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Games made for PC & console that take into consideration community building, diversity and inclusion from the start tend to experience higher levels of success globally. These are key for growth in what players look for, according to the Google for Games 2022 PC & Console Insights Report.

The report discovered that over 70% of PC and console players find it very or extremely important that games feature diverse characters and stories, while 56% of them highlight the need for accessibility options. These figures are unsurprising, given that the three-billion strong game population spans the globe.

The audience for games has never been larger and more diverse,” says Jack Buser, Director of Game Industry Solutions at Google Cloud. “Understanding the desires and behaviors of these new audiences is key to addressing the rapidly growing global opportunity for our industry.”

And as the nature of the game experience evolves, with many more games served up as online services, developers need deep and nuanced insights into the ever-changing nature of game communities. It’s really the only way they can ensure their players are motivated to stay engaged for the long haul.

Understanding the latest trends in player responses to the critical questions posed by this report is fundamental to building the next generation of interactive entertainment,” Buser says.

Why diversity and inclusion is critical

As games have grown larger and more prolific, their communities have, by definition, become incredibly diverse. These communities expect characters and stories that reflect their expectations, meeting the demand for diverse characters and stories.

To maximize the potential of their creations, game developers need to approach diversity and inclusion as a fundamental part of their game development — which includes everything from concept, characters and gameplay to marketing and advertising. Almost two-thirds of PC and console players believe it’s very or extremely important that the games they play are localized to their country or region, though overall, 75% of players are happy with the translations in their game content.

Game communities, an essential avenue for social connection for millions around the world, need to keep diversity and inclusion front and center. And like any social community, a sense of belonging and inclusion is key to long-term satisfaction — and ultimately, retention in the game itself.

Tap into players’ two fundamental desires

The report found that more than half of PC & console players belong to some form of game-related community, and nearly 40% say that the opportunity to interact with family and friends is what keeps them playing. Furthermore, with players interacting with others via in-game text chat (41%) and voice chat (32%), this can often lead to real friendships and connections inside and outside the game.

That’s why, as online games continue to evolve into incredibly complex and interconnected digital services, building these communities becomes essential to long-term success. Thriving communities are becoming a primary contributor to player acquisition, retention, and ultimately, lifetime value, all key indicators of a game’s health. “When designing a modern game as a service, social systems are as critical as gameplay systems” Buser adds.

Increasingly, game communities connect people from all over the globe, based on everything from common interests and play patterns to a need for comradery and competition. They tap into the two fundamental desires to play and to belong, while the global nature of modern game communities brings a greater diversity of community members to the fore.

“Developing for the two fundamental desires to play and to belong is key to building communities that stand the test of time,” Buser says. “And to do so, systems that provide deep insights into player communities and the ability to react to changing behaviors must be considered as a core aspect of modern game design. For those that get it right, it really shows in the success of the game.”

Build a thriving game community

Because the individuals that make up the games community are so diverse, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to build a thriving community. Reasons and motivations behind the desire to connect, as well as the methods of interaction will vary, even among single players or cohorts within a game. The complexity of this reality, combined with the creative and design choices that game developers want to make, requires a deep understanding of the players and communities within each title. “That’s an understanding that can only come from actionable insights unlocked from data,” Buser says.

Game developers have increasingly leveraged the power of the cloud to build planet-scale systems to deeply understand their player communities, and ensure their games can properly react to these systems. Intelligent games that learn are increasingly common, leveraging low-latency networks, deep analytics tools, scalable databases and AI and machine learning to offer an improved experience to communities.

Game communities sometimes have a reputation for toxicity, though. One out of seven players don’t join new communities because they’ve had negative experiences in the past, and one out of five stop playing certain games altogether, which can ultimately damage the reputation of the game itself.

“Fostering positive interactions and mitigating toxicity is a deep and nuanced topic, requiring similarly sophisticated solutions and design choices in games,” Buser says. “Just as building communities is critical to game design and success, so is the other side of the issue — ensuring systems are built to manage toxicity.”

Fortunately, modern solutions leveraging AI and machine learning have proven to be quite effective at mitigating toxicity in large game communities, allowing developers to incorporate systems that scale, learn and understand the nuances of the issue, and ultimately work to build safer and more inclusive game experiences at planet scale.

The future of diversity and inclusion

With scaling solutions like Agones, cloud is enabling games to reach billions of players with increasingly sophisticated interactive experiences. By further building upon the cloud with AI/ML, game developers can more easily understand what drives their player community. Games are now able to engage players with personalized narratives and experiences, while connecting them with players they will have fun with

“Games have always been at the forefront of technology, and we are in the midst of witnessing new levels of joy and excitement made possible by pushing the boundaries of the cloud, AI and ML,” Buser adds.

Successful developers will integrate intelligent systems to ensure community values are upheld even at massive scale; make deliberate and thoughtful decisions early in development about their choice of cloud and associated solutions to ensure they have the right technology at their disposal to build these systems; and finally, prioritize diverse and inclusive development teams to ensure these principles are built into the fabric of every decision they make, both technically and creatively.

“If a team follows these basic principles, they are well on their way to achieving a large-scale and highly diverse community in their game,” he says.

To learn more about what matters to PC & console players, check out the Google for Games 2022 PC & Console Insights Report.

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