Tag Archives: Social Networking

Gamers are Not a Unified Demographic

As regular as clockwork over the life of this blog I have had somebody poke me in comments, in chat, or via email about their great new idea.

They are going to create a social network for gamers.

Back in the day I was willing to buy into this idea.  There was a time when I could believe that somebody could pull together the gamer demographic.

So over the years, I have signed up for various sites including XFire, GuildCafe, Raptr, Anook, Gax Online, WeGame, UGame, Rupture, GamerDNA, and probably quite a few more whose names I have simply forgotten over time.

And every one of those sites has one thing in common: failure.

Most of them are dead.  Raptr called it quits after a long run, though their site remains up, if untended. Xfire morphed into a video game league then shut down. GuildCafe was purchased and shut down.  GamerDNA was purchased and shut down.  UGame is just gone.  WeGame disappeared and the name was picked up last year by Tencent. Rupture, from the guy who created Napster, was bought by EA and shut down.  And GAX Online went offline when Ryan and Gary found that they had not reached a self-sustaining critical mass and likely never would.

In digging through my brain for this post the only site I could come up with that was still online was Anook, which we used as a nexus for Blaugust a few years back, and it is shambling along like it simply isn’t aware that it is dead yet.  It has some regulars, but nothing like the amount of users needed to make it a sustainable venture.

So here we are in 2018 and what pops into my email inbox but a press release about a Kickstarter to fund yet another gamer social network.

I give you GameCritter and their Kickstarter campaign.

I’m sure they licensed those characters for use in their promotional material

The Kickstarter campaign for GameCritter launched this past Thursday looking to raise about $55,000, though it is an Australian company running it, so they’re really asking for $75,000 in their upside down dollaree doos, but Kickstarted nicely converts the currency for you.

That isn’t a big ask, but they might as well be asking for the moon and a million dollars since they have already failed my reliable benchmark for Kickstarter success; if you don’t make 20% of your ask in the first 24 hours just go home.  They didn’t even make 1% in the first three days, and the charts over at Kicktraq don’t show the situation getting any better with time.  Their cause is lost, though not for a lack of overselling.

The company actually had the audacity in the email to claim that this was the, and I quote, “World’s First Social Platform For Gamers!”

However, none of their features seem all that interesting or original.

  • Social Platform with User Posts, Friends, Instant messaging & Commenting
  • Community-Driven Reviews, Guides, Discussion Forums & Question/Answer Forums
  • Addictive Levelling & Rewards System with over 1,500+ Levels & 13 Ranks
  • Hundreds of Unique Collectable Avatars, Companions, Badges & Achievements
  • Competitive Leaderboards with Various Metrics and Clans (Grouping)

From top to bottom the list is “been done many times,” “available on many other sites,” and “meaningless fluff” x3.  Basically, nothing compelling there really.

They are offering features for developers and publishers as well.  I guess that is new-ish.

  •  Dedicated Profile Pages to Build & Foster Fan Followings
  • Raise Crowdfunding for New Projects with Support from Fans
  • Create Revenue by Selling Games Directly from Our Platform
  • Smart Targeted Advertising with Multiple Metrics
  • Powerful Analytics Dashboard for Big Data Handling
  • Conduct User Surveys & Polls to Gauge Strategic Business Direction

The question is, what developer is going to jump on board this platform for any of those things?  Would you crowdfund on a site that couldn’t successfully crowdfund itself into existence?  Or would you trust a company that didn’t even notice that a competitor mentioned in its Kickstarter FAQ had been discontinued over a year? (Hint: Raptr)

Seriously, I could sit here and shit on this whole thing all day long and well into the night, but there is a point where you go beyond disagreement and into just being mean and I don’t want to get too far in that direction.

Instead, I want to explore for a bit why this idea, this plan for a gamer social network, has never worked and likely will never work.

I believe the problem here is that all of the people founding these sorts of projects are operating with a flawed premise, the belief that gamers are some sort of single, unified demographic.

You can guess what I think about that from the title of this post.

It isn’t that gamers do not come together, it is just that what we come together over is a lot more specific than just being a gamer.  What brings us together?

Specific Games: World of Warcraft or Pokemon Go players, when they meet, have something to share with each other immediately.

Gaming Franchises: We all know somebody who has to buy the latest Civilization or Call of Duty or Mario or Fallout title the day it comes out.

