Online games (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) have been around since the 70’s with Mazewar’s virtual world allowing players to roam around and shoot each other. For those interested, Wikipedia has a fascinating outline of its evolution from serial cable to ARPAnet in ‘74. Early gaming enthusiast may also recall playing PC based Doom into the wee hours in their offices in the early 90’s.
Over the past ten years online games have progressed significantly through broadband, rich interfaces, mobility and lowered production costs.
It’s no shocker that the gaming industry has had a head start on developing interactive technology for the third screen. Microsoft Xbox and Sony’s PS2’s mainstream Internet connectivity revolutionized the industry by connecting users not only by same interests but by real time activity.
Nintendo’s Wii seems to have introduced a missing link providing a stream of active gamers with a higher propensity for physical involvement. In the context of social networking, one could go as far as to imagine that meeting Mii’s online for tennis matches may one day materialize in a real time game or meeting (enter the local search aspect or even the draw of the travel sector).
Thomas points out in his article that gamers often spend hours together online. Not only is time a factor, but also the intensity of the interaction can be remarkable as multiple players are focused on common goals. Sports create an amazing conduit for relationships. Gamer relationships provide the depth of companionship and the thrill of competition while a network provides a constant stream of potential opponents (friends).
Most gaming interfaces have features like chat, photo uploading, personal profiles (through avatars) and contact managers. All of these lay a perfect groundwork for effective social networking.
I’m particularly interested in the Mii network being developed by Nintendo. Aside from their sleek use of widgetry which I will save for another post, following are some of the channels and features they’ve launched with the console that I believe are clear steps towards building out a social platform (followed by revenue generating platforms):
- “Everybody Votes Channel” users select a question from a list, place votes and come back to see the results. There are National Polls and Worldwide Polls, where users can see whether voters in one country think differently from the rest of the world. (Think of the branding opportunities!!)
- “Check Mii Out Channel” is the place for Miis to mingle. Users can show off Mii creations and download Miis that others have created. Users are able to participate in Mii contests by creating and judging Miis for specific contest themes (Do you see sponsorship opportunities here?).
- “Posting Plaza” In the Posting Plaza, you can submit, exchange or just browse Miis posted by others in your region or worldwide.
- Users can search for specific Miis, by the name of its creator or by a number specific to each Mii. You can tag your favorites, browse for popular Miis and import them to your own Wii system.
- "Photo Channel" By inserting an SD memory card into the Wii users can manipulate shots in all kinds of ways like adding effects or creating puzzles and mosaics. Users are also able to put favorite MP3s on their SD cards to create slideshows with soundtracks.
- Portable Miis - If you're heading over to a friend's house, load up your Wii Remote with Miis and transfer them to your friend's Wii. Each Wii Remote can hold up to 10 Miis.
- Mii Parades - Users can opt to turn on the WiiConnect24 feature, register at least one Wii Friend and use the traveling Mii Parade feature. This makes users' friends' Miis appear in their Mii Parade. Likewise, the users' Miis will eventually appear in their friends' Mii Parade where thanks to the Mii Mingle feature, they can well...mingle of course.
It’s still early to predict the success of these features as they relate to building sustainable online communities. The point is that the framework is being built and that gamers spend a lot of time together. More time, I would guess than users on networks like LinkedIn or as one of Thomas’ friends commented, Xing.
Here's a great article on the US $17.9 billion gaming industry from AFP outlining the momentum behind the three main contenders.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on gaming and the media developments within...