Games Go Social: Discussion Recap

Also floored by all the information about gaming shared last night.
Flattened by last night's info-overload.

The ubiquity of pink cows: How Facebook and iPhone are changing the way we play.

Just as the Internet has transformed how we watch movies, read books, and listen to music, social media, led by Facebook and iPhone, are changing the way we play games. How has the gaming industry responded to our new recreational habits? To answer this question, SMC-LA invited Girl Gamer co-founder Mike Prasad to chair “Games go social” a panel discussion exploring the impact of social media on the development and marketing of PC and console games.

Some background about the gaming industry

  • Market size: estimated between $46 and $65 billion in 2010.
  • Demographics are changing, led by strong growth in casual gaming.
  • Online and mobile sectors are developing and shaping business strategy.
  • Distribution channels are moving away from brick-and-mortar operations to digital downloads.
  • 50% of game players are on Facebook.

Building community: Facebook & traditional computer games

Prasad opened the discussion by asking how console and computer game developers are using social media to build and strengthen communities. Aaron Kaufman, community manager for Command and Conquer, said he uses Facebook to connect with loyal, if not hard-core, gamers.

“Message boards are scary,” he said, “and do not represent the actual user population.” In two months, Kaufman created a 20,000-person fan base on Facebook, and is now able to connect with more gamers, more reliably.

Quin Banks said that Tarver Games is using Facebook to help gamers of “Ghost Attack” play with friends and to prolong the experience. Since this game is intended as a television pilot, it also creates excitement and connection to characters.

What makes a game social?

The stereotypical social game is free, small, and everlasting, but, according to all the panelists, bragging rights are also strong motivators. (Think about how proud someone is to inform you that they have 12 pink cows while you are still trying to figure out how to play Farmville.)

Giving users the opportunity to create and share content, a key part of World of Warcraft’s success, also builds community. In addition, Josh Hartwell, CEO of GoSub60 Games, suggested allowing users to customize a game’s presentation thereby creating a personal experience. Again, this provides opportunities to showoff that can increase motivation to play and share.

Games go mainstream

When iPhone made Facebook mobile, games became portable. It set the stage for Farmville and other casual games (like solitaire and word games) to infiltrate the general public. These games replace crossword puzzle books and mad-libs.

“They are filler,” Banks added. “We play them on our phones while waiting in line at the grocery store. The games are secondary.”

Strategy

Hartwell echoed Banks’ statement when he said that gaming is a service. As a service, a game developer must think about the ongoing, long-term dialogue with a growing, and diverse, set of players. Strategically, the gamer and the developer are partners and that relationship needs to be nurtured.

Social media makes building this relationship easier, but requires forethought. Your users are your revenue base, and making money is necessary. Revenue models need to fair, non-exploitive, and successful. When Prasad asked if anyone was doing it right, the panel had a hard time citing any good examples.

Everyone is still climbing that learning curve.

The challenge for gaming companies in the age of social media: Make long-term commitments with gamers by sustaining (developing) interactive and collaborative communities that generate revenue.

* According to Business Week, PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted $46.5 billion in 2006 and Reportlinker estimated 8.9% growth annually, totaling $76 billion in 2013.

Social Media Club LA Meeting Wrap Up – Social Media Primer Panel

It was my pleasure to host the second meeting of the LA chapter of the Social Media Club. This month’s meeting featured a panel of social media rock stars. The goal of the evening was to get everyone on the same page with a working concept of what social media is and how it can be used in various aspects of communication. Panelists included Brian Solis of FutureWorks PR, Nicole Jordan – PR guru with Rubicon Project and Clearstone Venture Partners, social media consultant Robert Richman and Michael Dorausch – a chiropractor who regularly uses social tools to promote his business. The meeting was held at Mahalo HQ in Santa Monica. Done SEO was kind enough to bring in the wine, which helped liven up the event.

The panelists shared their thoughts and experiences with the audience regarding the definition of social media, it’s place in the world, it’s influence on markets and it’s impact on brands. The question of “who owns social media” was brought up. Many departments and disciplines are hopping on the social media band wagon, there’s lots of hype floating around in all directions. But which department within an organization should be responsible ultimately? IMHO it needs it’s own department. But for the time being, until that gets sorted out, most panelists seemed to agree that it belongs more in customer service than anywhere else. This is because of the element of human interaction that is so vital within the social space. An audience member brought up the fact that companies are now writing computer programs to simulate a live chat, with automated conversation responses. These computer programs are designed to detect when the conversation is not going all that well and at that point redirects to an actual live person, the person on the other end never has any idea. I’d hate to see anyone try to pull something like that in the social space, but it could happen.

Brain Solis brought up the point that social media was a real game changer for brands. We delved into that statement a bit further to get to the meat of it. What makes social media a game changer for brands is the bottom-up versus top-down nature of the platform. In all other forms of brand communication, other than possibly WOM, the brand is in control of the message, the brand issues the message and people are either receptive or not. In the social landscape it’s up to a brand to participate with the community in order to become integrated into the multi-dimensional communication streams that are flying around the interwebz faster than you can imagine.

[A note: I got a few comments re: preaching to the choir and not getting into things deeply enough at this meeting. My only response to that is that this meeting was billed as a “primer” – with the goal of getting all of our attendees on the same page so that when we get into deeper stuff in the future we can all have a common understanding. That said…]

I’m really looking forward to the next meeting, possible topics include: the anthropology of the social web, digital discovery and distribution, politics on the social web, or possibly using the social web for social change. Let me know what you’d like to learn at our next meeting!