Gaming Genres:  There are clear followings for things like MMORPGs or MOBAs or FPSs or MUDs.

Platforms: While not as unifying, we definitely divide ourselves by platform and find common cause with our fellow PC or XBox or PlayStation gamers.  Some people even claim to be gamers even though they only use their phone.

I suppose an analogy would be food.  We like certain restaurants, or types of restaurants, or types of food, but I am not sure we really need a social network platform dedicated to eating.

Furthermore, we already tend to form up into those various groupings using the resources already available.  We use the developers forums, or our own alternate forums if we feel the developer is being too heavy handed in moderating messages.  We form groups on Reddit or Facebook around our shared specific interest.  We follow developers or hash tags on Twitter and Instagram.  We frequent the gaming news sites that best cover our favorite genres.  We even start writing blogs about the games we play, which in turn tend to become part of ad hoc blogging communities.

So when somebody new shows up and says that we should drop all of the infrastructure and social bonds that have formed organically over the years to hop on their shiny new venture, it just isn’t going to happen unless there is something genuinely new on tap.  And, so far, such sites have only offered warmed over versions of well worn ideas.

Basically, such sites fail on both key counts.  They are pitching to a demographic that doesn’t exist and they are not offering any compelling reason to use their platform.

Even a site like Something Awful, whose forums probably represent one of the best cross-genre discussions of video game topics around, is based on an overarching community that goes beyond video games, and within the video game section of the forums, the various genres and games are divided up into groups and specific titles.  While there is some cross-pollination, people tend to stick to their interests, so the EVE Online players aren’t heavily represented in the Pokemon forum and vice versa.

And that doesn’t even get into how Steam is trying to become even more of a social media experience for gamers, where it has the advantage of players already invested in their platform and already… oh, and they pretty much offer everything GameCritter is claiming for end users while having more than 150 million people signed on.  And even there we stratify into groups of friends or followers of specific games or genres.  Still, Steam comes as close to a gamer social network as anything I suppose.

Maybe if you’re somebody like Discord or Twitch and have people already using your service as a social platform you can back your way into this sort of thing by adding more game specific features… and a store… both sites want to sell you things.

Anyway, the GameCritter Kickstarter is going to fail hard for a variety of reasons, and not just because their pre-campaign promotional activities apparently involved sending out hyperbolic press releases to cynical old coots like myself.  (Seriously though, if nobody in the gaming press is taking you seriously enough to do a story on your product, you should take this as huge red flag.)

In the end something like GameCritter looks like a solution in search of a problem.  There is nothing on offer for end users there that hasn’t been tried already.  It apparently only works if you have something compelling to offer the way Steam does.

The First Rule of Google+ Club…

Is apparently to talk constantly about Google+ Club.


Which strikes me as odd because most of what I have seen so far has not been all that exciting.

Yes, I am there on Google+.

You can find Wilhelm Arcturus in the Google+ milieu.

[Whoops, no you cannot, not any more. Pseudonyms are not allowed and somebody apparently complained about mine and I was asked to leave.]

There were several dreadful minutes when I had nearly a dozen invites to join Google+, but they were limiting the number of users allowed in this early release period.  And then somebody at Google changed their mind and the population of Google+ has since swollen to the point of rivaling the population of  New York and closing in on that of Texas.

But once there, it didn’t really change my world.

Google+, in my view, is trying to meld the ideas of Facebook and Twitter into a single package.  Not a bad idea.  It has merit.

As with Facebook have your wall, which I guess is your stream in Google+ parlance.  And stream is a good term, since already I’ve run into people who post like they are letting go after a few beers.

Anyway, you’re not limited to streaming out a mere 140 characters, you can embed pictures or video, and you can even decide which of your groups you can stream all over.  Plus, if your friends respond, they can respond directly to your post.

Meanwhile, Google+ has aspects of Twitter in its structure.  For a start, you have no friends.

For some of you, this won’t be news.

On Facebook, friends are a one-to-one, mutually consensual relationship.  You gotta ask and somebody has to accept before you are connected.

In Google+, as with Twitter, you can follow people.  You pick the people who interest you, drop them in a group, called circles, and can follow what they post.  It has the one-to-many aspect of Twitter, along with the lists functionality, without the restrictions on character count or the difficulty of following a conversation between other people.  Circles can be like having many individual feeds.

So in Google+ you have no friends but merely run in circles.

