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The Perfect Use of Fan Input in Games

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Developers and publishers have to handle demands from consumers everyday within the video game industry. Blogs, forums, and chatrooms all serve as an outlet for players to suggest improvements to games or just air their grievances. Without listening to what people desire, studios will not be as successful as they potentially could be. The fine line comes in the form of when to take the mass audience’s advice and when to respectfully decline it.

There obvious examples of when this has become a hotly contested topic – the most notable is the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco that took place following the game’s March 6th release date. Fans were more than a little unhappy with BioWare’s ending to the Mass Effect trilogy and they amde their opinions known. So much so in fact, that BioWare released downloadable content that amended and altered the ending. In regards to Mass Effect 3, players tend to be clearly on one side of the fence or not in concerns to whether or not they believe the ending should have been changed, but the irrefutable evidence is that player input was the defining factor in the studio’s decision process.

Consumer opinion has been a focal point within the news this week in regards to the newly released BioShock Infinite cover art. Countless people made their voice heard in regards to their dislike for the games “bland” cover art. Ken Levine, creative director for Bioshock Infinite, explained that he knew people would be upset with the cover art, but the cover was chosen to appeal to the audience that knows nothing about the game prior to walking in a store and seeing the box on the shelf. The choice was a business one which they believe will aid in the sales of the game once release date finally comes. This is a perfect example of the publisher choosing to go their own way. As a side note, there will be alternative box art available for those who really despise the cover chosen.

All of these past uproars lead us into what I believe is one of the best formal uses of public opinion within the video game industry. A few years ago EA Sports created a mode within NCAA Football that enabled players to have their career stats accumulate toward the school of their choosing. It provided players a chance to support their favorite college program and serve as bragging rights that their school had more supporters and better players than a rivals. This was the first game to initiate this system, but the idea has been implemented in almost every other sports game since, most notably the FIFA franchise. Following this in-game allegiance program, EA Sports allowed fans to vote on who would be the cover athlete of their games for Madden, NHL, and NCAA Football. This is a genius use of fan input. It is somewhat formal, so there is less comments to sift through in regards to what players want (which I’m sure EA Sports has a lot to look through already) and provides players a chance to see their favorite players on the cover of their favorite games. Players want to feel connected with their games, and having the change to influence a worldwide product provides them with a feeling of importance.

Voting has just started for the school that is to be recognized on the cover of NCAA Football 14. Voting takes place through EA Sports Facebook page and includes 126 college football teams to choose from. The concept that fans and players are in complete control of the cover vote is the perfect use of fan input. EA Sports has actually gone a step further than just voting on the Facebook page this year: any tweet with the hashtag #NCAAcovervote, YouTube videos around your school’s campus, and Instagram photos publicizing your school will all be included in the final result for which school will grace the cover. Fans can now participate through a wide range of media and although it is only for a cover picture, it is still very cool that EA Sports is placing the decision entirely in the hands of the players. I have cast my vote to support the college of my choice, you should make your voice heard and do the same.

Lucas has evolved in his video game preferences. With a foundation in predominantly sports game, action adventure games are now his favorite to play. He is a competitive swimmer and likes to play volleyball, basketball, and golf.
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