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Gaming.SE has had several recent promotion events for various games. Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and Diablo 3. These have been rather successful. It gets site membership up, while also drawing attention to those games.

The mission statement of Stack Exchange is to make the Internet a better place. And the success of these promotion events makes it conceivable for us to help make the Internet even better.

Everyone has their favorite games. Everyone has their beloved games, whether classic or otherwise. Many of these games are well-known. But some of them aren't.

You know the ones. The classics that slip through the cracks. The ones that the gaming public passed by, but those who've played it know of its greatness. The cult classic: a great game that is only known to a few.

It's safe to say that Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and Diablo 3 aren't these.

Now that Gaming.SE has grown to the degree it has, it has the opportunity through promotions to not merely ride the coattails of popular games, but to influence popularity. To take a cult classic and introduce it to the gaming public at large.

It's very important to note this: this must be community driven! What we absolutely do not want is to become part of the marketing machine for publishers eager to promote their games.

Of course, to do this we need promotion events that work for already existing games.

My questions are these:

  1. Is this a good idea? Do we want to try to use the site to cast a spotlight on overlooked gems?

  2. What would be a good way to decide what games are worthy of this effort? Note that if there isn't a good way, then this isn't a good idea.

  3. Will this effectively help draw attention to less well-known games?

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    No, I don't quite think Gaming's able to influence popularity in the Internet at wide at all. If you have your own brand new spankin' game you want to get covered on the site, that's a different story perhaps, but... – badp Jun 10 '12 at 7:54
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I think you overstate this site's influence on the gaming world. Besides, remember the goal behind promotions - it's not to encourage people to play the games, it's to draw traffic to this site. That's the reason this site spends money on promotion awards - to draw more people here. Spending money on promotions to less-known games is unlikely to draw a lot of traffic, so it's not a good deal.

I think artificially attempting to create an interest in a game is also abusing the basic premise of this site, which is gaming-related Q&A. Do you have a problem? Feel free to ask it. Do you want to advertise a game? There are other venues for that, for example ads.

And we do allow the community to influence what ads this site displays, for instance take a look at the community promotion question and this example answer.

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Yes, we should do this. Not necessarily to bring attention to those games, but for the same reason we do it for larger games - to bring high-quality questions and answers to the site.

On Stack Overflow, questions about PHP outnumber questions about Haskell 33 to 1. Now go elsewhere on the Internet. See what a community that only deals in PHP is like; see what a community that only deals in Haskell is like.

The questions about PHP make Stack Overflow more useful by bringing in lots of people, and creating a database of questions people need quick, practical answers to on a daily basis. But the questions about Haskell bring in the experts, not just experts on Haskell, with high-quality answers and thought-provoking question that attract more experts. There are a lot of places people can ask PHP questions on the Internet, but Stack Overflow is the best because because it's not just that. (You can repeat this argument with Python or C# or Java or any other mainstream language in place of PHP, but I think the PHP contrast is by far the most dramatic.)

I go to Stack Overflow because I can ask questions about any programming problem in any environment in any language and there's a good chance if someone knows the answer, they're on Stack Overflow also because they can ask whatever their question is too. To reach that kind of ubiquity this site needs to be the same - a place where you can ask questions of any level of detail about any game on any platform, and if someone in the world knows the answer they're probably on the site because it can also offer an answer to their question.

To do that, we need to make it as clear as possible to potential users that this is not just a Diablo 3 or Skyrim or game du jour, but an all-encompassing one. And the best way to do that is to make sure we have as many questions as possible that aren't about those games.

The sticking point for me is always #2 - how do we encourage this? The kind of events the site has done so far are very good at creating depth, but not so much breadth. "Focus" and "breadth" are inherently at odds. And community management isn't something I'm skilled at, so I don't have many new ideas about how to do it yet. Instead, here are some vague thoughts:

