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Introversion offers insight into how its large fan base thrives under the development of Multiwinia and Darwinia+

In the latest editorial from Introversion Software, Martin Mir reflects on the close relationship the developer has with its online community, how the fans help feedback and influence Introversion's games, and why community is one of the strongest marketing assets a company can have.

The secret to any successful online community is to keep the space fresh, relevant and up to date. Rewards are a benefit for any community member who goes out of their way to help your brand. The valuable information you gain from a community is life and death for any healthy organisation, especially within the games industry. Listening to your loyal fans is how you grow and learn from your mistakes. Website forums have always been perceived as a place where fans hang out and a place where you can read up on FAQís. Our forum on the other hand has both these elements and also encourages people to hang out and socialise. People love joining hives, especially when it says something about who they are and what you are interested in.

The Introversion community has always maintained a loyal following for our games and our culture. We encourage the community to get involved and help us with everything from beta testing to creative input for our future games. One of the reward systems we have in place on our IV forums is a loyalty badge system to reward fans who have contributed to the community in various ways. The loyalty badges range from everything to helping a fellow IV member with a gameplay issue to engaging and posting a certain amount of written pieces on the forum. These badges appear next to the IV memberís profile which helps highlight the length of time a member has been with the community and what they have contributed. These badges have gone on to create many topics ranging from silly to very informative. The IV community love to read about the Introversion development process. This has been clear throughout the Darwinia+ project. There comments and suggestions have been taken into consideration throughout development.

We regularly run and arrange both online and offline LAN tournaments for our community to give them a chance to meet and compete with each other. With so many LAN centres closing down we have continued to support this worthy cause by combining forces with centres across the UK to run events for fans and give gamers, who may never have heard of Introversion Software, the opportunity to sample our games.

Introversioniteís stick with Introversion because we are as transparent to our fans as we can be. This shows through the interesting development blogs we regularly post. The insiders look into a game company for us is our unique style of voice. As videogames are still relatively new to the world, we salute the classics like Space Invaders as the innovators for the whole industry. Our community are gamers who love all games and find a safe haven and inspiration with Introversion Software. We speak our mind on everything and this openness has been present from the beginning of Introversionís core values.

For our community we have tried to make sure the visitors to the Introversion website learn something new or interesting every time they log on. When I use the word interesting I am referring to everything from world news to funny YouTube videos to cool games to watch out for. Entertainment and interesting content is the key to repeat visits to any site, and this is what we try to give our fans. Whether it's an update of what Introversion Software is up to or discussing future IV games and what they could look like, to general industry gossip and reviews, there is always something for every gamer who visits the Introversion forums.

Communities are formed by the fans and therefore the community is a living entity. A community can tell you where you are going wrong and help with changes to get the balance right. A lot of companies overlook the benefits of a strong focus on their community managements and they donít see the importance of communicating with them as a two way process. Community members are your biggest fans and they want to feel a part of your cause and be involved in as much as possible. They will go out of their way to help you if they love what you do. Love is a reciprocal activity which is two way, if you donít show care for your fans, who will?

I think we will see more websites turning to their community for answers on how they can improve the service. Delivery of a product is one thing but having a wealth of information from loyal fans can go a long way, especially when planning future strategic moves to market and for game development. If a small portion of your customers are your loyal fans, then the community is the backbone of any brand. I would like to thank our fans for all their support and for keeping Introversion Software alive and kicking even through these strange economic times. We just want to present games that a true to what gaming is truly about, which is to enjoy them and have fun.

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