The purpose of this study is to investigate members’ reactions to the forced closure of a narrative video game brand community and its participatory culture.
The BioWare Social Network forums closure was announced in a thread, which attracted 8,891 posts. These were analysed using thematic analysis, facilitated by the software program Leximancer and non-participatory netnography.
The brand community and participatory culture members were predominantly distressed because they would lose their relationships with each other and access to the participatory culture’s creative output.
Previous research suggested that video game players cannot be fans and that player-generated content is exploitative. However, members, self-identified as fans, encouraged BioWare’s use of their player-created content for financial gain and articulated the community’s marketing benefits, all of which have implications for Fan and Game Studies’ researchers. Research using primary data could identify brand communities and participatory cultures’ specific benefits and their members’ attitudes about brands’ commercial use of their outputs. Further research is required to identify other products and brands not suitable for establishing brand communities on social media to determine the best ways to manage them.
Addressing narrative brand communities’ complaints quickly can prevent negative financial outcomes and using social media sites for brand communities may not be suitable structurally or because of members’ privacy concerns. Furthermore, consumers often have intense emotional bonds with narrative brands, their communities and participatory cultures, which marketers may underestimate or misunderstand.
This study of the unique phenomenon of the forced closure of a narrative brand community and its participatory culture increased understandings about them.
The authors thank Dr Joanna McIntyre and Professor Richard Burns for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript as well as the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. The corresponding author wishes to acknowledge the Commonwealth of Australia for providing financial assistance under the Research Training Program scholarship, although the Commonwealth was not involved in the design of this research.
Burgess, J. and Jones, C. (2020), "Exploring the forced closure of a brand community that is also a participatory culture", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-01-2019-0075Download as .RIS
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