Why Devs don’t respond directly to good player feedback in a timely manner, even though we ask for it

It should be well-established that players providing reasonable, well-written feedback about what they (dis)like about a game and why is the best and most actionable way to see real change enacted in the game dev process. I’ve had many productive development conversations with coworkers that came about (and several actually initiated real change behind the scenes) because of useful community feedback. I can’t remember a single instance in my entire career where I’ve ever participated in a serious development conversation brought on because of petitions, boycotts, or review bombs. 

Unfortunately, the big problem with the way things work is that, from the outside looking in, the engaged community players get the exact same results from both approaches - radio silence. This happens in no small part because we work on a different time scale than most player expectation. Unless the problem is some kind of literal service-interrupting game-crashing issue, chances are good the players won’t see the results of our work for another three to six months at earliest. For most live service games, we’re often working one or two patches in the future - if the live game is on content patch A, we’re usually testing, fixing bugs and locking up in content patch B for cert/submission while developing new stuff in content patch C. If we receive community feedback and make changes based on that feedback, it will almost certainly go into the patch that’s still in development - patch C. Because most patch deliveries happen every three months, this means that it is often anywhere from three to six months before the community gets to see the results of their feedback in game. The topic du jour of conversation will likely have moved on by that point.

This assumes that the feedback is for changes that we can make fairly easily, like game balance and adjusting data values. For more resource-intensive requests like asking for better representation for LGBTQIA+ or people of color in the game, I would assume that the community asking for this would want it done right rather than quickly. In order to gather those resources, create the content and validate it, and push it live properly and respectfully, it would take a significant amount of time - especially if we can’t do it all in-house (e.g. if it requires licensor sign-off, voice acting, new animations, etc.). Content created as a result of resource-intensive feedback is likely not to see the light of day for a year at the earliest even if we really want to do it, and even then likely not until the next game (or major expansion) which may be multiple years in the future.

This unfortunately all looks exactly to the community an awful lot like radio silence. We can’t read the community in on what’s going on behind closed doors - things get cut, designs change for a variety of reasons, goals and targets change. When the players are faced with mostly radio silence no matter what they do, joining a collective action with other players like signing a petition, adding to a review bomb, or declaring participation in a boycott can certainly feel a lot more validating and appealing than writing reasonable feedback into what feels like the void. This is really unfortunate because I can promise you that the reasonable feedback is far, far more useful to us as developers and also far, far more likely to result in actual change than any boycott, review bomb, or petition ever will. I’m not sure there’s a good solution to this problem. If you can think of one (that doesn’t involve us spending significant dev time reading forums instead of developing the game), I’m all ears.

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