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The Think Tank: Do you pay attention to developer livestreams?

Shawn Schuster

Along with Reddit AMAs, developer livestreams are turning out to be all the rage these days. Studios are turning to the live format to show off upcoming game features, tease new content, and just show the players what the development team is like behind the scenes -- but with pants (sometimes).

But does it work? Obviously it's working well enough to make it a growing trend, but I was curious about how the Massively staff members felt about this. Do they pay attention to developer livestreams?

I probably check out a few developer streams per month. I think they're brilliant and a wonderfully cheap way for studios of any size to show off actual development in action. Of course, some studios make them into a bit of a cheesy talk-show-like fluff-fest, but then there are tiny developers like the makers of Ensemble Online who host one (if I remember correctly) every week. Sure, they might have under 20 players show up, but I can promise you that community-building efforts are never a bad thing.

Livestreaming is an awesome way to not only show off content but to chat with the players as well, in real time. Forget having to read through 1998 walls of text like the kind you find on Reddit... I'd rather just watch a stream.
Very rarely unless I know beforehand it's on a topic I really, really care about (housing, crafting) or it's something I have to watch for an article or the podcast. I just don't have time to sit through a press release basically being acted out in front of me. When I do sit down to actually Watch Videos As A Thing, they tend to be tutorials, not marketing fluff.
I tend to ignore them because they're live-action press releases -- i.e., talking-point-driven and focused on what studio marketing wants you to see/hear. There are occasional exceptions, like Above & Beyond's insanely informative Repopulation sessions.
I don't, mostly because it's a time issue. I'd rather read a summation of what the developer said and save myself 45 minutes of "ums" and "so..." and off-rails discussion. That said, it's not a bad idea to do them because players do need to see and hear the developers to form a better connection with them and not feel as though they're being abandoned. Plus, the interactive element of Q&As during these can be more revealing than the carefully edited PR pieces.
I watch most of the live Letters from the Producer for Final Fantasy XIV, but it's typically well after the fact when there's some translations floating around to give me context. My Japanese language skills are very rudimentary. Gomennasai. But that's my "main" game, which I fully admit to being obsessed with. For games that I have a more casual interest in, I'll almost always skip it and look for the summaries or transcripts if I make time for it at all. I have too many games to play as it is, and I get far more from playing right now than I do from listening to promises for the future.
Absolutely not. Developer streams, for the most part, are either extended live-action press releases designed to show something in the best possible light or deep, granular information-fests for people already obsessed with a given title. I don't have an hour to sit and watch a stream of a game I'm not already in love with. Not to mention the fact that in the ones I've watched for news posts, there tends to be a lot of time wasted chatting and jabberjawing. That being said, developer livestreams are a great service to the community and provide an awesome opportunity to dive the depths of a particular game -- as long as it's a game you already care about.
As a streamer myself, I do appreciate the live interaction that can happen during a developer livestream; it's like having a chat with devs. That said, unless I am gleaning news for an assignment, I really watch only the streams of games I am very passionate about. And right now that really equals one. I also prefer the livestreams to AMAs because you get to hear voice inflection and see body language (if the devs are on screen), which conveys a lot of information in itself as well as lends to a feeling of a more personal and intimate exchange. And I can't deny that I love seeing live game footage of upcoming things like Landmark!
Like a loving puppy, I watch/read pretty much anything put out by Riot. Its AMAs are usually pretty candid. If Riot did developer streams, I'd definitely watch them, but I have to settle for videos and interviews. I like the developer streams for games like SMITE and watch rebroadcasts occasionally. It's like any other content for games we enjoy; people tend to really want more, and hearing what devs think (in any form) is just another way to feed that need. I admit, though, I watch everything related to League of Legends, including player streams, competitive match streams, and fan videos.
I watch quite a few developer livestreams and enjoy most of them. I don't love when they just show patch previews of upcoming content because I'd rather experience the game firsthand. I find it fascinating, however, when you get a behind-the-scenes look at the folks making the game. I'll also add that Carbine's WildStar class streams have been top-notch. The production value is stellar, and the hosts are entertaining in addition to being informative.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the carest of the carebears, so expect some disagreement! Join Senior Editor Shawn Schuster and the team for a new edition right here every other Thursday.

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