VIRTUAL WORLDS AND GAMING
Large corporations such as Disney, Dell and Coca-Cola have a significant presence within virtual worlds because where users congregate there is an opportunity to do business. There are many forms of virtual worlds. There are worlds where you adopt an online identity and communicate with other users in an online environment whom you may or may not know. There are virtual online worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft. Second Life enables its users to create a virtual identity and interact with other virtual identities with avatars in an online world.
Businesses have taken the example of user participation in these virtual worlds and have created online environments to engage users further. In Second Life, Apple has created an online store, while Microsoft has created virtual properties and theatres hosting online events. Sun has created a virtual campus for training its staff, and the BBC has hosted virtual music festivals.
Gaming and social interaction sites have a naturally symbiotic relationship that companies can leverage to engage their audience. Similar to virtual worlds, gaming environments feature altruistic games. In Facebook the Farmville MMORPG encourages players to give gifts to their farming neighbours and help out on their neighbours’ farms. Co-operating in this way gives the player more experience points and helps them advance through the game. There are competitive MMORPG games such as Halo3, EverQuest and the World of Warcraft. In EverQuest, players participate in specific roles and collaborate with each other to win challenges. Pizza Hut has a business presence in the EverQuest game. All players need to do is type the command ’/pizza’ whilst they are playing EverQuest II. From within the game, the Pizza Hut website appears so that players can place an order for pizza whilst still playing the game. Companies that provide in-game adverts are not new in these types of online games, but this is the first example of being able to order a real pizza from a virtual world. Gamers don’t mind these adverts either. Over 90% of gamers believe that real adverts add realism to the online game. The challenge for the advertiser, though, is that the players, on seeing the same adverts over and over again, soon begin to ignore them. New mechanisms that rotate adverts based on time of day are now being developed.
Even Twitter applications have appeared on the gaming scene. MMORPGs are hugely popular, as the millions of people who play Farmville, Mafia Wars and FishVille would testify. There is an in-game Twitter client for the World of Warcraft game called TweetCraft. World of Warcraft is the fastest selling PC game of all time, with millions of subscribers paying a monthly subscription of around $20. TweetCraft sends and receives messages from Twitter and Twitpic, and the Warcraft add-on receives messages from Twitter.
This collaboration between separate games enhances both of the applications. The ability to send and receive tweets whilst playing a game of World of Warcraft, upload screenshots of your game using TwitPic (a photo sharing site) and automatically post tweets about your achievements enhances the game and brings the community on board. You can also use a service such as Steam to digitally download games from the Internet, play and collaborate in an online community and engage with each other player socially. This many to many communications mechanism is similar to that which allows Facebook to encourage gamers to see their friends recent gaming activity. Players can view their friends’ groups, achievements and games purchased. This friend network encourages gamers to try new games purchased by their online buddies, adding to Steam’s revenue stream.
With the massive and varied choice of applications around, which one should you choose for your business? Should you create your own network for your hobby or join an established group? How many social media sites are there to engage in? What are they used for? Which site is suitable for you in your work, your home life or useful in your thirst for knowledge? Is there really a social networking site for everything imaginable?