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Cartoon Networks lessons learned on virtual worlds for kids August 7, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in game design, kids, mmorpg, virtual worlds.

Via Izzy Neis, Virtual Worlds News posts a Q&A on Mini Match, Cartoon Network’s new virtual world. Some interesting lessons about how to design virtual worlds/MMOGs for kids:

Make it easy to get to the fun

To start with, we have three really simple games that you can jump into. Our thing was we didn’t want anyone to have to read directions. We’re going to introduce more games like that sort of simple, two-person game…

.. you don‘t have to wander around the map and find a game. All the games are at the top of the screen, and you can just drag it down and play it.

Make it easy to meet new people to play with/against

We had multiplayer gaming with digital trading cards, and we learned very quickly that kids need an instant match option. Particularly boys, but kids in general don’t run up to each other on the playground and say, “Hi I’m Molly, and I like juice.” They can play all afternoon and never get each other’s names. They don’t get a lot of biographical information.

Mouse is better than keyboard

Often we find that the kids interact just by dancing or the emoticons. Out of all the emoticons, the most popular is gas. So that’s not surprising.

Kids are explorers (of the Bartle player types)

And they love mysteries. They love these environmental games we’ve included where you bump into an item, and you’re turned into an alien, things like that. We’ve added mysteries and puzzles like that all over, and we’re adding more. It’s like Lost, except for I’ll promise you that you won’t have have to wait for six years to find out the answers.

Kids like exploring new identities (ie play acting) and self expression

The great thing about virtual interaction is that it’s still anonymous and safe. They can try out different identities, within reason, and play…

The other thing we’ve tried to introduce is a mix of modern fashion and a little bit of the fantastical. If you feel like looking like a pirate or alien or whatever or just layering your clothes, that’s there.

MySpace sees strong brand advertising growth August 6, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, myspace, social media.

Paid Content summarizes some key comments from the NewsCorp earnings call yesterday:

— On MySpace: “We’re actually quite pleased with the momentum at MySpace… (for Q1) we’re pacing well against internal expectations.” He noted a “dramatic” increase in branded display advertising, with several categories up over 100 percent year over year. Other points: hypertargeting campaigns are seeing doubled CPMs and advertisers are increasingly interested in branding campaigns for the MySpace.com homepage. Outlook: “Key thing I’d say… we believe that we are still in a scale game business.” Meaning: The company will continue to invest heavily. “Our expectation is that we will continue to grow our margins in the FIM business in 09.” Costs will grow, but margins will too.

Further evidence that social media is a business.

Other tidbits about the rest of NewsCorps business and FIM at Paid Content.

How to capture your user value proposition August 4, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in marketing, start-up, startup, startups.

In the past I’ve written about encapsulating your business plan for potential investors in an executive summary, or even more succinctly as a high concept startup pitch. This is helpful for communicating to angel investors and VCs, but it doesn’t help you communicate to new and potential users of your product why they should try your site.

Whether you plan on acquiring new users through viral growth, SEO, SEM or banner advertising, the basic principles of marketing apply. You need a Value Proposition and a Call to Action. It helps a lot if your value proposition is unique so that it stands out from its competitors

I sometimes ask entrepreneurs “What would a banner ad look like for your site?”. This isn’t because I expect startups to be buying banner advertising, but because the discipline of condensing your consumer value proposition to fit into a 728 x 90 banner forces you to crystalize what is unique about your site. It forces you to focus on your value proposition in absolute terms, not relative to a competitor (“Higher quality video sharing than Youtube” doesn’t fly for example), without using any buzz words (“File class agnostic media sharing” would not make a good banner ad). Often it surfaces a key issue for startups going up against an incumbent – if your banner ad could equally apply to the leader in the space as it could to you, then you likely have a hard hill to climb to drive traffic to your new site.

Some examples might include, for Youtube “All your online video”, for Streetfire (a Lightspeed portfolio company), “Car videos for car guys”, for Hulu, “Watch your favorite TV shows online”, for Wonder how to, “Every how to video that exists”.

Mike Spieser recently gave startup marketing advice of a similar nature, focused on optimizing the vale proposition and call to action in your Google Ad Sense copy. Although he focuses more on the A:B testing aspect that Google offers to refine your value proposition (improving copy is an easy way to increase user interaction), the constraints imposed by the marketing medium still serve to distill your sites value proposition.

I’d like to hear from readers some examples of banner ad copy, whether for their own site or for various well known websites.