Fantasy sports as asynchronous casual MMO for men November 30, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, games, games 2.0, mmorpg.
I posted recently about my interest in asynchronous gaming. Andrew Chen posted in the comments that fantasy sports leagues were probably the best and most popular example of these – a very good point. That reminded me of a post that Charles Hudson put up recently, saying that Fantasy Football is casual games for men. He breaks down the reasons for Fantasy Football’s success as follows (summarized):
Simple game mechanics – If you understand how the NFL works, you can play fantasy football.
There is a good combination of luck, skill, and strategy. Skill comes in working the waiver wire, doing your homework before the draft, and staying on top of who’s emerging during the course of the season… However, there’s a lot of luck involved – you can’t control who gets injured and how long they’re out.
The time commitment is manageable (unlike other fantasy sports) – You can basically manage a fantasy football team in a few hours a week… The beauty of fantasy football is that almost all of the action takes place in about 24 hours per week.
Fantasy football is a social experience – Go to any sports bar on Sunday and make an offhand comment about one of the players on your team. Guaranteed you’ll get at least a few other folks at the bar who have a rooting interest in one player or team. Because the rules for fantasy football are fairly universal, two players in separate leagues can often have a good conversation around fantasy football in general.
I most often hear casual games described as games with relatively simple gameplay, manageable time commitments, and a good combination of luck, skill, and strategy. Fantasy football has all of these elements, even if they’re not obvious.
Worth reading the whole thing.
Games 2.0: User generated content in games November 28, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in business models, gaming, user generated content.
add a comment
Games are slowly emerging from the land of custom coding into the world of data driven, standards-based application development. I love this trend for a number of reasons including faster development, more artist involvement in the design process and increased opportunities for innovation. What is the future of user created content and how will it effect our profession?
Echoes of web 2.0…
The third generation of titles treats user content as an integral part of the game experience. User content isn’t an extra; it is how you play the game. With this shift, I would easily expect 100% of players to partake of user content.
Consider the benefits of this third generation of mod friendly games.
* The game developer provides an inspirational sketch of a game and a well stocked tool box.
* Then, over many months of player activity, the game becomes fleshed out with content that the players desire.
* Players build the majority of game content and the game developers monetize their results.
Go underpants gnomes, go.
Sounds a lot like the platform approaches of social networks…
In the end, I’m most interested in production efficiency and making money. User content is a natural answer to both of these topics. Game developers can leverage their investment in data-driven development systems to empower their game player’s creative class. The end result is games with a much longer shelf life and only a marginally more expensive development cost.
Worth reading the whole thing
Lightweight self expression for the general public November 21, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in blogging, communication, Consumer internet, product management, self espression.
MIT Technology Review has two good articles about microblogging in the November/December issue. (Both are behind a free registration wall.) The puff piece on Evan Williams and Twitter notes some of his thoughts on micbroblogging:
The criticism doesn’t seem to bother Williams, in part because he’s heard it before. “Actually, listening to people talk about Twitter over the last few months, you hear that almost all the arguments against it are the exact same arguments that people had against Blogger,” he says. “‘Why would anyone want to do this?’ ‘It’s pointless.’ ‘It’s trivial.’ ‘It’s self-aggrandizing bullshit.’ ‘It’s not technically interesting.’ ‘There’s nothing to it.’ ‘How is this different from X, Y, and Z that’s existed for the past 10 years?'” Indeed, there were blogging tools available when Blogger was released, and others have emerged since–including TypePad from Six Apart, which offers more features. But none has the simple appeal of Blogger, and none is as easy to use. These were the reasons Blogger was such an important force in the blogging revolution.
There is an interesting idea at the heart of all this, and that is the idea of innovation through removing features. By focusing on a subset of core functionality, both Blogger and Twitter (and the other microblogging startups, as well as Facebook’s status) have made the user interaction much lighter weight. In my experience at AOL, Netscape and IAC, lightweight interactions generally work better with the general public.
Last year Gartner predicted that blogging would peak in 2007:
The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million. The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs… Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer said the reason for the levelling off in blogging was due to the fact that most people who would ever start a web blog had already done so. He said those who loved blogging were committed to keeping it up, while others had become bored and moved on.
“A lot of people have been in and out of this thing,” Mr Plummer said. “Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they’re put on stage and asked to say it.”
