Gabe House: 'Worms' on Facebook

Gabe House

It seems everyone these days is hopping on the Facebook bandwagon -- even video game developers.

Team17, an independent developer and publisher based in the United Kingdom, recently popped up on the popular social networking site with a page of its own. The studio is most well-known for its "Worms" series, which pits squads of annelids against each other in a turn-based deathmatch.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Team17's Studio Director Martyn Brown -- who co-founded the studio in 1990 -- about the indie developer's decision to join Facebook.

Gabe House: How did Team17 joining Facebook come about? Was it just some random idea from someone or is this part of a greater plan to reach more people?

Martyn Brown: I'd like to think its part of a progressive strategy, understanding how people interact. I think it's important to see Facebook as an entertainment channel/medium in it's own right and I thought it very useful we experiment with taking an important step to let fans of our products get near us -- especially as we enter the foray of digital markets.

GH: How long has Team17 been on Facebook, and has the response been along the lines of what was expected?

MB: It's only been a week or two and we've not really advertised it, so the community is growing slowly -- although its been pretty lively. I imagine the response will explode when we start to release more material about our up coming games and news of the site gets better known. The page is getting a couple of thousand hits a day, but I know it's just the beginning. It's nice and exciting because it's viral and we can see it, touch it almost.

GH: Who actually responds to the community in the various discussion threads on Team17's Facebook profile? Is it a single person or a group of people?

MB: It's mostly been myself in the early stages whilst it remains manageable and I can get to steer where we want to be with the style of content etc. It's easier to do from the off with one person doing that.

GH: Do you find these Facebook discussions have a different community feel than, say, forums on Team17's Web site?

MB: Yeah, I've noticed a difference already. On Forums it's pretty faceless and it's much easier for people to be an ass. On Facebook I think there's a generally better ambience because you relate to it being a real person and not some stupid nickname.

GH: Do you believe this is an avenue of communication more suited for a smaller, independent developer such as Team17?

MB: I'd like to think so, it remains to be seen at what stage it will be judged as a success, or if it will become unmanageable or useful in the future. It's pretty much an experiment.

GH: Has Facebook already been a valuable resource as far as fans' desires and complaints? In other words, will this help shape future releases from Team17?

MB: Not as such. Also, it's difficult for fans to help shape products because our own development is very keenly orchestrated and structured -- it's very hard to 'design by committee' and it's only perhaps post release that fans can have a ground-swell of opinion that leads to change. Obviously with so many players, you can't expect individual feature requests to take place!

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