All posts by 419833sl

Two sides of the same coin: Co-creation in the videogame industry

Value co-creation has started to spread more and more across various industries during the last decade. Media consumers have taken up the role of media producers, as firms give them the opportunity to design, produce or market content. And the game industry is no exception to this phenomenon.

Examples of games such as Spore and Little Big Planet, that rely heavily on user generated content, have introduced a new era for videogames, where the role of co-creative gamer is born (Banks & Potts, 2010). While many benefits may potentially be derived from this new trend, there are also dangers that might lead to utter failure. Two opposite case studies prove that it is not easy to find the keys to success.

Fury was an online game that was released in October 2007. During its development phase, the game looked quite promising. There were a lot of expert gamers that spent hours playing the open beta version, providing the designer company, Auran, with valuable feedback for improvement (Banks & Potts, 2010). In addition, since the game was used by some highly-ranked members of the online gaming community, many players were intrigued to try it out resulting in a form of online word-of-mouth marketing. The developers changed Fury quite a lot, always according to user feedback they were getting. However, in the end this advantage backfired. Upon the game’s release, the reviews were disappointing to say the least. Hardcore gamers, who spent hours providing input to improve the game, accused Auran that they released the game too early and did not take enough time to carefully implement most things discussed in the feedback. As a result, the gaming community turned its back on the project and Fury was shut down shortly after its release.


Co-creation can indeed backfire…

Auran underestimated the consumers’ needs. As many expert gamers pointed out, they did not change some of the key aspects of the game simply because they did not want to. Introducing consumer value creation can disrupt some of the traditional models on which production in a certain industry is based (Banks & Potts, 2010). In this case, the expert producers disregarded the customers’ opinions and insisted on something that turned out to be unacceptable for the market. Nevertheless, there is always a way to find the right balance between company and consumer value creation. And the case of World of Warcraft makes a perfect example of this balance.

Blizzard is one of the largest gaming companies in the world. One of its biggest successes came with the release of the online game World of Warcraft, which is still the largest online game 10 years after its release with more than 10 million subscribers. But how did Blizzard use value co-creation effectively? Apart from the open beta version that was made available prior to the game’s release, the company made available, along with the full version of the game, a free API through which users could customize their user interface (Davidovici-Nora, 2009). Therefore, Blizzard put minimal effort in designing a simple and easy to use UI for casual gamers, while giving the opportunity to more hardcore consumers to enrich that UI according to their specific needs. They achieved this by creating add-ons that provided the original UI with additional functionalities. Users were also able to share their add-ons through the game’s online community. What Blizzard achieved, apart from minimum effort costs in interface design, was to keep the core of the game intact as the developers wanted it (Davidovici-Nora, 2009). But on the other hand, they empowered gamers by allowing them to create tools that would make their experience better.


The opposite side of the coin: co-creation at its best!

The two case studies represent two different models of co-creation. On the one hand there is the use of open beta versions, which give the consumer the role of game tester and provide valuable feedback to the companies. In this more traditional model, co-creation happens before the marketing of the game (Davidovici-Nora, 2009). On the other hand, Blizzard used the API to allow gamers to create value even after the game’s marketing and to “pass on” to them the role of game developer, even to a certain extent. However, it was not this difference that determined the success or failure of the projects. Both cases show that value co-creation can be a powerful ally, but as companies give customers more power over their products, they need to take these newly forged relationships into account more seriously.

Hence, the gaming industry has reached an era where gamers are more useful than ever, as they do not purely consume but they are actively involved in game development. The lesson to be learned is that, as consumers gain more power over product creation, firms need to be ready to abandon some of the more traditional business models in order to make a successful transition into this new era of co-creation.


Banks, John, and Jason Potts. “Co-creating games: a co-evolutionary analysis.” New Media & Society (2010).

Davidovici-Nora, Myriam. “The dynamics of co-creation in the video game industry: The case of world of warcraft.” Communications & Strategies 73 (2009): 43.

Jenkins, Henry. “Why Co-Creation Matters: An Interview with John Banks.” (2014)

Probably The Worst Post You’ll Ever Read, God Bless It!

“Utter rubbish”! No, this is not another negative characterization I use for my new blog post. Shockingly, it is a review of one of the users of IMDB regarding the film “The Shawshank Redemption”, the most highly rated film in the website’s database. As firms make it easier and more accessible for users to write reviews about various products, we see more and more people seizing the opportunity to bash on something that offered them an unpleasant experience.

“Absolutely filthy, dark & damp” is stated in another review on TripAdvisor about a certain hotel. Other users choose aggressive titles such as “Do not book unless you have money to throw away or you are stupid”, while in Amazon you can find reviews for products stating they are “total crap” or “garbage”. But to what extent are these reviews actually helpful? Do they really offer an objective view of the product that can help other consumers like us make an informed purchase decision?


Harsh language? Not really helpful!

Let’s get back to the first example of “The Shawshank Redemption”. Another negative review starts with the phrase “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to offend people who like this film but..” before starting to list all the harsh critique on this highly regarded movie. Both reviews have the same star rating (1). But are they equally helpful to the eyes of users? Apparently not. The use of phrases such as “I’ll be honest”, “I don’t want to be mean, but” and “god bless it” is found to soften the tone of negative reviews and change the perception of them by the users (Hamilton et al., 2014). These phrases are called dispreferred markers.