Microblogging removes some of the pressure to write substantive posts, making it a lighter interaction that is easier to keep up.
The public’s preference for lightweight self expression is part of what has made widget providers (such as Rock You, a Lightspeed company), profile layout sites (such as Free Code Source) and quiz sites (such as Quizilla) so successful.
Meaning = Data + Structure: Inferring structure from user behavior November 19, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in attention, data, semantic web, structure, user generated content.
A little while ago I started a series about the structured web where I claimed that Meaning = Data + Structure. I followed up with a couple of posts on ways that structure can be added to user generated content, through user generated structure, and through inferring structure from domain knowledge. The third way that structure can be inferred is from user behavior, otherwise known as attention. As Wikipedia notes:
Attention economics is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity, and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems.
Alex Iskold has a good overview of the attention economy elsewhere at ReadWriteWeb.
By watching user behavior, by inferring intent and importance from the gestures and detritus of actions taken for other purposes, you can sometimes also infer structure about unstructured data. Google does this with its PageRank algorithm, Del.icio.us uses individual bookmarking to build a structured directory to the web, and Xobni maps social networks through analysis of your emailing patterns. Behavioral targeted advertising is based on the assumption that users display their interests through the websites they visit.
Using implicit data to infer structure requires making some assumptions about what each behavior means, but it can be a useful supplement to the other two methods of inferring data. As with inferring structure from domain knowledge, it requires a well defined ontology so that people and things can be mapped against it
Would love to hear more examples of using attention data to infer structure.
Mass customization drives online-offline hybrid business models November 12, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in business models, Ecommerce, media, offline, start-up, startups, user generated content.
I’ve noted in the past that some online and offline distinctions are starting to blur. Some companies are finding that the easiest way to monetize their content is to turn bits into atoms and sell the atoms – people are willing to pay for things in the real world that they would never pay for offline.
There seem to be three major approaches to combining online and offline:
1. Single order custom manufacture
Over the last ten years manufacturing processes and technology have improved to the level where it is now possible to make single items on a custom basis. This has spawned a lot of the convergence in online and offline business models.
A more collaborative example is Tribbit. Tribbit mirrors offline behavior by allowing multiple users to build and “sign” a group online card, which can then get printed out and presented to the recipient – in effect a group contributed photobook.
All of these examples are focused on user generated content. But rather than using user content, Tastebook, backed by Conde Nast, lets you choose from an extensive collection of recipes to create a customized cookbook. Techcrunch says:
TasteBook is a service that lets users take their favorite recipes from partner sites (starting with Epicurious) and create printed cookbooks that are delivered to them and/or friends. Users can add their own recipes as well, and customize the book with their name and other information.
2. Small order custom manufacture
Occasionally, one of the problems that can occur with single item custom manufacture is that the processes used for single items can result in lower quality. This is definitely true of T-shirts – many of the custom T-shirt sellers mentioned above have an “iron on” quality to them. The only way to make a high quality T-shirt with a silk screened print at a reasonable cost is make a batch.
Threadless takes this approach to it’s T-shirts. They have done a great job of building a community online, soliciting T-shirt designs, winnowing out the best designs for production through community input, and making batches of these shirts. This way they keep quality up, keep costs under control, and minimize inventory risk by selecting only to make T-shirts that are likely to sell out.
JPG Magazine takes a similar approach to the issues of its magazine. JPG is a physical magazine focused on photography. It solicits all its photos and articles online and its online community helps determine what gets printed. In a world where a new magazine launch can cost $40m before breaking even, JPG got to profitability at vastly smaller scale. A sister magazine focused on travel, Everywhere, has its first publication on Nov 27th.
3. Tying an online experience to an offline purchase
Whereas many of these companies start with an online experience and drive to an offline transaction, Webkinz starts with the offline transaction, and drives to an online experience. They have been able to draw synergies from their online casual immersive world and their physical plush toys and have sold millions of their toys to date. Barbie has had similar success with it’s online casual immersive world Barbie Girls which hit 3 million users in the first 60 days.
Another example is Hidden City, which was recently funded for a a horse themed trading card game aimed at little girls; each card unlocks a digital horse avatar online that girls can play with. The founder was behind the megahit trading card games Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering; he is clearly evolving with the industry as casual gaming moves online.
I expect more innovation in this area of combining online and offline business models. I am actively interested in meeting companies taking this approach. Let me know if you know of more!