Coming under fire is hard as a developer, after all, you’ve just poured years of your life into a project and now it’s out in the ether, your getting negative feedback from players. Part of the human condition is the tendency to only focus on the negative feedback. Ask any YouTuber and they will tell you that you can have one hundred positive comments and three negative ones, and you will only read and remember those three negative ones.
Negative feedback while tough to read and listen too, isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s one of the most valuable pieces of information you can get. Constructive negative criticism can shine a spotlight on areas that may need improvement in your game.
When utilized correctly, negative feedback can work massively in your favor and can even help boost sales, public perception, and can turn people into fans. How can all that happen from negative remarks you ask? Simple, it is ALL about your response. Negative feedback isn’t just feedback it’s a PR opportunity.
How you respond is key but responding well under fire is easier said than done as has been seen time and time again all over the internet. Here are a few tips for making sure you respond well whether it be steam reviews or social media:
1. Acknowledge the problem and the person.
All games have bugs and various issues and it’s best not to shy away from that fact. No product is perfect. One of the best things to do when a problem is called out is to tackle it head-on. That’s not to say the problem is easy to fix or that it won’t take time to fix it, but players want to know that it is on your agenda.
When responding make sure to acknowledge the issue (if it is an issue of course) and also make sure to thank the players for taking the time to give you feedback. Even if they were not very nice about it, you can be. Remember, people will be watching.
2. Remove the Emotion
Human emotion can cause problems especially when our defense mechanisms kick into gear. When you’re on the receiving end of criticism, often a first reaction is to feel defensive and angry. It is important to realize this is a natural emotional reaction but ultimately not something to act upon. Put professionalism first in all things, remove your emotion from your responses to ensure that your tone and remarks are well received by the community.
3. Don’t Kneejerk
Building on point number two, it is paramount that you do not have a kneejerk response to negative feedback. Whether it is a bad review or a criticizing tweet, your gut reaction is likely emotional charged. It’s important you step back for a moment and evaluate yourself and your product. Be self-aware, don’t respond in anger as it will only add gas to the fire and will not do you any PR favors in the long run.
4. Analyze the feedback carefully
Before you respond to anything, it’s vital that you understand the nature of the feedback. Without analysis, you cannot hope to construct a reasonable and correct resolution. Ask yourself: Is the criticism valid? Is it backed up by other people? Does my internal data show support for this? Is this feedback spam or trolling? Does the player want to continue playing or refund? What kind of solution allows the player to return to the game?
These questions will allow you to form a response and valid solutions. If the feedback isn’t accurate, it is ok to state your case as long as you observe point number five…
5. Be Humble
Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is the tone and way in which a response is delivered. Being humble is a must for developers looking to gain the support of the player and the wider community. Even if you’re fighting against trolls or just flawed feedback, being humble will allow you to gain positive attention. The silent majority of players that will ultimately play your game want developers to take the high road and be more mature than random internet people. You love your games and your community so deliver all messages from a humble and loving place.
6. Offer Solutions
When there are issues to resolve, offer solutions where possible. Be transparent about your development priorities and progress and share if it’s a hotfix or a timeline to fixing the issue. Paying customers are happy when they are given solutions in one form or another.