Getting Consumer Insights from Online Communities: An Example

This is an example of how you sometimes get unexpected insights about your consumers from their behaviors in online communities:

Over the development period of the video game Dragon Age: Origins (a dark fantasy action RPG), the developer Bioware steadily released bits and pieces of information about the game (quests, characters, weapons, locations, etc.) on their online forum to get their fans psyched up for the game’s eventual release.

One of the main characters was a guy named Alistair. As Alistair was the lead writer’s favorite, Bioware posted the character’s concept art and a much more detailed and dramatic backstory than most other characters’.  The gamers were impressed, but no more so than with other characters who didn’t get the “star treatment”.

A couple of weeks later, the writers decided to make Alistair a “romance option” (your love interest in the game), and this little piece of information was thus posted on the forum.

The forum exploded. Now everyone wanted to know more about Alistair: “What’s he like?” “Is he funny?” “Is he tall?!” “Tell us more about his tragic backstory!”

Bioware never thought this would be the case: romance is as important to their action gamers as combat systems and main plots. Now Bioware games all heavily feature romance — sometimes as many as 15 romance options.

Even though action gamers love shooting people and blowing stuff up, they really, really, really care about who they can flirt with.

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