Cloud gaming is going to make customer support more complicated

New cloud-based game platforms like Google Stadia and Apple Arcade are potentially great for gamers, offering on-demand, download-free, anytime, anywhere games. But, drawing on over 20 years’ experience supporting games, I see some serious challenges on the horizon for the industry, and especially those who engage with the player community.

Throw traditional behavior forecasts out the window

The rise of media streaming platforms like Netflix created new customer behaviors. It’s likely we’ll see similar changes from those using on-demand gaming service. Because as these services bypass downloads, updates, and, in some cases, barriers to purchase, switching between games will become nearly instantaneous for players. And that has a huge impact on any support team’s ability to accurately forecast player volumes and how much support is needed at any one time.

What’s more, this frictionless game switching lends itself to more live event-style games, like Fortnite’s black hole event, which will likely create huge spikes in player activity at certain times. And that makes delivering player support even more unpredictable.

Until these platforms are around long enough to produce on how players behave, predicting support team volumes and knowing when to ramp efforts up or down will be a big challenge.

Time to rethink testing?

As players switch between games on a whim, their tolerance for a bad or buggy experience will drop  especially as players have fewer sunk costs (both money and download time), making game abandonment an even easier choice. It’s why we need to rethink the way games are tested before they’re released.

With such high standards from the get-go, there will be a greater emphasis from developers and publishers on bug-free releases, which will drive a need for more robust testing processes.

A big part of this will be closer integration between testing and player support teams. That way, if there’s a known bug or problem at the game’s release, player support teams are in the loop and ready to address it (or push an update out to the community with a known workaround) so players aren’t immediately put off a game.

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Global 24/7 support for always-on gaming

It’s not that there will be more games, it’s that all of the games will be immediately available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. This is great for consumers and a huge challenge for player support teams. Apple Arcade is already available in over 150 countries and even Stadia’s limited initial release (14 countries) is an ambitious task for support teams that will be tasked with supporting multiple languages over multiple time zones.

As these platforms expand the number of games they support and the number of regions they operate in, the complexity of providing adequate player support grows exponentially. And when players can switch games at will, it will be those player support teams that can ramp up operations and provide native language support when things go wrong that will win the loyalty of more customers.

Short-term integration teething

Early on, these games are likely to face integration issues — load testing, bandwidth restrictions, etc. —  as developers and publishers iron out the kinks of porting existing titles onto cloud-based platforms. Naturally, these development and testing issues will cascade down to player support teams. So as these platforms and games launch, player support teams need to think about how they can increase their efforts in response.

It’s worth noting, though, that this is a short-term challenge. As these platforms become more widely used, and games are specifically developed and tested for them, the fewer issues we’ll see.

Keep fighting the good fight

Until these platforms are free and running out in the public, we’re never going to predict every issue that comes up. But that doesn’t mean player support teams shouldn’t start preparing for them.

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