Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Best of the Virtual Best

What Virtual World features have really impressed me?

ourWorld - Avatars. Anime-inspired design combined with literally hundreds of different clothing items results in a nearly infinite array of looks for the players. With so much game time spent looking at avatars, I think avatar design is critical to the success of a VW. Ourworld's diveristy is only eclipsed by sites allowing user generated content (like 2nd Life), but without the challenges that come with UGC.

Dizzywood - In game play. Most of the fun of Dizzywood happens right in the main world. Activites, both solo and group, are everywhere. Much of the action happens in plain view of everyone. If you are engaged in a game that takes place in its own window, your avatar displays an icon so the other players know you're engaged. If I was 10, Dizzywood would be my game.

Smallworlds - Missions. Until they run out, Smallworlds keeps new players busy with a large assortment of rewarded tasks. They show off the world, teach how things works, provide an income, and kill boredom. I gave up on Smallworld soon after the missions dried up.

Whirled - User generated content. I'm a sucker for UGC. Whirled does a reasonable job of sorting the stuff so the best is accessible and the worst remains obscure. While there's a community of creators, the barrier was too high for me to participate. Still, there's some really interesting stuff on Whirled that no 'pro' would ever think to make happen.

YoVille - Parties List. With a lack of real games, YoVille is essentially a big chat service. Players can always check the party list to see if there are any like-minded people hanging out. If you don't see one you like, it takes about 10 seconds to start a party of your own.

Pet Society - Avatar Games. It's simple, and there's not enough variety yet, but I love the fact that I can play ball, frisbee, and jump-rope with my Pet Society pet. The games are super simple, but it keeps track of personal bests and issues trophies and rewards for exceeding benchmarks. I think this sort of play-with-my-avatar stuff would work in a lot of other games.

YoVille, Pet Society - Facebook Apps. I can't believe how quickly games built into Facebook grow. It's nice to have them right at my fingertips as I'm always checking Facebook anyway.

Toppstown, Bella Sara - Real World Tie-In. Products bought at retail unlock Virtual World content online. I think we'll be seeing a lot of this in the future, as the potential for revenue is huge.

Most of these 'bests' are really just great ideas that other worlds haven't adopted as standard yet. Cross pollenation is inevetible, because there's no way you can ignore a great idea just because somebody else thought of it first (unless they 'own' it somehow.) Avatars, games, public and private rooms, and stores selling virtual stuff for play money WAS pretty innovative. Obviously, there's room for so much more. These worlds have already started taking those next steps. I can't wait to see what's next. Heck, perhaps I'll come up with what's next!


Monday, August 11, 2008

More Value

We bought a tube of kids shampoo that says "Limited Time Value" on it. I think the idea is that we're getting extra shampoo for free. Am I? I'm not sure I can believe that. All the tubes of that brand were the same price and had the same amount of shampoo. Is the price going up soon? In that case, I'm not getting more now, I'm just being informed of getting less in the future. What the heck does "Limited Time Value" mean? It doesn't make any sense.

When Hidden City Games launched Clout (a collectible poker chip game) a few years back, we had two products.

  1. The Starter Game - 30 chips, rules, and tape measure for $15.
  2. The Booster Pack - 2 chips for $2.50
The idea was we'd give the players a price break on the starter so it'd be easier to get into the game. The response was exactly the opposite. Everyone figured that if we could afford to sell 30 chips for $15, there's no reason at all that 2 chips should cost over a buck each. We got asked over and over again, if the chips are .50 each, why not sell 5 for $2.50.

Truth was, we couldn't sell the boosters for cheaper. The booster price is where we planned to make our money, and the starters were selling at about cost. While we could explain that to people one at a time, and they'd usually get it, the organic story that took root was that Clout was a rip-off based on the booster prices. That (along with it's crappy name, problems with distribution, rulebook issues, and million other sad mistakes) eventually sunk the game. I'm not sure if making the starters cost more would have helped, but minimizing the disparity would have solved that one problem. The value problem.

Value isn't something you label a product with it. Value is the feeling a customer gets when the experience with the product meets expectations and turns out to be worth the money that was paid. More value means the feeling is stronger. No value means the money was wasted in the mind of the customer.

Put value into your product (or game, or service, or whatever you do) rather than on the label. THAT is what makes sense.