By David Radd

Making a community around your game is increasingly an important task for all games. While it’s been obvious for years in genres like MMOs where people naturally are congregated virtually and encouraged to talk with each other, it’s now seeping into everything. Where gamers are talking about it in forums, posting videos to Twitch TV and YouTube or comparing in-game achievements, they are always engaged. Raptr also plays an important role in helping set up different communities of gamers and we got a chance to talk to Raptr CEO Dennis Fong about the rise of community in games.

Do you think that social options, however subtly, will be the biggest difference maker for success for video games going forward?

Social options are a game-changer, no question about it, because gamers love to brag and the content they’re going to create will keep them and their friends engaged with a game even while they aren’t playing it, and attract new users from the buzz generated around this content.

How have your community engagement offerings grown over the past year?

Community events have been a big area of focus — game nights with fellow Raptr members and staff, and even with game developers are really popular. And then we launched our Q&A series where members can talk directly to the people who make their favorite games. We’ve had Q&As with The Behemoth, the Defiance team, Assassin’s Creed III devs, Chris Kluwe (NFL player and huge gamer), Zombie Studios, and the Skulls of the Shogun guys all within just the last few weeks, and these threads can often get over a thousand comments.

And then of course we also have our Rewards program, which is a great way for our members to get free stuff just for playing their games — and also allows publishers to reward their dedicated fans and find new players.

We’re also partnering with Twitch to enable our members to live stream PC games directly through the Raptr Desktop App. Live streaming is still kind of challenging to set up, so we’re really excited to make that process much easier. We’re rolling this out very soon, along with some other features related to user-generated content and sharing.

Even for games that could be classified as single-player experiences, would you say that growing a community around the game is quickly becoming a necessity?

Absolutely. Some of the most popular games today are still single-player experiences, yet there’s no lack of user generated content, conversation, and buzz surrounding these games. Just take a look at a game like Assassin’s Creed — the strength of their community is immediately evident if you’ve ever been to a Comic-Con or PAX event by the swarm of cosplay present. This community passion is a big reason why AC continues to succeed year in and year out.

Talk to me about the connection with the GMAs and the “Best Community Activation” award and why that’s such a good fit for Raptr?

The GMA’s are a perfect fit for us because our “Community as a Service” mantra is applicable not just by game designers, but by marketers too, and the GMA’s provide a fantastic platform with direct access to these key industry decision makers. What we mean by “Community as a Service” is a player-first approach to community building through carefully planned engagement features and events that are more likely to keep players engaged with a game even when they aren’t playing — not just simply managing a forum or a Facebook page. And what we want game makers and marketers to realize is that this ultimately benefits them as well because gamers are more likely to stay loyal to their brands rather than moving on to the next one.

Along those lines, talk to me about some of the nominees from the “Best Community Activation” award and why they’re some of the best examples of “Community as Service.”

We were honored to have the chance to recognize the best in the industry that think about their players and communities first and treat them right by putting the proper tools in front of them both in and out of game. The list of nominees included Borderlands 2 for the continuous Shift code scavenger hunt they’ve created to rewards fans for following their brand across multiple social and media channels, Starcraft II and their continued success in eSports, Call of Duty: Black Ops II with the Elite service steadily improving and now being made free for players, Rift and the loyalty program they put in place through the Raptr Rewards Program that drove 58 percent longer play sessions, and EVE Online and their player-elected Council of Stellar Management and player-driven narrative.

But ultimately League of Legends took home the gold for their undeniable success in the eSports arena this past year, full launch of Spectator Mode, and innovative player-run discipline system – The Tribunal – just to name a few.

With Sony incorporating the “Share” button into the PS4, do you think that this is a sign that the console makers “get it” when it comes to “Community as Service”

The “Share” button is a step in the right direction as providing players community tools to create content for your game in the form of videos and live broadcasts is a cool feature for gamers and is good for business, but “Community as a Service” isn’t just about adding a simple in-game social feature. It’s a principle that should be evident across the entire experience, so I’m definitely interested in seeing what else Sony has up their sleeve.

Have you liked what you’ve seen or heard so far from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft and what would you like to see for the next generation?

I think it’s been answered by the question above — the “Share” button is a small step in the right direction and I’d like to see next generation consoles make a full-fledged effort to empower gamers to create content via an arsenal of community tools.