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GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: Bluebyte's Weidemann On Community Management

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, online specialist Teut Weidemann of Ubisoft's Bluebyte Germany (The Settlers Online) discusses the essentials of community management on social networks.

Weidemann has worked in the industry for over 25 years, and began his career as a producer and development director for Amiga titles such as Turrican. He later founded Panzer Elite developer Wings Simulations, and in 2005 served as CTO of Panzer Tactics DS publisher CDV Software Entertainment.

In 2007 Weidemann entered the online games market, consulting with various companies before finally landing at Ubisoft's Bluebyte to work on the acclaimed browser based title The Settlers Online.

Drawing from his experience working in online games, Weidemann will host two talks at this year's GDC Europe: A Production track lecture on supporting free-to-play games dubbed, "f2p Online Games: The Game Is Not Enough," and a Community Management Summit talk titled, "Community Management in The Settlers Online."

With GDC Europe just over a month away, Weidemann particularly discussed his upcoming Community Management Summit talk, and outlined the importance of regular developer-to-player interaction, as well as the differences between Facebook and other social channels.

In your experience, what are the best ways to foster the growth of an online game community?

The most important thing is service. If your community perceives that you care about them, they stay. Players love the attention, and they'll recommend the service to their friends. It's the best way to grow a game because it's free. Marketing is growing the community fastest, but that growth is meaningless if you don't manage to keep the new users.

Did you or your team learn any hard lessons when managing the community for The Settlers Online?

We are still learning. We approached the community for the game with years of experience in community management, and we still had problems satisfying players' needs.

We established an open communication strategy, but we underestimated the frequency of interaction the users demanded. The internet is moving faster than ever, which means that we need community managers constantly online and talking to users.

What do you think are the best methods of reaching out to a game community? What sort of channels or platforms do you work through?

Since users are your capital, you need the users on your platform, or specifically, your forums. However, users are communication beasts, so you must also use channels like Twitter and social networks, but on different levels of depth. For The Settlers Online, we post parallel on our news site, Twitter, and Facebook, and we also respond to Facebook posts and comments, but the deepest communication is done via our forums.

How do you think community management differs between browser-based social games and more traditional titles?

Social games on Facebook only have the platform itself; I rarely see users talking about their favorite games outside Facebook; only the core users do so. Since Facebook communication is very volatile and temporary, the information there isn't worth as much as it is on forums, where the information stays alive much longer.

That's why community management on forums is much harder than it is on Facebook, where mistakes aren't as severe. In other words, the community manager on Facebook needs another skill set than the community manager on traditional games, where the skill set is harder to acquire.

How will your Community Management Summit-specific GDC Europe talk address community management in social games, and what do you expect people to take away from it?

Community management rules are common for any online platform, even non-game platforms. The difference between Facebook and online games is essentially that on Facebook, you can mix in marketing on a higher level than in traditional games.

I expect than any community manager or company that has an online audience can take away some key lessons from the talk, as community management for all types of games always has the same target: a human being.

Additional Info

GDC Europe will take place August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, alongside the major gamescom trade show, and will host lectures and panels with other notable speakers, including keynotes from Ultima creator Richard Garriott, Wooga founder Jens Begemann, and more.

For more information on GDC Europe, please visit the official GDC Europe website, or subscribe to updates from the new GDC Europe-specific news page via RSS, Twitter, or Facebook. GDC Europe is owned and operated by UBM TechWeb.

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