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Published April 4th 2024

What Cozy Games Tell Us About Creating an Online Community

Here's what brands can learn from the rise in cozy games.

The combination of post-pandemic uncertainty and a society craving connection has seen a growing consumer interest in “cozy games.” 

Interestingly, these relaxing, wholesome video games can tell us a lot about how brands (even those outside of the entertainment industry) can foster an engaged and involved community.

Let’s dive in.

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What even is a cozy game?

Simply put, cozy video games are relaxing, wholesome, and come without stressful challenges. They usually feature cute characters – such as anthropomorphic animals or child-like humans – who engage in simple activities such as farming, gathering, growing, and nurturing. 

The “cozy” game genre started to pick up steam after the release of ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ in March 2020. The perfect storm of COVID-19 lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates had millions of people looking for something relaxing to do with their free time, and the release of Animal Crossing helped plug that gap.

The soothing nature of this game counteracted the anxiety that came with a global pandemic as people were looking for something to ease their nerves. And Animal Crossing: New Horizons worked, selling over 44 million copies worldwide and setting a record for most digital units sold in a single month.

With the rise of the game came something unexpected: an engrossed and engaged community. People wanted to play with friends, share tips on how to unlock certain achievements and show off their latest builds with other fans.

Since the release of Animal Crossing, cozy games have taken off – even more so in the last year. Plenty of other cozy games have hit the market, fuelling a boost in conversations about cozy games online. From Stardew Valley to Unpacking, mentions of these games are only growing.

On the whole, online mentions of cozy games increased by over 50% throughout 2023, and according to Google Trends search interest in "cozy games” reached a 5-year high in December.

So, why are cozy games loved by so many people? And which marketing tactics can brands implement to create their own community of engaged consumers? 

Let’s take a look.

Why cozy games are a fan favorite

Not only has there been a significant increase in online conversations discussing cozy games, but an impressive 75% of sentiment-categorized mentions about cozy games were positive last year. 

These positive online mentions reveal a lot about what makes a cozy game a fan favorite. And something that comes up a lot is the ability to play with friends and family.

For some people, the ability to play with others is the defining characteristic that makes the game more enjoyable than others. For example, the tweet below is from someone who wouldn’t play cozy games alone, but enjoys them as a “vehicle for hanging out.”

Whether playing with others, live-streaming gameplay, or discussing games on the r/CozyGamers subreddit, the community aspect of cozy games plays an important role in online chatter.

Alongside every video game – or product, even – comes a selection of people who express criticism. And this goes for cozy games too. But interestingly, the fans seem to crave safe online spaces that allow them to escape from these critical conversations. Reddit, Discord servers, Facebook groups, or even purpose-made forums can be a great way to do this.

For example, when Cyberpunk 2077 was released in 2020, there were a number of people who disliked its gaming experience. But there was also a community of players who loved and enjoyed the game. To avoid the criticism, these players created their own explicitly positive subreddit to discuss the game.

The description states: “We focus on positivity, kindness, and constructive criticism and do not allow low-effort complaining, insults, or trolling.” As of April 2024, the community has over 200k members.

Consumers are going out of their way to celebrate these games, which is a huge win for manufacturers who benefit from having such an involved community. When releasing new games or products, they know that there’s an existing user base eager to play.

Brands might benefit from keeping community in mind when trying to generate positive conversations and create a community of engaged fans. If you’re trying to combat negative comments, don’t be afraid to add a description to your community that explicitly states that it’s a positive place. Moderate it on a regular basis to ensure this safe space is maintained, too.

So, what else contributes to the success of a cozy game?

The importance of graphics, interface, and experience

Another aspect that makes a cozy game so lovable is pleasing-on-the-eye imagery and an enjoyable game environment. By focusing on pleasant aesthetics and a sturdy user experience, manufacturers can expect a game to perform well.

In online conversations about cozy games in 2023, 16% of mentions were related to game graphics, imagery, or looks. Plus, the word "aesthetics" in cozy gaming conversations increased by over 75% from February 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024 compared to the previous 12 months.

It seems that a noticeable proportion of cozy gamers are keen on enjoyable graphics, and actively discuss their love for them online.

While a large percentage of online mentions about cozy games are positive, we can also gather what hinders a cozy game’s success by diving into the negative mentions.

A key pain point seems to be when cozy games are more challenging than gamers expect. When this happens, the game isn’t calming, conflicting with consumer expectations. The essence of a cozy game is that it’s relaxing, so being too challenging conflicts with this.

Another complaints includes a lack of variety in the cozy game genre – as many of them focus on the theme of farming.

Another pain point for cozy game users is a bad user experience. From not showing all the dialogue in a text box at once, to an inability to save the game quickly, there are hundreds of people having conversations about what makes a game unenjoyable online (like this dedicated post in the r/CozyGamers subreddit).

So, how is all of this translatable to your brand – whether you’re in the gaming industry or not?

Why community matters

Firstly, these online conversations are a reminder not to ignore existing communities dedicated to your product or brand. Whether you’re aware of them or not, there are likely existing consumer conversations discussing your brand on the internet right now. You just need to find them (psst – this is where Brandwatch’s social listening capabilities can help).

Whether these conversations are happening within communities on Reddit, X, TikTok or forums, having a deep dive into the online chatter about your business or industry can provide real-time customer reviews for you to utilize.

Secondly, creating a dedicated community – like a subreddit or forum – can help you keep all of these conversations in one place. This way, you can monitor and adapt your business practices depending on how consumers discuss your product or services. Yet, creating your own community might not be necessary.

Leaning into existing communities can be just as helpful – and in some cases, even better. These conversations tend to be more authentic, as consumers are discussing their interests organically.

Perhaps you could find a subreddit related to your industry and ask a question that sparks a discussion about how you can elevate your product or service? Or you could find a Facebook community full of your target demographic and engage with them there?

Whatever you end up doing, tapping into online communities can help you discover new ways to enhance your brand while adding to your consumer experience.

We chat more about cozy games in our report on Consumer Trends in the Media and Entertainment Industry. We also discuss streaming services, the music industry, and more on gaming, so check it out if you’d like to discover more about how to level up your brand.

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