Gamer 2.0, Exploring the use of Gaming, Community, & Social Media

25 08 2009

The video game industry has always been at the fore-front of using innovative technologies to create unique, fun, and addicting experiences for their ever-evolving tech-savvy consumer marketplace.  That being said, its no surprise the gaming industry has been utilizing social media as an effective means to reach their audience and expand gaming experiences into the online social realm for years.  I remember my first real social gaming experience with Starcraft (another Blizzard MMOG), around the same time that Napster ruled the world and DSL internet connection became wide-spread.   Fast forward to today, and we are see new start-ups like Zynga, Playfish, and Playdom create a multi-million dollar industry from social games via social networks, a burgeoning virtual goods economy, and new gaming experiences that blow my once coveted Sega Genesis out of the water. 

Recently, I worked with Partner and head of Interactive Strategy at Crimson Consulting, Karen O’Brien, to conduct research on gaming industry trends and the use of community and social media.  After completing an extensive competitive analysis across multiple game sites and gaming social networks we narrowed down important industry trends as well as some best practices for utilizing the social web to reach the new Gamer 2.0.  

Where do you see the industry heading?  Will mobile soon outgrow console or even desktop gaming platforms?  Will console gaming be overshadowed by social network gaming? Or, will social games on the console be the first step toward integrating social media and television?


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Crowdsourcing Video Game Development May Save The Gaming Industry

24 07 2009

The video game industry recently announced its fourth consecutive monthly decline, posting a 31% drop in sales on video games and video game consoles in June of 2009. The decline in revenue may create a major set back for video game developers seeking large amounts of invested capital for development. While most game developers feel the crunch, some companies believe that community crowd sourcing might help generate the pool of capital needed to create new game titles.

Publisher, Roundhouse Interactive, has teamed up with Frima Studio to create the first community-designed video game, The Game Cartel, by December of 2010. The community will function as a democratic voting system in which developers will place ideas out to the cartel members and they will decide the direction of the game from genre and story-line to even the name. To join the cartel, members are charged an upfront fee of $50 which gaurantees them a copy of the game and covers incentives that will be offered to keep members active in every step of the process. Roundhouse and Frima hope to attract up to 100,000 community members in order to generate an investment pool of $5 million for the development of the new title. 

The Game Cartel

Crowdsourcing game development seems to be a hot topic in the gaming world as revenues continue to slump. Gabe Newell of Valve, has also eluded to a strong interest in community financing. Gabe stated in a recent interview, “What I think would be much better would be if the community could finance the games. In other words, ‘Hey, I really like this idea you have. I’ll be an early investor in that and, as a result, at a later point I may make a return on that product, but I’ll also get a copy of that game.”

There are many trends influencing developers seek this community outreach, such as the recent surge in use of social media and participation in gaming communities, the popularity of highly customized game experiences (such as Little Big Planet and XNA Creators Club, and unescapable economic pressures. If The Game Cartel proves successful, expect to see a lot more developers using crowd sourcing as a means to end. What I question is whether or not creative integrity is lost in the process of crowd source development for an entertainment product. Most games are created by a group of developers that have become experts in user experience, creative game-play, and design. These crowdsourced games may lack the innovation and dynamic game play that most gamers now expect.  It will be an interesting experiment none the less.

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Communities & Gaming: EA Sports Beta vs. GamerDNA

2 07 2009

Over the last few weeks I have been researching the gaming industry and exploring the use of  social media and communities by developers, entrepreneurs, and major gaming franchises.  What I have found is that many well-known gaming franchises have only begun to scratch the surface of social media, while entrepreneurs are gaining a foothold due to a deeper  understanding of what social media is all about.  I will briefly review two company’s approaches: 

EA Sports

EA’s new beta site is an excellent example of a developer’s attempt to create a social network for fan’s of EA’s Sports titles.  The site has many unique features, most of which a driven by user-generated content.  Members are able to upload photos, screenshots, and video.  Users are even offered a tool to create highlight reals with customizable music and voice commentary. The site’s media lounge allows for a YouTube-like experience, allowing users to rate and comment on posted videos and photos. User profiles also contain leader boards, reputation management tools, and game statistics for EA Sports titles. Clearly, EA has come to understand the importance of user generated content, avatars, statistics, and leader boards, but what about conversation, recommendation, and  personality?  

EA Hompage

Media Lounge

I feel that the beta site truly lacks in these areas. First of all the user experience is less than optimal. It is not easy to login or discern one’s profile page from the already cluttered EA sports site.  Not only that,  but the profile itself is a single page with no tabulation.  Once the user adds multiple widgets to the profile, the page becomes cluttered, disorganized, and hard to navigate.   I also find that creating a unique personality on the site is near impossible with a standardized avatar (although features can be customized) and no opportunity to discuss and display the games I like or dislike, or the type of gamer I am.  This makes it hard to find other community members with whom I would want to connect with and play against.  The beta site also lacks in communication tools such as real-time status feeds (although it allows for status updates), walls, or shout-boxes that are usually displayed on the profile and are useful for understanding an individual’s personality.   Although the beta site might provide an excellent resource for checking out cool user videos, or trying to stay on top of who the best FIFA gamer is, I feel it lacks the humanity I look for in social networks. 

Profile

 

 

 

GamerDNA

GamerDNA approaches gamers and social media in a completely different way by creating a networkbuilt around gamer personalities, likes/dislikes, reviews, gaming activity, recommendation and discovery.  The site allows gamers to build their personalities by using quizzes, conduct ratings/reviews of games played, and adding their favorite games to their profile.   I can also view  games members are talking about, in real-time, creating a unique experience each time I visit the site.  Games are even ranked by discussion and buzz around them. This doesn’t mean the site is short of reputation management tools for the gamer, in fact it allows users to display their profiles from Xbox (mygamercard), Xfire, and Valve.  The site also allows users to integrate their GamerDNA with Facebook, Friendfeed, and Twitter profiles, creating an all-encompassed social experience with friends, family, community members, and fellow gamers. 

 

Real-Time Status
Game Reccomendations
GamerDNA

When evaluating these two contrasting sites and approaches I asked myself “What kind of value do I get from this site?” and “Is it enough to come back?”  I do find some value with EA Sports, tracking leader boards, checking out the best user videos, and keeping up to date with EA blogs and news. Although,  I feel that after a while, due to a lack of suggestion of new games, experiences, or the ability to share these with others, I will find less and less value in the site.   On the other hand, GamerDNA offers a valuable social experience every time, in which I can find new games specifically recommended for me while connecting and learning from fellow gamers and friends.

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