  • Focus on release data other than titles. A month where each day corresponds to a year - the 1st is 1980, up to the 31st on 2011 - ask a question about your favorite game from that year on that day.
  • Focus on creators or studios. A "Maxis week" may be dominated by Spore and The Sims - as the site already is - but it will also probably bring in plenty of questions about SimAnt.
  • Focus on mechanics. Reward the best questions about crafting, or mapping, or leaderboard ranks. (This is hard to jive with the plan to remove tags about this. "Title only" tags might make for good tags, but hard data-collecting for any new kind of community event.)
  • Pick elements with concurrent big-title launches. Run "Templar Week" when Assassin's Creed III launches. Have one thing happening for question about AC3 or the AC franchise. Have another thing happening for questions about templars in any other games.
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My feeling is that Big Game contest, in fact, reduces the scope of the site. I haven't played any of the last three contest games, and the only thing I want during a contest is for it to end quick. For me, a contest is like this:

  • a lot of new peoples ask questions about the game;
  • questions about any other game are drowned by the question for the contest -> only questions about Big Game are on the site;
  • the contest end, questions about Big Game start to fade, but are still very present on the site. Questions about other games start to come back;
  • another big game arrives, and we start again.

Each time, questions about games not part of a contest nearly disappears from the site, for the two weeks of the contest, and takes a while to come back. In the end, the site is mostly about Big Games, and peoples not playing theses games (like me) feel left out.

That's why I think we should make events about other games. Maybe not a big contest like Mass Effect or Skyrim vs MW3, but why not make a publisher week where the winner could gain a Gaming.SE T-Shirt or a small contest for the occasion of a humble bundle.

These kind of events can also bring a lot of peoples to the site, and, because they are broader, won't leave so much peoples out of the contest.

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    Counterpoint: Is the contest the reason the site is being overwhelmed by a big new AAA title that 75% of our user base is playing, or is it that there's a big new AAA title that 75% of our user base is playing that's to blame? – LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 10 '12 at 14:38
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    Even if the contest is not the cause of the volume of question, shouldn't we try to broaden our user base so that 75% of it is not concerned about just one game at one point in time? – Jupotter Jun 10 '12 at 14:43
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    Although the contests might make it worse, the site would have probably been dominated by new releases anyway, as had happened before with Minecraft, StarCraft 2, Portal 2 etc., which did not have any associated promotion. – Oak Jun 10 '12 at 14:44
  • @LessPop_MoreFizz: From my perspective as someone who doesn't play any of them, the League of Legends contest (a game that wasn't new) overwhelmed the question list more / more often than the Mass Effect 3 or Starcraft 2 contests (which were new). – user2640 Jun 10 '12 at 16:10
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    @JoeWreschnig The LOL contest had all kinds of other problems that had nothing to with any of the issues under discussion here. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 10 '12 at 16:11
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    Also, if the latter is true - the questions are coming regardless of the community events - that's all the more reason to use the community events to draw attention to the other games. Then you get all the questions about the "big" game, and all the questions about "small" game. – user2640 Jun 10 '12 at 16:12
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No.

I think spotlighting popular games and jumping on them right when they release is a good way to drive traffic towards the site, but we don't have very much influence on using the site to influence traffic outside of the site.

Much of the viewership of gaming.se comes from Google search results, while much of the content is generated from a few hundred contributors. If we started suddenly talking about obscure games which normally don't generate Google search results, then it would only attempt to cause buzz inside of gaming.se's regular contributors. It won't suddenly spike up Google search interest on the subject.

Of course, it is also difficult to even generate content within gaming.se for games that contributors don't care about. You can't make someone like a game, I think the gaming grants have shown that even giving out less popular games doesn't create a spike in questions and answers.

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The purpose of promotion events is to make it so that people that don't use the site, but are searching for answers about a particular game, end up finding those answers here. The goal is to grow the site, and since getting new users is such a big deal in terms of the valuation of the site, Stack Exchange can afford to throw some of their venture capitol money at making it happen.

This is only successful to the extent that people outside the site are searching on that game. If you look at some of our early grants, we tried to broaden out to new games that weren't AAA blockbusters. The results were lackluster, because those games didn't have the search traffic to make the questions draw traffic.

Now imagine that you picked a non-blockbuster that wasn't new. The traffic would be another order of magnitude or two smaller.

Now if there's a game with enough of a continued following that it would benefit us to grow our content for that particular game, we could certainly try a sort of "game of the week" type event. I don't think we could get promotional funds for it until we demonstrated that it was effective though, so you'd have to rely on the community participating without outside incentives.

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