Discord is a powerful resource for indie developers who want to grow their game’s fanbase ahead of a launch. While there are many free platforms available for building a community online, we regularly see developers find the most success with Discord. Discord can help them grow their following, collect community feedback, and build excitement around their upcoming title in an environment they control.
Every social media platform requires some sort of time investment, and the results are often different from one platform to the next. Twitter is a great space to connect with millions of people, but the noise inside the Twitter feed creates significant competition for attention when developers want to have deep conversations with fans.
Steam is another useful tool for developers, but it also has its shortcomings. Developers can only disseminate information to fans who have Wishlisted the game or who are actively reading the Steam page. Because Steam wasn’t built to be a communications tool, Steam is a poor choice for making announcements unless you already have a large, dedicated following.
While these and other platforms can help indie developers build an audience around their upcoming game, we frequently recommend using Discord as a dev’s primary tool for interacting with their community because it offers unique advantages they rarely find anywhere else.
The biggest advantage of Discord is that your server is dedicated to your game. Everyone who joins is already invested in your title and understands that your server is built specifically for discussion around your game. This starting point creates numerous other benefits, including:
1. Discord is a fun place for communities to interact. Unlike other social media platforms, Discord gives your fanbase an opportunity to engage in channels dedicated to specific topics. In Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion’s Discord server, conversations are split into rules, announcements, and the devlog, but the developers at Snoozy Kazoo also provide spaces for fan art, memes, and pictures of pets.
2. Discord is a space to source meaningful feedback from fans. The gamers in your Discord server are fans of your game and are excited to see it improve over time. Your fans can help you find the following:
When you enter into a conversation with your fans about game improvement, you actively make them part of the development. If a fan sees their feedback impacting the game, they’ll grow even more invested in your project.
3. Discord is a space to release updates and notifications. If you release an announcement about your game on a platform like Twitter, the flood of unrelated tweets in the Twitter feed will quickly bury your post and distract from your message. Although Discord servers can grow equally noisy, you have more control over the conversations that take place. You can even create unique channels dedicated entirely to discussing release updates and notifications.
We encouraged Blazing Stick, the developers behind Cyber Hook, to start a Discord server as soon as we started working together. Over time, Blazing Stick’s fans have supported the community in many different ways, some of which have been unexpected. Here’s how they’ve contributed:
1. Fans provide feedback. Cyber Hook is a game designed with speedrunning in mind, so experienced speedrunners regularly offer suggestions on how to make the levels more engaging and improve gameplay. In the #feedback thread, Blazing Stick has talked to fans about everything from controller sensitivity to flashing lights to deep discussions around how the game’s physics impact player success.
2. Fans provided feedback on Cyber Hook’s marketing all over the world. One conscientious fan used Discord to report a small and hilarious translation issue on the Chinese version of the game’s Steam page.
3. Members help moderate the Discord channel to keep it positive. As Cyber Hook fans established their community, they began looking out for each other. When one member began trolling the Cyber Hook Discord server, fans policed the individual and quickly reported him to the developers for removal.
These advantages are extremely valuable to the Blazing Stick team because they free the developers to focus on improving the game while building a relationship with their biggest fans. The Discord server is a win-win. Fans influence a project they love and the developers have an ever-improving product.
Developers have countless free tools available to build a dedicated following as they prepare to launch their next game, but few offer the flexibility and insights that a Discord community can provide. When indie developers need as much value as possible, Discord is a powerful tool.