Game Development Reference
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impact on the virality and stickiness of the games that run on them and on
how you'll need to design the features of your product, if you hope to best take
advantage of what that site has to offer.
Is a forum hosted on a website a social network? As you'll read in several
of our interviews, forums are a common way for gamers to interact with one
another and to form social bonds outside of the game but within the context
of the broader game community. Hear a description of Pocket Legend 's dedi-
cated community of nurturing fans, and it's hard to not want to include forums
as social networks. They allow people to virtually congregate in groups based
around subjects of mutual interest, and exchange information. Yet might this
not be a little bit like proclaiming a treehouse hidden in the woods to be a Boy
Scout recruitment center? It may be a place for people who already know about
nature to further advance their understanding of woodcraft, or to meet with
others who are already in the know. But if you wanted to bring in new disciples
to Baden Powell's cause, you might be better served to build a mock tree-fort in
the air-conditioned byways of a local mall.
The lesson here, then, is that a social network needs to exist as a super-
set of a single cause or interest, to connect people of diverse tastes and prefer-
ences, and cannot be a closed or private system. Anything that appeals only
to those who have already self-selected as members isn't of much use when it
comes to virally spreading a message. A community can form itself around a
narrow interest, but for our purposes, such communities aren't of much use, as
we're interested in exposing an existing community to a new idea (your game).
Therefore, you have to find the delicate balance between the exclusivity that
comes with a shared narrow interest, and an attractive viral inclusivity that will
entice members to join and participate. AA meetings appeal only to those who
are already trying to leave the bar. We need social networks that can expose
people to a new idea in which they might have had no interest were it not for
the social forces that drew them in.
Over the last decade, several large companies in Asia have managed to cre-
ate social networks made of up several disparate elements, including MMO
games, casual games, and chat or instant messaging clients. Western social
networks learned from their successes. Tencent is perhaps the most successful
of these companies from the East, boasting over 350 million users currently,
with over $1 billion in annual revenues. Early on, Tencent recognized that the
sale of virtual goods would be a key to their success. Their pioneering work
pointed the way for social networks like Facebook, which initially relied only
on advertising. Tencent, however, proves that there is a much more successful
model than the simple ads-only approach others have followed. For every $2
Tencent makes from advertising, they make an additional $17 from microtrans-
action item sales. 1 Facebook paid careful attention to this lesson and adopted
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