For example, I clicked on Guy Kawasaki and put him in my acquaintances circle, which is one of the pre-set circles.  I’ve met him a few times.  He won’t remember me, but we have friends in common that I know he would remember (Yuji!), so if I was stuck in an elevator with him, I could establish a common link with him beyond, “Hey, you signed my copy of The Macintosh Way at the Palo Alto ComputerWare back in 1991.”

Then a day later I removed him from that circle because I forgot that he posts pretty much constantly and that was why I had to stop following him on Twitter as well.  I am just not that interested in what he has to say and his output makes Scoble seem like a piker some days. (If I am going to drop names, I should also point out I went to junior high school with Bob Scoble where we shared a 7th grade algebra class taught by Mr. Sousa who, in hindsight, could have been the inspiration for Severus Snape… only louder… and occasionally in German.  I have forgotten most of 7th grade at this point, but not that class.)

Just like on Twitter, I am sure that Guy got a notification that I was following him, but when I stopped he heard nothing.

So on Google+, as with Twitter, there will be a lot of asymmetrical relationships.

I created my own circle called MMO Blognati, where I stuck people like Tobold and Darren, which ended up being mostly symmetrical, Facebook like relationships of mutual subscription.  I also created one called MMO Devs which, aside from Brian Green, is pretty much me subscribing to their feeds.

I also have a circle called “No F’ing Idea” for people who follow me but whom I cannot place in any context, yet I feel I must know from somewhere.

Fortunately, other people cannot see your circles, only that you have placed them in one.  So they may think you’ve put them in the Friends circle (okay, I guess you can have friends of a sort) but really you’ve put them in the raging ass-hat circle.

Which is all a reasonable system.  I like the mix.  But once you get past that there really isn’t much else to talk about.  Which is where a bit of the confusion comes in for me.

There is a whole bunch of people who are, “OMG! This is the best thing EVAR!  Facebook is dead! How can you still be using Facebook? Facebook is now MySpace!”

And I have to wonder what some of these people are smoking.

Because, to start off, I already have Facebook and Twitter and a whole bunch of connections therein, not all of which have moved off.  Some of the people who are saying this are MMO players and have claimed to understand the stickiness of social connections in such games.  This is part of the reasons that MMOs keep players for so long.

So Facebook isn’t dead.  It is still the central online social loci for many millions of people and will remain so until there is a “killer app” for Google+ that nobody can live without.

Which leads me to the second point of confusion, that there is no real “killer app” for Google+ yet.

Not that I can see.

There isn’t anything that you can say about Google+ that you cannot get elsewhere.  The only real compelling reason to go to Google+ that I can see is that it is not Facebook.  So now all of us elitist geek swine can feel superior because Facebook is something that non-techies use.  All the cool kids use Google+, which is an actual quote, even if I assume it was meant with some sense of irony.

And this lack of killer app makes me boggle.

Because here is Google, which owns my email (gmail), my RSS feed reader (Google Reader), the RSS feed from my blogs (Feed Burner), my search history (just plain old Google), searching in general (i.e. for more than just people), my instant messaging (GoogleTalk… okay, I don’t use that… but I could!), my news sources (plug-ins in iGoogle), and a pile of other stuff like Google Maps, YouTube, Google Books, Google Translate, and so on, none of which appears to be connected in any unique way to Google+.

If that doesn’t say something about Google, I don’t know what does.

So while Facebook has a pile of third party apps that will integrate directly and effectively with all sorts of data sources, like my blog for example, Google+ seems pretty lacking.

And you cannot even play the “but it’s brand new!” card, because that won’t wash.

Google has had a social networking site since 2004.  It is called Orkut.  I had a friend who worked on it at one point and used to check in on it now and again, until the official language became Portuguese and people began complaining about people using English on “their” service.

But surely in the last 6+ years, they learned something from Orkut?  They built integration points for that, they must have brought them forward, right?

No.

So the real message about Google I take from this is one that I have already heard before many time here in the valley, often from people in a position to know, which is that Google never recycles anything and that each little project group works in its own little bubble and feels it has to create the world from scratch every time.

Which is ironic considering that they have been known to push a green message now and again.  I suppose code seems like an unlimited resource when you are young.

Of course, there is one group within Google that I am sure will integrate with Google+ soon.  That will be the ad group.  They will snicker “Don’t Be Evil” and inject ads into the whole thing.  That will be the initial revenue model.

