sometimes, even just giving a winner an official spotlight for a few minutes on forums or via Twitter and such can be a worthy prize.
So let's step it up, studios! From here on out, there's no good reason that player events shouldn't get a heaping helping of support and promotion. It's good for everyone involved -- especially you.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!