Subnautica: Below Zero is an open world survival action-adventure video game developed and published by Unknown Worlds Entertainment. The sequel to 2018 game Subnautica, Subnautica: Below Zero launched online on 14 May. Subnautica: Below Zero is available to players on macOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
Below Zero is set in an open world environment and played in a first-person perspective. The player controls a scientist who arrives on a new planet to discover why a research team vanished there. The player explores alien environments trying to survive while completing objectives that advance the game’s plot. Players collect resources, tools, build bases and submersibles and interact with the planet’s wildlife.
The game has 4 difficulty levels it can be played at: survival, freedom mode, hardcore mode and creative mode. In survival, players must manage health, hunger, thirst, oxygen and temperature; when they die, they are respawned but items will be lost from their inventory. Freedom is similar, but hunger and thirst are disabled. Hardcore is like survival, but if a player dies their save file is permanently lost. In creative, players are able to enjoy the game and plot without survival challenges. Players are also provided with all crafting blueprints, resources, submersibles and science kit.
Subnautica: Below Zero Release Day Livestream Launch Event
Subnautica: Below Zero launched on 14 May with a livestream that was streamed on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook. Hosted by gaming writer and expert Kate Yeager, the launch livestream featured a number of guests from those who helped create the game and its community. These included the community manager Donya Abramo, composer Ben Prunty, sound designer Jeff Tangsoc, animator Scott MacDonald, level designer Kiel McDonald, project lead David Kalina, programmer Damien Quartz and engineering lead Slava Sedovich.
The livestream discussed the whole process of creating Subnautica: Below Zero—from graphic designs, musical composition, community building and engagement, early access improvements and story plotting. The stream showed various trailers periodically, including divide-specific trailers for Nintendo Switch; in addition to launching Below Zero on the Switch, the original Subnautica game was made available to Switch owners on the 14th too.
The livestream encouraged cross-platform engagement by announcing two giveaways on Subnautica’s Twitter account. One giveaway gave fans the chance to win a Subnautica Prize Pack (including an enamel pin, t-shirt and either a Subnautica mousepad, wallet, or print) and the other offered a plush toy of one of the animals in the game. The giveaways ran from the beginning of the live stream until the end of the day, and both giveaways received around 7,000 entries.
As part of our launch livestream celebrations, we’re giving away a Subnautica Prize Pack from @ForFansxFans! Click the link and enter for a chance to win ▶️ https://t.co/L6qA4YLkxp pic.twitter.com/lLRovKtMdj
— Subnautica (@Subnautica) May 14, 2021
The launch stream received 10K concurrent viewers on Twitch and a staggering 228K views on YouTube; this is nearly half of all Subnautica subscribers. The YouTube stream also received 18K likes and 383 comments within 2 days.
How Unknown Worlds Built its Subnautica Community
The Subnautica games have officially been available to gamers since 2018 (excluding early access versions) but the Subnautica team has been building its presence and community online since 2013. Subnautica has its own accounts across most social media platforms and its own forums.
How Subnautica uses Twitter to engage its community
Twitter is Subnautica’s most frequently used social media platform. The main Subnautica account has 112.1K followers, but also has sub-accounts for devices, including SubnauticaXbox, SubnauticaPS (Playstation) and SubnauticaSw (Switch). Subnautica generally tweets at least 2 or 3 times a week, but tweeted significantly more leading up to the Below Zero launch day.
Get ready to brave the cold! ⛄ Subnautica: Below Zero launches May 14th and is now available to pre-order on all digital storefronts. Check out the cinematic trailer and pick up your copy today! ▶️ https://t.co/Nm5rVfts0v pic.twitter.com/eS14clSmVA
— Subnautica (@Subnautica) April 13, 2021
While not overly interactive with its community, Subnautica does repost user-generated content as well as respond to comments and encourage engagement with funny, meme-inspired tweets. Typically, it uses Twitter to inform its community of price updates, general Subnautica news and create a buzz around upcoming launch events. It uses a very open and friendly tone of voice which creates a welcoming feel to the community.
