This is of course occasioned in part by my post on the sale of Oculus to Facebook, but I hope we spend time talking about the broader context: how VR is one of the things that a beleaguered core gamer audience is looking to as a great saving hope, and how VR has the potential to link into long-dormant Metaverse dreams, and more. And of course, whether VR is really where it’s going to be at, or whether AR is really the hotter space… though really, I am of the opinion that they are more or less the same thing… about which more on the show.
The Lawbringer: A prelude to avatar rights is an article kicking off what appears to be a series looking at avatar rights in the context of World of Warcraft. It has been a while since the original article on avatar rights has been commented on much on the web, though it still regularly gets discussed in books on Internet law. Very few worlds ever adopted any variant of this as a terms of service, and Metaplace doing so back when we ran a customer-facing service had no real impact other than garnering some publicity.
Oddly enough, the article has been much on my mind lately, mostly because of how it closes, with a prediction that avatar service providers will both hold immense quantities of personal information but also dominate the market, making it hard to use an alternate provider:
Someday there won’t be any admins. Someday it’s gonna be your bank records and your grocery shopping and your credit report and yes, your virtual homepage with data that exists nowhere else… it may be a little harder to write to Customer Service. Your avatar profile might be your credit record and your resume and your academic transcript, as well as your XP earned.
On the day that happens, I bet we’ll all wish we had a few more rights in the face of a very large, distributed server, anarchic, virtual world where it might be very very hard to move to a different service provider…
…It’s a hypothetical exercise.
Not very long ago my daughter was banned from Facebook. She has no idea why; neither do I. I would keep an eye on her page, and there was nothing untoward on it that I saw. She hadn’t been using it actively, and it took her several days to notice it was gone. And she’s just not interested in it enough to bother setting up a new one.
This afternoon I was on a panel on mergers and acquisitions in the social games market alongside a bunch of great folks. It was the last session of the day, and they asked me to go “all designery” so I did.
You can find a liveblog here:
And a news article here:
You can also get the highlights of the entire conference by simply reading the search results for the #isa2011 hashtag on Twitter.
Inside Social Games has an interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. There are a couple of things there that discuss their games strategy. A few sample quotes specific to games are below, but the whole thing is worth reading.
On viral versus retention (“viral strength… optimizes for apps that are very viral instead of apps that are high quality and that people want to reengage”):
…we intentionally weakened the viral channels recently, and intentionally strengthened reengagement with emails, so that there will be better apps.
On small companies succeeding:
You may have noticed that each post here now has a Facebook “like” button on it. This is part of Facebook’s latest set of “social plug-ins” that were announced at F8. Rather than re-hash what they have done, though, I want to tell you what it means.
Step one: Facebook is going to make the whole Internet a community space. Everywhere you go, you will see what your friends liked on sites. You will know what movies they watched, what CNN articles they read, what YouTube videos they thought were funny. You will see their streams and comments annotating the Internet everywhere you go. And they will be able to reach out and chat to you on the chat bar at the bottom of your browser.
Step two: Facebook is going to be your identity card for the Internet. Facebook has always aimed at being the only login you will need. With this, they have made a strong play to have you just always be logged into Facebook, everywhere on the internet. All the top sites you use will simply expect you to be logged in, and over time we will see that functionality on the site will start to require this identity information. And soon after that, you will have to be on Facebook even if you don’t want to be.
Justin Smith, Inside Social Games
Explosive growth. Graph shows doubling every year.
2009: 490m revenues
Virtual goods in Asia 5bn in 2008, 7bn in 2009,
In the US, 1bn in 2009.
Three big players in US:
1. Zynga, 700-900 employees, a few 100m in revenue, growth 50-70%. 3x more DAU than #2.
2. Playfish, 250+ employees, 75m in revenue, purchased by EA in 11/09
3. Playdom, 300+ employees, 50m in revenue, #1 on MySpace
Crowdstar, quick rise to #2 based on DAU
RockYou, largest ad network on FB
Slide, was #1 for a long time by MAU (SuperPoke, etc), but not with games. Shifted to virtual goods model.