But as of today, Google+ is clean, with a pristine white background, no ads, a couple of interesting ideas, and a bunch of self-satisfied geeks using it.

Where do you think it is heading?

Will any eventual “killer app” also end up being evil?

I am sure if I am missing something about the service, somebody will let me know.

Addendum:

A while after I posted this, Cringely posted something about the projected decline and fall of Facebook.  Google+ doesn’t figure into that in his picture.

Facebook is a huge success. You can’t argue with 750 million users and growing. And I don’t see Google+ making a big dent in that.

Rather, the next big thing will cause the social media category to fade.

Massive Blips Bloops

Massive Blips is gone.

I woke up this morning and found their feed down.

Their site now redirects to this message (click to enlarge):

Thank you for your interest

Massive Blips was, until yesterday, a site that tracked and helped promote MMO related blogs.  It was one of a set of similar sites under the DailyRadar brand which also included WoW, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, and other gaming categories as well as a large number of non-gaming topics.

DailyRadar was somewhat in the Digg category of business models.  It produced no content of its own.  It just tracked the what other people were posting on their blogs, but tried to chop things up into categories of interest.  You could also sign up for an account and vote for posts.

I ran their Top Stories feed in my side bar for just over a year as a second source, after VirginWorlds, of posts in the MMO blogging community.

While the purpose of the site was to direct people to the community, Massive Blips never generated much in the way of traffic for me.  But as a site it seemed to be… under utilized.  A post with a dozen votes was huge.

And their tracking model did produce some questionable results, like SynCaine being flagged as the top WoW blogger for weeks on end.

But I still I found the site interesting to watch.

It was a good way to find blog posts on the same subject.  During the RealID revolt, you could find all sorts of posts, both pro and con, on the subject by heading over to MassiveBlips.

They tried to track which MMOs were being talked about the most, though with WoW in the picture, the top three tags tracked for the last year have been World of Warcraft, Blizzard, and Cataclysm.  I didn’t really need MassiveBlips to tell me that.

But the tag that was in fourth place was often a reflection of what was going on.  Star Wars: The Old Republic occupied that spot frequently, but not always.  Lord of the Rings Online was there for a few weeks after the announced their free to play transition.  And recently, also after a free to play business model announcement and the announcement of EverQuest Next, EverQuest bubbled up to the fourth spot.

It was also a good way to find new blogs or interesting posts from blogs you might not read regularly.  And the barrier to entry for having a story listed was pretty low.  If somebody linked from a post to your post, that was usually enough for your post to be listed and tracked.  You could also submit stories manually.

And the system didn’t get abused very often.  There was one WoW gold selling group that kept submitting their own stories and once in a while some porn site would try to get their stuff listed.  And then there was Temerity Jane.  I have no idea why her posts were regularly listed on the site.  We did certainly get to read a lot about her and Phil.  But other than TJ, the editorial staff kept things pretty much under control, so spam was never a bit deal.

The company which ran the site, Future US (which produces magazines as well, including PC Gamer, Nintendo Power and World of Warcraft: The Official Magazine) still runs quite a few other site, including GamesRadar.

But DailyRadar, and the MassiveBlips site, those are now gone.

So my blog outlives another gamer/blogger community site.  And my blog isn’t even that old.

Is anybody else doing something like MassiveBlips?

EQ2-Daily still does this sort of thing for EverQuest II posts, and they even have the voting aspect now, but is there anything else out there like this for the MMO blog community in general.

Ponder the Social Aspect of MMOs

I got a comment on yesterday’s post that questioned what some would consider one of the primary pillars of the MMO experience:

Dear Wilhelm

I think your overestimating the social significance of MMOs. After many years play as a non-guilder/PUGster, I’ve come to the conclusion that meeting people in MMOs is like going to Kindergarten.

. you make instant friends for the day (and everyone is bubbly)
. you’ll never see them again (they just disappear into the aether)
. you speak like a little kids
. everyone tends to be greedy, but in an innocent way

Its fun, but its not that significant…

Now, I had my own snarky response to this.  I was snarky because I do not think that, in general, I espouse a philosophy on this blog that places emphasis on social interaction.  A recurring theme here is playing with the same four people once a week and rarely getting involved with anybody else in the game.

In fact, yesterday’s post was worth posting because I actually did, grudgingly, go play with some strangers.  I am certainly not the poster boy for socialization.

