Going dark until the new year December 22, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in Uncategorized.
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Games 2.0: The Facebook app Zombies is a huge MMOG December 21, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, facebook, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg.
As I mentioned in my last post, you can think of Zombies* and its Monster app brethren (Vampires, Werewolves and Slayers) as an asychronous massively multiplayer online game. It is essentially a PvP dueling game, not unlike duels.com, but much lighterweight. Many of the core elements of a game are already there; experience points, the ability to level up etc. In an interview with Virtual World News back in August, Zombie co-developer Blake Commagere said:
… the game play element is just a new form of interaction.
“Facebook serves different purposes for different people,” he said. “For some people, it’s a business contact site. They probably don’t want zombies on their pages, but a large number are looking for something to do. They’re looking for ways to interact. They use it to message their friends and organize parties. This is just one more way to interact with friends.”
In a random sampling of the users, Commagere found that the app draws slightly more women than men, mostly between 18 and 30. That’s a slightly younger and more female-biased demographic than Second Life or many of the other MMOGs.
In May the average visit time for a user to Facebook was just about 13 minutes, though they visit frequently. So Zombies works as a sort of casual MMO built on the social network. Commagere credits the app’s success to being simple, fun, and tied to a sense of community.
“You can build something for people on social networks,” he said, “but if you don’t leverage the social aspect, it’s just not as interesting. Then you’re ‘Oh, here I am with a widget on my page, all by myself.’ If you can see it on other people’s pages, that’s when users get into it. One of the things that’s compelling in the games we’re making is that you can see ‘Oh, here’s my friend John, and he’s got more points than me.'”
Arguably, the Monsters app are only proto games right now. They certainly derive more of their popularity from their social aspects than from their game design today. Biting someone or attacking their monster is a lightweight way of saying “I’m thinking about you” without having to actually compose a message. It also opens up the opportunity for reciprocity, one of Cialdini’s six weapons of influence). But collectively they have over 18m app installs and 700 daily actives. That is an impressive number for any MMO. As gameplay improves (and it will) you can expect to see daily active rates go up. Scrabulous has shown that with a good game dynamic, a game on Facebook can get up to 30% daily actives which suggests a lot of potential upside.
Watch this space!
‘Tis the season to… buy furniture online? December 17, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in Ecommerce.
Bear Stearns and Comscore recently put out a report on ecommerce for the holiday season. While overall ecommerce sales were up around 20% year-on-year, this average hides significant variability between categories.
This slide shows annual growth rates ranging from 10% (music, movies and videos) to 138% (video games, consoles and accessories).
I found the second fastest growth category to be most interesting. Online sales of Furniture, Appliances and Equipment are almost 70% higher than last year.
This really underscores the changing nature of online retail. Conventional wisdom a few years ago was that only easily shipped items would be sold online. Indeed, books (Amazon), jewelry (Blue Nile – a Lightspeed portfolio company), shoes (Zappos) and other relatively small and light items led the early surge of ecommerce.
But more recently we’ve seen a much broader set of products sold online. According to Internet Retailer, the two fastest growing Ecommerce sites of 2006 were Lumber Liquidators and Diapers.com. When pets.com and Webvan failed, conventional wisdom was that ecommerce could only work for goods with a high value-to-weight ratio. Neither hardwood floors, nor diapers, fall into that category. And in the Webvan category of groceries, Freshdirect does hundred of millions of dollars in sales in the NY/NJ area alone as a pureplay groceries etailer, to say nothing of Safeway and Peapod (owned by the same parent company as Stop and Shop and Giant).
As consumers become more willing to make large purchases online, and as “last mile” delivery logistics improve to residential addresses, we’re seeing a real surge in the online sale of items like claw footed bathtubs, rowing machines, trampolines and jogging strollers that we might never have imagined in the 90s. This was the thesis behind our investment in Mercantila earlier this year (which operates all the stores linked to in the previous sentence) and is also the driver behind the growth of its competitors including Netshops and CSN Stores.
There is still time to buy your big holiday gifts online – shop now! 😉
Games 2.0: Ian Bogost on Asynchronous Games December 13, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, casual games, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming.
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As I dug more into asnychronous gaming, I found this great paper by Ian Bogost titled Asynchronous Multiplay: Futures for Casual Multiplayer Experience, which he presented at a conference in 2004.
Bogost notes the following four characteristics of asynchronous games:
1. Asynchronous play supports multiple players playing in sequence, not in tandem.
2. Asynchronous play requires some kind of persistent state which all players affect, and which in turn affects all players.
3. Breaks between players are the organizing principle of asnychronous play.
4. Asynchronous play need not be the defining characteristic of the game.
It is a thoughtful history and analysis of multiplayer asynchronous games and has proved to be remarkably prescient in its predictions for casual online MMOGs. The historical perspective in particular is quite useful. Worth reading the whole thing.
Games 2.0: Bringing games to non gamers December 12, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg.
After reading Raph’s presentation at GDC Prime, I’ve been thinking more about Games 2.0, and in particular how to bring games to people who wouldn’t typically identify themselves as gamers. As I’ve noted before, I think asynchronous multiplayer games may be one way to address this much larger market.
I’ve since stumbled across a couple of relevant posts that address the issue. A couple of years ago at Lost Garden, Dan asked a friend who loved board games why she doesn’t play video games. She gave two reasons:
1. Mastering the learning curve: Most video games require learning complex reaction-based skills in order to player competitively. The required investment in these skills creates a large entry barrier.
2. Lack of social elements: Board games are social and therefore time well spent. Many video games have very limited social interaction and are therefore worthless
Also a couple of years ago, over at Gamasutra, Rich Carlson notes:
Which would you rather play, a computer game that takes forty hours to complete or one that lasts just a few minutes? Don’t be too quick to answer. The former asks for a serious time commitment. The latter says come and go as you please. One is a ball and chain. The other is a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Well, it’s not exactly that bad but considering all of the things you have to do today, which type of game do you really have time for?
Also, isn’t it peculiar that when you complete a complex or lengthy game you rarely want to replay it, yet short games are often endlessly replayable? After you finish a long RPG or story game, the box goes back on the shelf to gather dust and remain unremembered until the next garage sale. A short game, if it’s good, usually doesn’t suffer that fate. It stays on your hard drive for years.
Both of these posts speak to the opportunity for aysnchronous multiplayer games:
1) Short interactions
2) Played with friends (social aspect)
3) With short learning curves
As I’ve mentioned before, Scrabulous and Attack! are great examples of this, although both solve the learning curve problem by relying on well known board games as their basis. Warbook and Triumph are attacking the problem with new games but with less of a “played with friends” angle (most “turns” are against strangers).
Where do readers see the most innovation is this area?
Games 2.0: Raph Koster at GDC Prime December 11, 2007Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, web 2.0.
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Some choice quotes from his presentation – slide 93 (The game has changed):
The hot platform is the net
The hot audience is the non-gamer
The hot feature is other players
The hot technology is connectivity
The hot game is a mini-game
and slide 49 (Successful mass market interactive entertainment):
* Indifference to rendering
* Minimal controls
* Platform agnostic
Model first – The system is the game
Universal inputs – Any button will do
Long phases – Take your time
Short decisions – Be done fast
Massively parallel – Side by side
Extended accumulated state – Save your profile
No roles – Classless
Representation agnostic – Draw it however
Open data – Change it however
For those of you interested in games 2.0, it is well worth reading the whole thing.