If gamers felt a strange chill run up their spine in the last few days, it likely came from the fact that Valve is giving lessons to other developers in how to do community management.
The developer of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 dusted off the Steamworks Development channel on YouTube to publish presentations on game development, with one of them being a detailed breakdown of how Valve approaches its fans. CSGO developer Gautum Babbar discussed the matter, offering some insights into how Valve operates that will likely frustrate longtime fans of any of the publisher’s games.
Valve is notorious for not communicating with its fans about ongoing issues, future plans, or basically anything related to its most popular games. According to Babbar, this isn’t because of the publisher’s frequent firing of employees, efforts to keep costs down by retaining a lean staff, or even laziness. It’s all part of a plan.
“We read and analyze this feedback our customers post on various online communities. But as they know, we rarely participate in those conversations. When we participate, they stop talking to each other and they start talking to us, and the feedback becomes less clear. Occasionally we weigh in if they seem blocked, or we need some more information but otherwise, we just stay out of it,” Babbar said.
The main reason that Valve doesn’t talk with fans is that it doesn’t need to. According to Babbar, CSGO developers keep tabs on community hubs, but doesn’t really let fan discourse guide development. Instead, Valve focuses on actual data regarding players’ actions in the game. Further, Valve remains silent on its future plans for the game as fan behaviors and opinions could change by the time the company starts to take real action on some issues identified by fans.
Babbar pointed to CSGO’s early struggles as a success story for this method. Though CSGO has grown lately, the game was in a more awkward position when it first launched.
According to Babbar, the company had grand plans for the game in the works at that point ranging from performance improvements to the introduction of new cosmetic items. Instead of pushing forward with any of those, the CSGO development team instead pivoted to improving the matchmaking system to increase retention of new players. This came at the expense of other plans in the short term, but ultimately paid off in the long term as CSGO better gained traction.
If you’ve had bad matches recently, it may have been because Trust wasn’t working right. We fixed it yesterday and confirmed that it is now working as intended. Thanks to everyone who provided useful feedback.
— CS:GO (@CSGO) April 29, 2021
Heading into the future, Babbar noted that Valve is more communicative than it has been in the past in large part thanks to the sheer number of ways the company has available to reach fans. This includes event notices on Steam, “takeovers” of the CSGO client, and elaborate webpages on the official websites.
While Babbar certainly makes all of this sound great, there’s no question that many fans disagree with his assessment. This can be seen in the like-to-dislike ratio on the video, in the comments section, or by simply looking at any given community hub for a Valve game.