I did end my response with something that I can sum up by paraphrasing Tom Lehrer:

The social aspect of MMOs are like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

Frankly, when it comes down to it, my experiences are probably more akin to the commenter than not.  But even as somebody who tends to be a solo player in multiplayer games, I have managed to collect a string of friends and acquaintances over the years.

So as a legitimate point of view for an individual, I cannot really fault his statement.  But as a sweeping generalization of the total MMO experience, I just cannot get there.  I know too many people for whom the social aspect is the main draw.  After all, one of the four quadrants of the classic Bartle Test is “Socializer.”

How about you?  How significant do you see the social aspects of MMOs in your view?

GAX Online to Close on 8/31

Gary Gannon, one of the founders of GAX Online, posted a notice today on the front page that the community site he helped found saying that it will be closing down at the end of August.

It is with great sadness that I deliver this announcement. On August 31, 2009 GAX Online will be closing its virtual doors. My dreams of creating a user generated/self perpetuating video game social site has proven me wrong.

I had thought that once the site had a user base and was “established” that it would sort of run itself based on quality content/blogging from the community. Unfortunately I have learned that without proper leadership a community of this nature may be impossible. Over time the sites content has slowly degraded and has become less and less valuable to anyone.

As most of you know GAX was created at a time when Ryan and I did the podcast Massively Online Gamer, and even if it was not intended this was the central “core” running GAX. Even though MOG lived at GAX I always saw the two as separate entities. That is where I was wrong. I had hoped for a site that created extremely valuable content for gamers where all of the content was created by gamers. An independent collective community that could give the “big boys” a run for their money. Although many of you created great content since it’s inception, this obviously did not transpire.

I know I had trouble finding meaning in the site for myself.

Gary does have a new blog of his own and is talking about a potential podcast.

We will have to see what develops.

But it seems that GAX will be gone for good soon.

[Of course, Gary went on to found Gamebreaker.tv.]

Gamer Social Networking?

I was looking at my page at GAX Online [long since gone, click links at your peril] the other day and was trying to find the point.

I mean, I get the idea of social networking.  I have a profile on Linked In, a social networking site focused on professional relationships.  I am linked to a whole pile of friends and co-workers and I can see where they are working now and what they are up to whenever the urge strikes me.

And that makes sense to me and because I am me.  For the former, as I said, I can keep track of friends and have a method to get in touch with them, at least so long as their profile is sufficiently up to date.  And for the latter, well, my friends tend to be people with whom I do things on a regular basis and, having had a job since I was 13, there is no more regular group than my coworkers.

But other services and social sites, things like Facebook, Plaxo, or MySpace, don’t do much for me.  There isn’t anything there for me.

But GAX Online is gamer oriented, so I thought I should give it a try.  I do spend a bit of time playing online games after all. (*listens for vocal comment from wife*)  And GAX was put together by the guys from Massively Online Gamer, so I felt I ought to support their endeavor in return for all the entertainment they have provided.

I signed up early one, got my account, created my page, put little bits of information about myself on it, uploaded a picture, added an RSS feed from my blog, asked to be friends with a couple of people, accepted friend invites from a few others, joined some groups, and generally poked around.

And that was about it.

I checked in regularly at first, looked into groups, followed a few of the blogs being run on the site, and watched what was going on.  But over time I began checking in less and less frequently.  Some things I kept up with via RSS, like Brent’s Other Blog back when he was having fun with it and telling people things like their blog probably sucks or that perhaps Tolkien and/or Halo are not that great.  But then he stopped doing that.

It is not that GAX Online is dead.  Every time I go there, activity is apparent, I just have no enthusiasm for it.  It does not seem to be for me.

As a comparison, in a fit of gamer social networking enthusiasm brought on by the launch of GAX Online, I also signed up for GuildCafe just for comparison’s sake.  But GuildCafe stuck even less firmly with me, no doubt because I didn’t even know a half dozen people to put on a friend’s list.  I kept up with that site so little that while they changed their name to GamerDNA in April of 2008, I didn’t even notice until September, and I am not sure I made the mental connection that one was the other until even more recently.  The triumph of apathy.

So there I am.

But just because I can’t find any compelling reason to visit these sites on a regular basis doesn’t mean I know everything that is there.

So my question of the week is what gamer social networking site do you use, if any, and what keeps you coming back to it?  What makes a site like worth it to you?

Or not worth it, if you prefer.