Johan Andersson is studio manager at Paradox Development Studio
As a game developer, you really need to know your gamer - by which I mean, the person that you want playing your game. What does he or she want? What will make them fall in love with the games you create? If you know your gamers, you know how you can both fulfill their wishes and surprise them. You can give them things they didn't even know they wanted. There isn't one big market for everything when it comes to games. But in a world where people keep saying that the PC market is dying, we at Paradox Development Studio are increasing our sales for every strategy game we make. This is in large part thanks to the games we create, which I think get better every year, but more importantly because of how we treat our gamers.
Loyalty is the most profitable long-term concept in the world
Loyalty is the most profitable long-term concept in the world, and loyalty isn't just given because you want it, but loyalty and respect are given when you return it. "Do to others what you would want them to do to you," said a very wise man in Roman Judea about 2000 years ago, and that is as true today as it was then. Treat your gamers as you want them to treat you and you'll end up successful. (Of course, having a good game is damn helpful.)
We take pride in paying attention to our audience, and let that guide much of what we do. It helps enormously if you as a developer are part of your audience, as you can then add in that extra quality. If a developer is not enjoying the game they are working on, then the gamer won't be buying it either.
Communication is a two-way street
I personally believe that any meaningful flow of information must go both directions. When you communicate with your gamers through forums, Twitter, email, Facebook or other venues, it is very important that you as a developer reply to their comments and answer their questions as often as possible and as openly as possible. No one knows your game as well as you do as a developer. Make sure you and your team talk directly to your gamers, answer their questions and listen to their feedback. A gamer that is heard is far more likely to listen to you as a developer when you want to give them information.
Any meaningful flow of information must involve both directions.
If you just give gamers information, and don't respond to their feedback, they will end up detached from you and not feel any loyalty. Gamers have lots of ideas, and in a nurtured community that is open, honest and creative, those ideas mature together with input from other gamers. Gamers need to feel that they can give suggestions on improvements that are actually being listened to. If you listen to them, creativity will flow and it can inspire the development of completely new features for a game. We created our Ruler Designer DLC for Crusader Kings II completely based on gamers' ideas from our community, because they wanted to create their own rulers. Our upcoming Europa Universalis IV expansion Conquest of Paradise is strongly influenced by our gamers' feedback that the excitement of exploration was lost, since everyone has a rough idea of where the new world is when beginning to play. This made us dare to take a leap of faith and create an option for a completely randomized new American continent in an otherwise historical game. We regularly have votes, polls and question threads to find out what our gamers want. The gamers are the ones playing the games. Of course they should be able to influence the future development of those games.