Rami Ismail: How to Manage Your Mobile Game Haters
Insights & Best Practices
September 21, 2015
Rami Ismail is no stranger to online harassment.Rami Ismail doesn't need the haters. That's what he told the crowd during his keynote at this year's Develop Conference in Brighton. "You don't have to accept something from a consumer just because they might give you some money." The contrarian view was well received by the crowd ? Ismail's gal much appreciated in a space where developers learn early and often that every person behind a download is someone to covet.His presentation was far from Ismail's only controversial statement. The co-founder of Vlambeer, the independent Dutch studio behind the critically acclaimed mobile games Ridiculous Fishing and Luftrausers is known for addressing hot topics like crunch time and workplace diversity. And with 90,000 Twitter followers and a widely-read blog, what he says has the power to shift the gaming industry conversation.[caption id="attachment_10318" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
Vlambeer's Ridiculous Fishing[/caption]But to Ismail, not all of the conversation is productive. "[Online harassment is] a terrible noise that continuously attacks you based on your person, rather than your actions," he says. "A lot of it is poorly researched or purely made-up accusations, and very little of it actually amounts to actual useful feedback."In a business with a customer-is-always-right culture, the sentiment that some feedback should be ignored comes across as contrarian. Chartboost asked Ismail to expand on his Develop Conference comments and discuss what he views as the outdated relationship model between developers and their fanbase. What follows is an edited transcript of his comments.On feeding the trolls: "The idea that paying somehow gives the customer a moral power over you or your company, or that a paying customer somehow should be treated as having an increase in knowledge of a subject? that just seems preposterous to me."[caption id="attachment_10319" align="alignright" width="408"]
Rami Ismail[/caption]What if the customer is wrong?: "I think we can all agree the 'customer is always right' is a mantra from a different time. Of course, you should always try and accommodate customers, and you should make sure people get what they pay for. You can choose to extend privileges to a customer, but you never have to do something just because they say so."On navigating social media when you have a rabid fanbase: "Social media is what you make of it, really. If you literally block everybody that's annoying you, that's fine. If you use block-lists, that's fine too. If you want to see everything and engage with everyone, that's fine too. Nobody has the right to tell you how to use your social media."Communication best practices: "We always treat everybody with the benefit of the doubt. We try and engage as honestly as possible and we try to communicate as clearly as we can. Our community tends to handle conflict rather maturely, and if not we call out the community members involved and try to explain what response would've been more constructive. We want the constructive people in our community to feel valued and appreciated, simply because they really are. They're what makes our work possible. Beyond that, everybody has to find their own tone."He's passionate about his customers: "I love our fans, and I love our community ? both Nuclear Throne and Vlambeer ? and I will not let someone go in there and ruin things just because they paid me twelve dollars. They can keep their twelve dollars. I'll keep my community."
"They can keep their twelve dollars. I'll keep my community."
On how his stance affects his business: "What I do know is that we have one of the best communities I've seen on Steam's forums, our games are rated highly pretty much everywhere, we enjoy good conversations with many of our players and hang out in their livestreams to chat. People like the games and the community so much that they often buy multiple copies of our games with the explicit mention of "getting a friend to join the community."