Player vs. Error Code

I’ve been gaming for decades. On Friday nights, my co-workers and I used to take over a conference room and network four Xbox consoles together so we could all play Halo (the original overpowered Master Chief pistol is still my prefered weapon in a firefight). Unfortunately, this also means that I’ve seen my fair share of error codes. So, when I recently logged in to try my hand at flying in space and was thwarted by ERROR CODE: “LOSER” (the real error code and gaming studio shall rename anonymous), I was livid.

Chasing help

It’s not that I have a zero-tolerance policy for game glitches. I understand this developer dilemma all too well. Sometimes there’s a communication breakdown between customer service reps—who are on the front lines—and product managers or developers—who are often siloed. This is what happens when studios don’t have the right platform for efficiently sharing game issues with team members who can actually provide a resolution or influence a fix. I can allow for that. But a player can only handle so much non-play.

Also, this was not my first run in with this error. In the past, I had quit the game and logged in again. When that didn’t work, I abandoned the app entirely and played something else—the absolute worst-case scenario for a gaming company. 

Navigating a player support road to nowhere 

On this particular day, I was intent on outsmarting ERROR CODE: “LOSER.” I wanted to see what was on the other side of this annoying 3-digit code. As instructed, I begrudgingly left the mobile app and navigated to the support web site for an answer. Unfortunately, after much searching, I was met with a basic knowledge base article that didn’t even pertain to my specific issue. I was at a support dead end.

I stubbornly turned to my fellow players via community support, even though I was thinking, “It shouldn’t be this hard!” There, I found a bunch of complaints regarding the error code, but no viable solutions.

I resorted to web chat support. After waiting for 10 minutes and repeatedly explaining my problem to different bots, I finally talked to an agent—where I relayed the issue yet again. They should know who I am before I ever reach a live agent. There are APIs for this. To make matters worse, the agent said my problem was “rare” and that I should just restart the game

Facing a lose-lose situation

At that point, I was done. I kept thinking, “this game can’t be that good if the support experience is so dated.” Gaming companies get paid based on players actually playing. It was annoying, but ultimately their loss. If they can’t improve the help experience, they’re not getting my money. In this scenario, no one wins.

With the recent global spike in gaming, studios can’t afford to lead players down a flawed path. Unfortunately, in the past, this has been the frustrating norm. I know why. The support experience has historically been designed separately from the game itself, surrounded by pitfalls, side quests, and random searches that distract players from playing and prevent studios from making money. 

Leveling up to modern support

Fortunately, many mobile gaming companies have begun offering in-app support, along with a modern customer support experience journey that keeps players in the game, quickly solves their problems, and, most importantly for studios, keeps them playing and paying.

Fruit Ninja 2, a Halfbrick Studios game that my kids and I play all the time, gets it right. They provide support in their app for millions of players, using the Helpshift Unity Support SDK. In a few seconds, without ever leaving the game, users can get answers to frequently asked questions, access automated/instant guided support for the most common problems, and when necessary, directly interact with a support agent who won’t require them to restate their name, OS, or specific problem. 

Also, since the experience is in the app, Halfbrick has access to the full context for each interaction, player names, VIP status, whether they’ve contacted support before, and where they were in the game. This helps ensure that their players’ time is respected when they have an issue, that they don’t have to repeat their problem ad nauseum, and that they get the best help experience possible.

Closing the feedback loop

Halfbrick also uses Backtrace error tracking and crash reporting software, which helps agents solve problems and keeps product managers and developers in the loop with a full log of errors or bugs that a player has encountered. If my space flying game went this route, I wouldn’t be here telling the world about my frustrating player support experience. 

Luckily for us gamers, many of the top brands in the world—and not just in gaming—use in-app support to avoid losing users to web chat and random help sites. Through Helpshift, they can rely on bots and automation to provide users with instant options and solve problems at high scale, in real-time.

This is one of the reasons why Helpshift is the world’s largest in-app support platform, with over 4 billion installations worldwide in 2021 alone. Through Helpshift, studios can create a modern support journey that integrates every aspect of support, from self-service help centers to in-app chat, directly into the game. 

I may not be done with that space flying game forever, but for now, I’m taking a break from fighting with ERROR CODE: “LOSER.”

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