Subnautica recently hosted giveaways on its Twitter to support the launch of Below Zero. The game used its livestream events to encourage viewers to follow the Subnautica Twitter to be in with a chance of winning exclusive prizes.
How Subnautica uses YouTube to engage its community
Subnautica has 454K subscribers on YouTube, alongside 52 million views. The channel has been active since 2013, but only has 78 videos making its average view-per-video 667K—significantly higher than its subscriber count. While the game doesn’t upload videos regularly, it has been able to be transparent and create excitement around the games by posting update and introduction videos to areas and animals within the game, complete soundtracks, official and early access trailers and host launch livestream events for both games.
The Subnautica YouTube takes fans through all development and updates to the games. Subnautica is generally well credited for acting on community feedback and ideas and implementing them into the games. These ideas are generally from Subnautica’s forum or YouTube comments.
As a result of its willingness to listen to its community and providing regular game updates, the Subnautica games have a staggering amount of UGC created on YouTube including walk-through videos of early-release and official versions, gameplay, creature ratings, reviews and livestreams.
How Subnautica uses forums to engage its community
The Subnautica games have their own forum page within the Unknown Worlds forum. The forum has 5 subsections: Subnautica General Discussion, Subnautica Bug Reporting, Subnautica Consoles, Ideas and Suggestions and Translations.
Developers use the General Discussion forum to post game updates as well as respond to frequently asked questions. Most content comes from Subnautica fans—especially within the Ideas and Suggestions section. This is where a large portion of ideas that were implemented into the game came from. As the developers use fan ideas, this encourages more fans to create more ideas and discussions in hope of having their idea put into the game. Developers have their own section at the top of the forum where their answers are highlighted.
How Subnautica uses Instagram, Facebook and Twitch to engage its community
Instagram and Twitch are not main focuses for the Subnautica team, which is surprising considering the visual nature of the platforms. The Subnautica Instagram is updated around once a month and posts are used to inform followers of game updates (including Early Release access and official game launches). Instagram is not used as an engaging platform, but as a news platform. However, despite this, Subnautica’s Instagram has an engagement rate of 17.6%; this is significantly higher than an average engagement rate.
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Subnautica’s Facebook account is used in a very similar way to its Instagram, but with live streams hosted on the site. It’s engagement on Facebook is lower than its other social platforms.
The Subnautica Twitch account has only just been created but already has 26K followers. The account was launched to be another host platform for the Subnautica: Below Zero livestream launch event, and so far this is the only content available on the platform.
Why Subnautica’s community engagement works
Over the years, the Subnautica team have been able to build a loyal and engaged community across multiple social platforms. The main reason its community is so active is because the game developers have shown they listen to feedback from the community and have created a transparent game development process fans feel like they are part of.
1. Community ideas are valued
Subnautica has shown its fans their thoughts and ideas are valued by implementing their ideas into the game. Knowing their voices are heard and that there’s a possibility their ideas will make it into the game, community members will be more vocal about their opinions. Not only does this create more buzz and conversation around the games, but also creates a better game as developers have direct feedback for free.
2. Direct communication creates a reliable relationship
In addition to this, the Subnautica community team has frequent direct interactions with community members through its forum and Twitter account. It uses its forum to answer questions and help solve bug issues, while it uses its Twitter to create a good rapport with its community. By answering questions and responding to tweets, Subnautica is creating a brand identity that is helpful and friendly which encourages more organic interactions from community members.
How do you change your name? Asking for a friend… 🤔 https://t.co/rlCevREGNk
— Subnautica (@Subnautica) April 14, 2021
3. Valuable information is provided
While the Subnautica social media profiles aren’t constantly being updated, the content that is posted is useful and provides valuable information to community members. Since the majority of posts are update announcements, Subnautica are consistently providing new and exclusive information that fans can get excited about. Community members can trust the Subnautica community team to provide them with valuable information that is able to cut through the typical branded social media buzz.
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