The main use of these markers is that they help the reviewer in acknowledging that his opinion is not accepted by everyone and might lead to confrontation. They serve as a signal, through which the reviewer states that his writing might lead to social awkwardness and disagreement (Hamilton et al., 2014). Therefore, users who intend to negatively review something use these markers as tools to prepare the reader about something unpleasant that is mentioned in the review. And this in turn translates into people perceiving the negative review as more helpful. This is exactly what Hamilton et al. tried to discover in their paper “We’ll be honest with you, this won’t be the best article you’ll ever read”. And to do so, they use mainly 2 hypothesis:

H1: People who communicate using dispreferred markers will be evaluated as more credible

H2: Dispreferred markers will increase the perceived likability of the communicator

Essentially, if the reviewer uses such markers, he/she acknowledges that the shared information might be socially costly as it is unpleasant for some people. He/she then tries to soften the tone of a harsh critique and that makes it, in the eyes of the readers, seem more gentle and thoughtful.

The authors used 5 experiments, through which they were able to validate the two hypothesis above. But apart from that, they were also able to prove that the effects are not limited to the English language, as they conducted one of the experiments in Dutch. They also showed that the marker effect persists even if the review is short and that it also has an impact on brand personality. In essence, the use of dispreferred markers in product reviews increased brand sincerity and the user’s willingness to pay for those products.


Probably too honest…

Nevertheless, this subject is not totally novel. There have been numerous studies in marketing that show the importance of the framing of a certain message (e.g. White et al., 2011; Gamliel & Herstein, 2012). But this study makes a significant contribution, as it shows that even negative reviews can be useful and can improve the image of a product. The effect of a negative review with a dispreferred marker was even stronger than that of positive reviews. Firms should therefore aim at creating a polite customer base and hope that customers will be more “restrained” when they want to express their negative experiences (Hamilton et al., 2014).

Therefore, in the future try to use dispreferred markers in your negative reviews if you want to seem more credible. Can you soften your critique after a bad experience? I know reading my blog post was certainly one, so please try to start now!

Short explanation of the article by one of the authors:


Hamilton, Ryan, Kathleen D. Vohs, and ANNL MCGILL. “We’ll Be Honest, This Won’t Be the Best Article You’ll Ever Read: The Use of Dispreferred Markers in Word-of-Mouth Communication.” Journal of Consumer Research 41.1 (2014): 197-212.

White, Katherine, Rhiannon MacDonnell, and Darren W. Dahl. “It’s the mind-set that matters: The role of construal level and message framing in influencing consumer efficacy and conservation behaviors.” Journal of Marketing Research48.3 (2011): 472-485.

Gamliel, Eyal, and Ram Herstein. “Effects of message framing and involvement on price deal effectiveness.” European journal of marketing 46.9 (2012): 1215-1232.

Moving Towards a Craft-Consumer: The Example of AudioDraft

It is a fact that firms are constantly looking for new ideas and content that fit their specific needs. Therefore, not only consumers respond to customized solutions offered by companies, but the opposite can happen as well. The evolution of crowdfunding has allowed the creation of suitable platforms that connect individuals with firms within new contexts.

AudioDraft is an interesting case of such a platform. It allows anyone that needs a specific music or sound to crowdsource it to talented composers or music designers around the globe. The best analogy for what the startup does is 99Designs for sound [1]. What is the core of this idea? “The logic is to make things simpler for everyone. Customers can always know beforehand what their music budget will be and the designers can more easily understand the payment amounts they are expecting from the service”, says Arto Tolonen, co-founder of AudioDraft [2].

The company was founded in 2010 and within the first three years managed to create a community of about 20,000 musicians and composers that offer their music talents to clients or firms. This pool is balanced out by approximately 1,000 customers [3]. Nokia is one of the biggest companies that have used it in order to create a sound to go with its new devices. Initially, the only way offered to connect artists with companies was through competitions initiated by the latter (Open Studio). The platform charged 99$ fee per competition, in addition to 10% of the prize money. However, later AudioDraft created an online unique music store, where participants could upload their music, while customers have to pay them anything from 400$ to 2000$ for a license of a certain track (A&R). The last option provided is full access to the musician talent pool along with a full music production toolkit for 999$ per month (Agency Studio).


Each of the above revenue models correspond to a different level of customization and expertise for the required music. And while 1,000 customers might not seem a massive number, the average commission musicians gain per track is 1,200$, with AudioDraft gaining 10% of it. “There are artists on the platform who are making enough money to pay for their living costs” states CEO Teemu Yli-Hollo [1]. As for the goal of this crowdsourcing music company?  “We want to give artists other means to create and find distribution for their music than the old record label way, and to make crowd-sourcing music easier,” Yli-Hollo explains. Another interesting functionality included in the platform allows fans to have access to the actual production of a music track. “Imagine if an artist like Madonna would build a song online, giving fans access to hear the song as it is being written, having them comment the track and share the process of writing music,” Yli-Hollo suggests [4]. Could such ideas cause the next big disruption in the music industry?

AudioDraft is a perfect example of a firm that uses crowdsourcing to empower customers to create new products and even distribute them to other people or firms. Such cases show the unlimited potential of crowdsourcing. We have already looked into consumers customizing products that firms offer and the principles of this customization process [5]. Perhaps it is time to look into consumers creating custom products for themselves, from which they alone profit and through which they create a different kind of value for firms, not monetary. This is the next step as the market is moving towards a “craft-consumer”, one that brings skill, knowledge, judgement and passion while being motivated by a desire for self-expression in the process of creating a new product [6].






[5] Randall, Taylor, Christian Terwiesch, and Karl T. Ulrich. “Principles for user design of customized products.” California Management Review 47.4 (2005): 68.

[6] Campbell, Colin. “The Craft Consumer Culture, craft and consumption in a postmodern society.” Journal of consumer culture 5.1 (2005): 23-42.