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IBM, Sun miss the money in MMOGs

When I think of IBM and Sun Microsystems, I think of stoic, reliable mainframes, enterprise-class business software, data mining, processing et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. What I don’t think of is their bespectacled brainiacs pondering revenue streams in virtual worlds like Second Life. But like any other market that starts out small but looks to have potential, the big players are often found to be thinking long-term. And for either IBM or Sun to think long-term about MMOGs, this ain’t no game of chance…

While there are better places to advertise than within a video game, Google are keen to chase down in-game advertising:

“For me, [the sale of in-game music] makes more sense than in-game advertising. While you can see things like in-game advertising adding a sense of authenticity to a video game, in-game music makes for a more engaging experience, and offers a more scalable platform for revenue.

For instance, if you have a preference for a particular artist or genre, and the game permits, or is thematically adaptable enough to allow for the choosing of music, then the sky is the limit.”

Teasing out an example would involve some knowledge of the classic first-person video game Deus Ex.

Such is the truly immersive nature of the game, you could enter bars, nightclubs, office complexes, restaurants, just about anything, really.

The emphasis was on exploration and experimentation, which I reveled in hour after absorbing hour.

Within the context of the game, I see no reason why it wouldn’t have been possible to infuse purchasing opportunities for such things as music and maybe other kinds of merchandise.

However, if you look at the way advertising is evolving, with viral advertising and product placements, advertising might be less annoying and more specific and informative.

But maybe I’ve got it all wrong? After all, the best minds of both IBM and Sun Microsystems combined can’t see a way of making money out of something like Second Life:

“But when [Jaron Lanier] asked Mellissinos and Wladawsky-Berger how companies like IBM and Sun could actually generate money from Second Life, they couldn’t give him much of an answer.”

But I wouldn’t read too much into that. Rarely do scientist set out to create really creative / disruptive / destructive things, it’s usually the ‘visionary’ marketeers and military specialists that do that for them.

Wherever there are enough people in one place, there’s money to be made. Right now, the routes to make money aren’t glaringly obvious because we’re trying make predictions inside a world which is itself a prediction.

But on the outside, there’s a pretty compelling place for IBM and Sun to make their money the old-fashioned way:

“So if more people use software, the more likely it is to break, and they’re more likely to need consultants like IBM?”

Good answer!

Irrespective of the players on the inside of the game – be they Google hunting advertising revenue, or some media empire chasing a song or soundtrack – on the outside, the stuff that makes MMOGs real still needs the talents, the servers and the software of the likes of IBM and Sun Microsystems to make all things virtual really real…

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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 “IBM, Sun miss the money in MMOGs”

Hmm, isn’t IBM a big player in ‘grid computing’ and isn’t that pretty tightly coupled with some MMOG initiatives? Or am I manufacturing memories again?

I can’t see selling music in-game to get much traction, unless the music could be accessed outside of the game as well. Who wants to link their music collection to a particular game, that they’ll no doubt grow tired of in a few months or a few years?

At the same time, in-game advertising hasn’t been very successful, since the gamer’s attention isn’t on the scenery where the ads are, but firmly on the action. Of course at this point I’m talking about real games, vs Second Life and other virtual social spaces. (The data I’ve read comes from Massive and their in-game advertising on consoles.)

I have no answers, though…

It’ll be interesting to see if Sony’s Home gets any traction, but with users and with advertisers.

Hi Pete and thanks for taking the time to comment. Always appreciated.

“Hmm, isn’t IBM a big player in ‘grid computing’ and isn’t that pretty tightly coupled with some MMOG initiatives? Or am I manufacturing memories again?”

Without doing some thorough research, I’d have to bow to your better knowledge.

But I do sort of allude to that being sort of the case at the end of the article.

“Who wants to link their music collection to a particular game,…[?]”

I wasn’t thinking about people linking their own music. I was thinking more along the lines of the game being the place where the player discovers new music, and is then able to buy the music from within the game.

All of which would be accessible outside of the game afterwards.

I agree that in-game advertising becomes a problem. But once you begin to see the likes of Second Life become more visually realistic, then in-game advertising would be functionally the same as in the real world, albeit ham-strung by the same problems.

However, as I mentioned in a previous article, there’s such a thing as product placement.

So creating buzz about a product or service within any given MMOG could be the driver of the sale, rather than an advert.

Once again, thanks for your time…

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