Doing it right

With the Christmas special only twelve days away, the hype is building for the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi. While regeneration episodes always make me giddy, I can’t claim that I’m really excited for “The Time of the Doctor.” The greatest part of that is because of the 50th anniversary events: I was so excited for the story of the War Doctor and the appearance of both Mr. Smith and David Tennant in the same episode – and the event was as good as I’d hoped – that I’m still on the fadeaway from it.

Part of it also comes from the fact that I didn’t watch the show until very recently (has it only been 4 months since I first saw “Rose?”) and regret not having seen the handoff between Mr. Tennant and Mr. Smith. I still cry every time I watch The End of Time. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would have been if I had seen it with the rest of the world? And I still maintain my stance on publicizing regenerationsThe End of Time would have been far more dramatic (and traumatic!) if we didn’t know that Mr. Tennant was leaving and therefore the Tenth Doctor was regenerating at the end of the episode.

I do, though, have the advantage of viewing the events in the light of hindsight, after all the dust has settled and we can see how events panned out, and something struck me recently about the Ten to Eleven handover. The last four episodes of the Tenth Doctor were shown in 2010, as specials, rather than part of a season of 13 (or 14) episodes. The reason for this was that Russell T. Davies was stepping down as executive producer, and Steven Moffat was given a year to adjust to taking over.

Think about this. The BBC let Doctor Who basically take a year’s sabbatical to let the show adjust itself to a new leader and a new cast. That’s a year without (or at least with lessened) revenue from one of its biggest hits. Is this a British thing or a BBC? Because I cannot imagine an American company allowing a hit TV show a year off. They’d be too concerned about losing momentum, advertisers, and merchandising opportunities, not to mention the logistics of storing the sets and making sure that the actors and staff will be coming back after a year. To me, though, the BBC, at least with respect to Doctor Who, is more concerned about doing it right, rather than following the bottom line.

There’s been a couple of other instances of this kind of thing. As you know, I’ve been playing the iOS/Android game Doctor Who: Legacy. Yesterday, they posted on their Facebook page,

“As you may know if you follow us on Twitter / FB — we made this game for you the fans and really care what you think. Last week, someone in the community had a really cool idea for a special Xmas level we could release—so we worked quickly with the BBC and we’re pushing to have this in by Christmas Day! This is in addition to all of the content already planned between now and then. Thanks and please keep the ideas coming.”

This might not seem momentous, but it is. Look at what they’re saying: The makers of DW:L, Tiny Rebel Games, are not part of the BBC. They are an independent company, and their request to put in a fan-suggested level, which requires licensing approval at the very least (and probably a lot more), was responded to by the BBC quickly enough that they’re able to promise the content to the fans within a week of the idea being proposed. This is absolutely amazing. I work in gaming industry, and when working with licensed properties, you’d be lucky to get a turnaround time of a month, even when the game team and the property are part of the same company. The BBC must be doing something right: either their management is very efficient, or they are taking the time to be very responsive to their partners.

One last very small instance. I had a technical problem with DW:L on my iPad yesterday, and, not finding a main website for the game (I didn’t look too hard), I sent a note off to their Facebook page asking for help, and I received a reply within ten minutes. This means that their social media team is alive and paying attention. They don’t just consider their Facebook page as a place to put up images to get people to play their game: they use it to engage with their players. Being an avid gamer (at least, before Doctor Who took over my life), I’ve been on many, many forums and support sites, and only the very best get back to you quickly and talk to you as a person. The vast majority say that they’ll get back to you within 48 hours and send you form letter responses of “have you uninstalled and reinstalled” to the most detailed error descriptions you give them. Which do you think makes me want to continue playing the game?

This is why it’s important to do it right. Maybe spending less time and money on infrastructure and support may increase your bottom line right now, but it’s worth the time if you want to build a community of consumers and fans that will endure.

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8 responses to “Doing it right

  1. “I cannot imagine an American company allowing a hit TV show a year off. They’d be too concerned about losing momentum, advertisers, and merchandising opportunities, not to mention the logistics of storing the sets and making sure that the actors and staff will be coming back after a year.”

    Breaking Bad on AMC did just this between the 4th and 5th seasons. On a more major broadcast network, Fox’s megahit 24 took a year off a few years back too.

    • Thanks! I always like counterexamples, and it’s nice to see that American shows will do things like this. Though, the only mention I could find about Breaking Bad’s hiatus is that they did it because they wanted the second part to bolster their drama lineup during a specific time of the year. Thus, it was a bottom line reason to give it a hiatus. I didn’t check into 24.

  2. Somehow I just stumbled on your site and the kind note about Doctor Who: Legacy. I hoe you’re still finding time to play — we continue to be as hardcore as ever about delivering as much Doctor Who content on a weekly basis as we can. Lovely to see someone in the game industry recognizing the effort it takes to support a game like this 🙂

    cheers,

    Susan Cummings
    exec producer, DW: Legacy

    • Thank you so very much for your note! I am certainly still playing the game – all 84 companions that I’ve obtained so far (including Ace on Thursday) all leveled up to 50, and eager for the new ones once you get all your submission approvals. 🙂 DW:L is a fantastic game, and you are doing a wonderful job maintaining and growing it, and creating a community of fans. I do have to admit I’m jealous – wish I could work on such a wonderful property. 🙂

      Best of luck to you, Lee, and all of your people!

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