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Starting small, ending big: World Zombination’s community in 2014

Gordon Ryan

Starting small, ending big: World Zombination’s community in 2014

We’re back in the studio for the start of a new year and, like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot about what made 2014 remarkable and what 2015 has in store for us here at Proletariat. For our team, this was the first full year of World Zombination’s development, which means we hit innumerable milestones, encountered (and conquered) a slew of challenges, and molded the game from its rough early form into the fully-realized late-stage beta that it is today. But there was another narrative that developed throughout 2014 that was just as important to us as the technical development of the game: the growth and evolution of the World Zombination community.

As our studio’s Community Director, I can’t think of anything I’d rather talk about to wrap-up our amazing 2014 than the incredible group of beta players and fans who have contributed so much to making World Zombination a compelling experience. We’ve been a community-first developer since the beginning and have always believed that community is just as elemental to the success of what we do as the game itself is. With that in mind, let’s take a look at where we started, where we are, and our hopes for the new year!

On January 1, 2014 our community was still in its relative infancy. We had shown early demos of World Zombination at PAX Prime and other events in 2013, received some good press, had a website, blog, and some social media channels, but our measurable community—the number of people who were followers, subscribers, or other things we had real numbers for—was still pretty modest. That changed considerably as the year went on. In the chart below, you can see how the community grew, when it expanded substantially (the yellow circles), when we released new updates of the World Zombination beta, and when the Proletariat forums and Stream Team were launched.

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While the community’s growth has been fairly steady throughout the year, there are clear periods of dramatic growth. There are numerous synergetic reasons why these periods occurred (intense growth rarely happens in a bubble), but there are dominant instigators: the first was a direct result of the attention World Zombination received at PAX East, the second was the excitement that was stirred up by the initial beta release, and the third (which was the biggest sustained period of substantial growth) strongly correlates to significant popularity of World Zombination on Twitch streams and YouTube videos from both big and small channels on those networks.

It also appears that our beta release schedule may have been at the root of the variability in growth over time. When we were releasing updates every couple of weeks, there was consistently intense growth; when we didn’t release a new version for an extended period of time (between v1.09 and v2.0), growth began to taper off. This is something we’ll have to be mindful of for our next game.

All of this talk about “the community” makes it seem like World Zombination’s players/fans are just one giant amorphous group, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Individuals in our community are engaged with each other and us across a number of channels that have ebbed and flowed in regards to their popularity over the course of the year.

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Currently, the World Zombination community is distributed across seven primary channels: the Proletariat forums, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, and email (via our beta list/newsletter). One important thing to remember with this distribution is that it reflects the follower/subscriber totals for each channel, not the level of engagement/activity, which would be very difficult to cleanly represent in a comparative chart (I would say that Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube probably see the most daily activity, though).

The pie chart only tells part of the story of 2014, though; the proportions of each respective channel relative to the total size of the community changed throughout the year. Here’s one of my favorite charts, which shows the percentage of the entire community each channel represented over time:

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Email has always been dominant, but it got even more so as the year progressed. Facebook started out as the #2 channel, but was eclipsed by Twitter sometime in September. YouTube became a player partway through the year and has slowly, but surely, taken a bite out of the other channels (with the emergence of the World Zombination Expert channel, this is likely to accelerate).

Of course, those channels ignore a few key places the World Zombination community are very active at, but are a little more ambiguous in terms of overall numbers: non-Proletariat forums, non-Proletariat YouTube and Twitch channels, and in the game itself. These are vitally important to the overall community, and it can be argued that these are actually among the biggest, most engaged, popular, and critical spaces for the members of our community to congregate.

A lot can be said about numbers, but there’s more to a community than just its size and where its members hang out. The character of the World Zombination community shifted tremendously about a third of the way through the year, when the first version of the beta was released. Suddenly, we went from a community of fans who were interested in what we were working on from an almost purely conceptual standpoint to one where a sizeable (and growing) percentage of its members were actually players of the game.

Having players in the community shifted a lot of the conversation about World Zombination to practical and enthusiast topics: feedback and discussion about features, sharing strategies, creating content with the game (Let’s Plays, etc.), interacting with each other in the game, etc. We now have a number of experienced/hardcore players, a subset of the community that brings its own special character; they’re influential, very active, and are able to talk about the game in much more sophisticated ways than our early community was capable of.

World Zombination will be launching early this year, so players will only continue to be a bigger and bigger contingency in the community. Realistically, they will become the entirety of the community, in all practical senses. After the world-wide launch, community growth will (hopefully!) be explosive as legions of new players download the game and begin engaging with each other and us. I’m extremely excited for 2015 for that reason alone; getting the chance to interact with, manage, and foster a huge community of enthusiastic World Zombination players will be an amazing challenge and a ton of fun. I know the rest of the Proletariat team shares in that excitement, as we all participate in the community to some extent, given our studio’s community-oriented culture.

I’m looking forward to seeing even more of you out there in the community in 2015 and getting a chance to have some great conversations and experiences around the game. Thanks for being such an amazing group of fans and players—and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Gordon Ryan
Community Director

 

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