Some people never ask themselves how their actions online will affect other areas of their life.  But they should.  And before you ask, no, this isn’t another lecture about the dangers of posting inappropriate content on your Facebook page.  Instead, this is a glimpse into an aspect of modern culture that you probably had no idea could be impacted by social media—video games.

The video game industry, though an often forgotten medium, is largely affected by many different forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The Entertainment Software Rating Board says that 67 percent of United States households plays video games and states that the industry made $10.5 billion in revenue just in 2009.  This medium, USA Today says, is expected to continue to grow and profits could reach up to $20 billion by 2014.  But why is this industry growing so fast?

One reason the video game industry is developing so quickly is advertising and connecting with gamers through the use of social media. Video game companies mainly use social media to push news updates about their games, get feedback from fans and engage their communities.

Bioware, for example, is a video game company that has released big name games such as the Dragon Age franchise, the Mass Effect trilogy and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic—just to name a few.  Bioware uses several different forms of social media to promote their games and communicate with those already playing them.  Bioware uses Facebook, Twitter and even has its own form of social media, The Bioware Social Network.

The recently released end to the Mass Effect trilogy has caused quite a bit of turmoil in the online community.  Mass Effect 3’s ending has caused so much uproar in the community that there have been several petitions for Bioware to change the ending to the game completely, stating that it is “weak” and “full of plot-holes”.  Take a look at Bioware’s Facebook and Twitter page or even type in “Mass Effect 3 Ending” into your YouTube search bar.  You will quickly see what I’m talking about.  This global storm of gripes on the various outlets of social media was organized into a “Retake Mass Effect” campaign.

Bioware has been so flooded with negative comments and publicity that it is finally entering damage control mode.  Recently, Bioware released downloadable content that provides expansion and clarification to the existing ending for free. Bioware also released a free multiplayer expansion loaded with new maps and characters.

This is a great example of how social media can impact a company in the video game industry.  The negative publicity that the online community has caused has made Bioware rethink its decisions and is now trying to save face by throwing out free downloadable content to fans who are upset.  An extended cut of the game will even be released during the summer.

Some people like to brush off social media as just another fad, but social media has power.  The impact that social media’s negative feedback had for Bioware proves it.  Social media gives the consumer a voice.  Through social media, that voice is forced to be taken into consideration by the company.  Bioware may be the first video game industry to be severely impacted by social media, but they will undoubtedly not be the last.

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