If you follow gaming news even at the slightest, then you probably know about the discovery of aliens in the game Elite Dangerous. It is still unclear what the consequences of this will be and what the future of the game will hold. Though for Elite Dangerous players, this is a very exciting time. Now I don’t even play Elite Dangerous yet alone follow the game. Though when I saw this at the top of a gaming subreddit, I was very intrigued. I found out that the aliens are supposedly called the Thargoids. They possess advanced ships and technology, and have been hinted to for a while now. After a bit more research, I took a step back and said, “Hey, I don’t even play the game. Why am I following this?”, and that’s when it hit me. This is not only a big moment in the game’s history, but is an expertly devised marketing strategy by the developers of Elite Dangerous, Frontier Developments. Here is why the discovery of aliens in Elite: Dangerous is so cool and so smart.
Let’s talk about aliens, like, real life aliens. Some think they don’t exist, others think they are out there somewhere, and a few have claimed to have seen them. Imagine what would happen if we discovered aliens in the real world. We would be in a state of excitement, terror, and curiosity. It would truly be a monumental moment in human history. This is nearly identical to how the alien discovery happened in Elite Dangerous. There had been crash sites and artifacts in the game before, all evidence of aliens in the game. Heck, maybe there were a few people before this who found out but had no proof. They could only tell in stories and rumors, with no one believing them like people today. Now that we have video proof. it is confirmed that aliens do exist in this game world. It is now time for the players to accept this reality, and react to it. Some players are very excited, as they have been waiting for this moment since the game’s release. Others are scared, hoping that their rare and expensive ships are not destroyed by a Thargoid weapon. Regardless of their opinions, the players and even non-players like me are all intrigued. If you search Elite Dangerous on google, you will be met with countless articles, videos, and posts about the alien discovery. Everyone is talking about it because it is something yet to be seen by the gaming community
With so many people involved, a lot of opinions are being shared. There are countless comments saying things like “I hope they have planet colonies across the galaxy” or “I hope we can trade with them”. Everyone is so curious as to what the Thargoid aliens will become, that they are actually shaping the gameplay themselves. The developers are foaming at the mouth right now, as they are getting a ton of suggestions for content for Elite Dangerous. They can go on Reddit, see top comments and suggestions, and voila. From their they can make the necessary changes/additions to create the best game for the players. For most games, to get this kind of feedback you need to host an open beta, getting a lot of people trying and testing your game. Just by making the alien discovery an event, Frontier Developments bring people together from all across the gaming community to shape and improve their game.
Not only do the devs get tons of feedback for their game, but they are getting a bunch of free press. If this event never happened, I nor hundreds of non-Elite Dangerous players and press would have never talked or written about it. However, since it’s so controversial, huge, and intriguing, we do write about it. Even if the aliens were discovered at the release of the game, not nearly as many people would be discussing it. What sounds more interesting, “Elite Dangerous, a game in space with aliens”, or “Aliens are discovered in the space game, Elite Dangerous”. The devs were betting on this moment back when they first made the game. Instead of marketing all at once at release, they split it up, drawing new and veteran players to the game. Since the event is so significant to the Elite Dangerous community, it spread like wildfire across the entire gaming community. This in turn brought about lots of free marketing for the game.
There is a reason why game developers work just as hard updating their game as they do making it. Game updates draw people back and keep them playing. An example game for me is another space game, Kerbal Space Program. I’ve had the game since around the .23 update, and it’s currently at version 1.2.2. I played it a decent amount when I first got it, but I eventually dropped off. Then, when a big update came around, I picked it back up. No matter if you are in love with the game or would just hop on for a few minutes every once in a while, game updates are what keep people coming back. Well, you may ask, “Why not just include the aliens at the release of the game? That would get more people to buy it right?” Well, yes in the short term, but in the long term, game updates prevail. With aliens at release, a player might be interested in the game for 6 months then drop off, but never play it again. In this state, a player at launch might have only played for 3 months then dropped off, but are now back with the introduction of aliens. Multiple and better updates only extend the game’s longevity, keeping its player base high and consistent.
If you look hard enough, there are some super smart things game developers do that make their game’s so successful. This is one of those things. By making the discovery of aliens in Elite Dangerous such a big event, the developers involved their community in the game’s development, created a means of free marketing, and extended the gameplay for players to come back to. In a clever development and marketing scheme, the creators Frontier Developments made their game even more successful. This was so smart in fact, that I predict more game developers will attempt this strategy in the future. Heck, I might do it too.
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If you would like to check out Elite Dangerous for yourself, click the link below.