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MMOGs make for iSociety

Virtual worlds like Second Life are doing pretty good, thank you very much! But while businesses appear to be leaving by one door, social networks could well be walking through another…

In my previous installment on MMOGs as venues for possible future business commerce, what might we need to see happen to make the businesses return?

I’m not an economist, nor do I hale from any business college. What I do know is that people are the pattern-forming stuff of business models, around which our world revolves.

And it’s by studying these interconnected patterns that offers some insight into the world of the wide web, but from a socio-technological angle.

All social’d up!

There are a lot of social network portals right now, too many to list. And if you’re like Brian Heys, then you too may be tiring of social networks.

Places like Second Life are a different kind of social network which rely on as-real-as-damn-it social interaction, albeit Second Life has additional features, like the scope for business .. of a kind.

Many of the regular common-or-garden variety social networks are now adding in options for their members to list their account details for other, often competing social networks, recognizing that to allow for a more deeply interconnected mesh for their members across other social networks is probably going to do more good than harm.

It’s the: “Oh, so you’re here, too? Nice one!” effect which we’ve all experienced, either virtually or for real.

And in time, maybe we’ll see some of the big players in the social networking scene step up, or at least build their own presence within Second Life, for example.

And rather than pay huge fees for the privilege, this maybe a symbiotic relationship that would ultimately benefit both parties; the web-based social networks go 3d, while Second Life et al get an infusion of new blood, much of which has a known demographic.

And what do we know about demographics? Marketeers luv ’em!

For the marketeer, a demographic is something to aim a campaign at and to build a marketing campaign around.

However, the same rules apply on-line as they do in the real world; marketing campaigns function around customer data. So the question is, how do you tease this data out of people?

As we know, the social networks are getting us used to the idea of submitting everything from our personal details (such as the very obvious stuff, like gender, age, size et cetera) to the more specific (like current vocation, musical tastes, political leaning et cetera), or even the esoteric, as seen on StumbleUpon where you get the option to go through a Myer-Briggs-Jung test, of all things.

Crucially, unlike a written questionnaire, as is often wafted through the post on occasion, you get to add to your profile in your own time.

It’s worth pointing out that most social networks don’t pass on this data to third parties. Or usually by law, if they do, you’ll know up-front. But from a pure marketing point of view, the data that rolls out of these profiles is just gold dust.

What flies now, flopped way back when…

We only have to go back five years and there was still a great deal of resistance in certain quarters to buying stuff on-line. Now we recognize that the risk of financial loss is no greater on the web than it is in real life.

If demonstrable evidence can be put forward for the key benefits of going virtual, as well as at least an outline business model, then people will begin to sit up and take note.

But above all, if it’s fun, then people will also sit up and take note. I suppose this is where I point out the glaringly obvious correlation between the success of Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, as well as Second Life and the fun people have in the aforementioned worlds, being fully prepared to pay for the pleasure.

In time, businesses will return to the MMOG scene as the fabric of this new iSociety begins to bind and commerce is an accepted thread. And if not to Second Life, assuming that it’s no longer around, then some other virtual world.

How do I know this? It’s that unwritten rule that wherever there’s enough people, there’s money to be made.

Only the next time around, there’s going to be more people with the mind to spend as well as play.

I’m virtually certain of it…

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “MMOGs make for iSociety”

I thought I should drop by and return the favour by adding a comment.

Although you may have no direct experience of SL and VWs in general, I think you’ve got the measure pretty well. I would say, though, that the so-called Exodus from Second Life is somewhat misleading. It is my observation that more companies, from more countries, are entering SL than are leaving it – but Linden Lab have been too modest to mention it.

Many of us in SL view it as a precursor (or, to some, the foundation) of the next generation of the internet: web3D if you will. In terms of capability & maturity, it is like the internet of 10 years ago. Over-setting expectations will lead to problems, as the infrastructure is unable to meet them; no-one knows exactly how to use this new medium effectively. The days of using SL as a quick attention-grabber are already in the past. But it is still “pioneering days”, with most companies now treating SL as a petri dish, to see what works and what doesn’t.

Strangely enough, although we live in a 3D world, our experiences do not cross over directly to virtual worlds. What works in one, can fail miserably in the other. It makes for a fascinating challenge for marketing folk. You have a shrewd notion of the demographic in SL – but actually engaging with them is entirely another matter!

If you want a marketeer’s viewpoint of Second Life, do chase down the excellent KZero blog.

Hi Aleister and thanks for the comment!

It’s great getting some qualified feedback on this subject, so I’m really pleased about you taking the time.

I expect I’ll be returning to your ‘blog at some point…

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