Team Fortress 2 Highlighted as Example of Great Service at Develop 2010

By Alice O'Connor, Jul 14, 2010 11:00am PDT Video games should be recognised as "services" rather than mere products, according to online gaming consultant Thomas Bidaux's talk at the Develop 2010 conference, as good service can turn even a "really, really bad game into a great user experience."

"At the moment, the majority of games are sold as products... like a book" Bidaux said, but as games are intangiable experiences he insists they are "consumed as services." "The game experience goes beyond gameplay," he explained, encompassing everything from installers, registration and patching to payment and community support.

Team Fortress 2 was named as boasting "a very strong service." Developer Valve continues to issue sizeable updates two years after launch, tapping into its community's creativity by adding fan-made levels and items to the class-based shooter, as well as holding seasonal events, getting their hands bloody and answering unusual questions.

"They keep promoting the content," said Bidaux. "They keep making it better and better... You would think they only promote to people who are playing the game and using the service but by having that constant presence actually it's promoting with word of mouth and sustaining the success."

The "really, really bad game" Bidaux mentioned was the 1999 MMORPG The Fourth Coming, which he helped bring to French audiences with service features including then-highly impressive online character sheets.

While most of Bidaux's experience has been with MMOs, targets of his ire strike a chord in may types of games. Issues mentioned included bad installers, games launching external browser windows for registration, lengthy registration processes, bad localisation, single-language clients, limited payment options, insufficient chat filters and poor patching.

"Every component of the service needs a conscious design effort," he insisted.

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