MMOs are some of the most advanced technological ventures out there today. And yet, they’re generally lacking something. Despite study after study showing that the social aspects of MMOs are what make them so darned compelling, the social features of these games are years out-of-date. Facebook and Myspace let you take a small corner of the Internet, and make it (to a greater or lesser degree) your own, and they’ve been smashingly successful. By that, I mean hundreds of millions of users. Enough to dwarf even World of Warcraft. And yet, the products are certainly not as technically complex. Want to launch the next great virtual world? Let’s talk about…
Where Web 2.0 Beats MMOs
I’m looking specifically at Myspace and Facebook here.
- I can do a lot to customize my page. In Facebook, I choose what to display. In Myspace, I can totally style and theme the page. Sure, some games do this to a greater or lesser extent — SWG and EQ2 both let you decorate your living space, for instance. But this isn’t a universal feature yet.
- I can play music when you hit my Myspace page. Is it the most annoying feature ever? Sure is! But it really goes a long way toward feeling like I “own” the space.
- In Facebook, I can easily open a window for private chat with a friend.
- I can invite people who don’t use the system at all.
- I can easily search for and find people I know, without having to do my search out-of-band.
- I can asynchronously invite people to participate in activities with me, like inviting someone to play a game of ATTACK on Facebook. Most of the time, I can’t even drop a guild invite to someone who isn’t online, much less a specific activity.
- I can participate in game-type activities asynchronously and yet meaningfully.
- I can find new activities within the site I’m on. Not by physically moving around, but by searching.
- I have email systems with responsive and intuitive UI.
- I can integrate with stuff on the web. I can post and view links, and often embedded images or video.
- I can join multiple groups, each of which has some goal or unifying factor: school, job, hobby, geography, worship of a pop star… I’m not limited to a single social circle.
- I have many levels of forums, from my personal graffiti wall, to discussions corresponding to my social groups, to site or feature level forums. And I don’t have to leave the social site (or game) and go to some other site to see them.
- I can get notifications of important stuff in my “real” email, in near-realtime.
- I can do many of my primary activities on a mobile phone.
- I can share activity feeds with my friends, if they’re interested. And I can read their feeds. Keeping up is easy and fun.
- There are no shards or server boundaries. Everyone starts in the same “space.”
What is it that you do with social networking sites that you can’t do with MMOs? And what SHOULD the MMO of the future be trying to add?