Introducing the “Web 2.0 Game”December 16th, 2006
This is the first part of a series. Susan Wu’s post about Areae motivated me to post our team’s thoughts on successful Web 2.0 and how it relates to games, and the future of Web 2.0. Over this series, I’ll talk about my experiences in my first go in Web 2.0 land with FilmLoop, and what lessons I’ve learned to apply to my own startup project, and what I hope you will too. But like any good demo, here’s the big idea first:
The Big IdeaA successful Web 2.0 service must have good game mechanics. A great Web 2.0 service will have great game play.
Example ProofNeoPets, AskVille, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube are examples of successful Web 2.0 services that implement good game mechanics. More specifically, they have good reward systems (collections and points), and customization (avatars, personalization, inventory). I’ll refer you to Amy Jo Kim, who has an excellent primer correlating these particular areas of game play mechanics.
To be successful, you need to at least build these basic game play elements. Not necessarily building a community or have social network features, but really it’s basic game play you need.
But if you want to be great…Let’s look at Habbo Hotel, CyWorld and Second Life. Each of these is a Web 2.0-ish intersection of better game play and immersive experience combined with user created content. They each have strengths and weaknesses:
- Habbo Hotel has a pretty good immersive experience, but its user created content has room to grow, (and is aimed at a particular business model and market demo)
- CyWorld has an extremely low user barrier to entry, but has limited user created content and limited immersive experience.
- Second Life has both user created content and immersive experience, but has a very high barrier to entry.
The Hard Core Game, The Casual Game, and The Web 2.0 GameA few years ago, the game industry recognized a paradigm shift in games. Games like Doom, Baldur’s Gate, CounterStrike are great and successful games, but are classified as “hard core games” — games that are very immersive, but have high user barrier to entry, either in system requirements or in how high the learning curve was. Games like Solitaire, Tetris, Bejeweled, Yahoo! Games became classified as “casual games” — games that have great game play, but have a lower user barrier to entry, both in system requirements (system or download requirements, easy learning curve, limited time investment). These casual games were wildly popular and account for the majority female online gamer statistic you see quoted from time to time. But if we are to motivate designers to intersect games and Web 2.0 applications, I would like to define a new class:
The Web 2.0 GameWeb 2.0 Game – n. A game or application that actively employs critical elements of both games and Web 2.0 applications, including:
from the Game world:
- Great game mechanics – rewards systems, customization.
- Great game play – actively designed staged learning cycles, re-playability, game balance.
- Immersive experience – often related to graphics or richness, but not always (e.g., MUDs)
- User generated / collaborated content
- Serious applications (i.e., communication, managing community and relationships, media sharing, but not limited to these)
- Extremely (web-based) low barrier to entry
Future DirectionsI hope this helps you think about your Web 2.0 game design and what is commonly referred to as “virality” and / or “stickiness”. I’ll expand on this topic over time, especially in issues like game balance and learning cycles (hint: there’s more than just the initial one).
And I hope to share more about our own Web 2.0 game as it develops.
Update: Ah ha! TechCrunch picked up Susan’s article.
Update #2: I’m glad that lots of people enjoyed this post, including Raph Koster. :-) Well, there’s definitely more to say on this topic… which I’ll save for the next post.