Interesting trend: a lot of interest from abroad, esp China. Developers who have been successful elsewhere porting apps to FB. FB is blocked in China. Rekoo (Animal Paradise, Sunshine Ranch), Elex (Happy Harvest), Five Minutes (Happy Farm), wooga (Brain Buddies), and 6waves, which follows more of a publisher model.
Steve Meretzsky, Dave Rohrl, both from Playdom. This is a quickly on the fly typed liveblog and I notice my space bar on my laptop is starting to erratically fail! I stopped when the Q&A portion hit.
One year ago, stuff barely games. Then Mob Wars launched, lots of imitators. This is now called the social RPG. 13 of top 25 on MySpace, less dominant but huge on FB.Shares some dna with MMO, longform game, months to play, level up, build character, but spare presentation, spreadsheet style UI,low production values. Play sessions are usuallya few minutes due to a mechanic of energy depletion that limits your play sessions.
This talk will cover ten trends, and then make some guesses about the next year.
#1.New horizons in virtual goods.
I wrote a blog post about this yesterday, but alas, I lost it. CNN has an article about Facebook’s virtual currency plans, which are already moving into alpha.
Facebook is researching the idea of creating a unified currency but is “very early” in the process and has not committed to it, the site said in a statement to CNN.
Currently, applications on the site — which allow users to play games with each other and trade gifts — are powered by currencies made by the application’s developers, not by Facebook.
These developers are making good money on the system, and Facebook is missing out on profits in that area, said Hudson, of the Virtual Goods Summit.
Now, Facebook already has a virtual currency — credits — which you use to buy gifts. But what is being talked about is opening up an API to their currency system through apps.
For those who haven’t noticed, the open APIs Facebook is creating are allowing access to data such as login from anywhere on the Net. So in effect, this could lead to a fairly standard currency fo any site that accepts Facebook logins.
The real play here, as Information Week notes, is to become a “gold standard” of sorts, similar to the way in which Facebook and LinkedIn are already becoming stronger standards for online identity than OpenID is (the flip side is, of course, than you can now use OpenId to log into Facebook!).
The notion of “customer ownership” starts getting very blurry in a world like this. It won’t be long until you see major MMORPGs allowing you to log in with social networking credentials rather than requiring you to create their own account (we at Metaplace already allow this). And if these currency plans move forward and go far enough, we could see many users just paying their subs or their microtransactions with Facebook credits.
For smaller apps and websites, this can make a great deal of sense. Lots of other players are trying to establish base virtual currencies that work across sites and apps.
Virtual Worlds News tallies the latest YoVille numbers and arrives at 7.8 million monthly uniques. This is by summing the MySpace and Facebook usage reported by GigaOM, which likely means that there’s overlap in users. But still — impressive monthly growth given that it was less than a month ago that I wondered if YoVille was bigger than WoW in North America.
While at GDC, I talked with a lot of folks about YoVille, and generally the comment was “but it’s just nto very good!” Unlike WoW’s dominance in the AAA MMORPG space, I do think that YoVille is vulnerable to competitors; the audience has been only lightly exposed to the variety and possibility that exists in VWs, so there’s a lot of potential for other experiences to come in and grab lots of users.
The Web is moving towards a user-centric experience. Whereas a few years ago, it was all about visiting destination sites, now it is about destination sites spitting out data that comes to you, via RSS. The attraction of things like Twitter or Facebook lies in the ambient information that flows out and about, and in your largely asynchronous, largely placeless, largely shallow updates on what your friends are doing. You come to know them deeply not by engaging deeply with them, but by building up pictures of lots of small actions they take.
Compare, for example, the destination-like IRC versus the ambient Twitter. Hardcore Twitter fans use it almost in realtime. They answer people, with their @fred syntax convention. They have a better history, perhaps, because they can search the stream in a way that IRC doesn’t really support. But more importantly, you follow Twitter by filtering it; it’s one big stream, and you take little bits of it out. It is as if IRC were all one channel, and you happened to build an aggregate channel of just the people talking that you wanted to hear.