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’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?
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.
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.
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.