There is a theory going round that the big social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo are a fad that has had it’s day. That the members have had their fun and are moving on to pastures new. This would be good news for the computer games industry because the time taken up by social networking has bitten deeply into computer game sales over the last 18 months or so. Also bad news for game marketing as these sites have been a fertile ground for some subversive promotional activity.
My theory is that the big social networking sites are really just MMORPG lite. And the lite bit has not been enough to keep a lasting hold on members. Firstly you have the task of building your profile (creating a false identity or “role”) then you need to go out into the game and start collecting “friends” and can engage in combat on the “forum”. There is even trading, but unfortunately it involves real money, a fatal flaw in the game design. You can also form clans or “groups” as they are known.
Coming at it from the other way, there is some consensus that one of the reasons World of Warcraft has outperformed it’s rivals so much is because it incorporates such a high level of social networking. In fact it really is a virtual community. Also Valve games have recently built social networking features into their Steam game service, which is growing in strength to be a very significant player.
So what I am trying to say here is that gaming definitely needs to move a lot more towards the social networking model, both in nurturing the community around the game and within the game itself. Xbox live, for instance, really needs a major upgrade in this direction.
As for the big social networking sites, well maybe they should introduce more gaming elements. Like a fictitious currency, character levels and a few quests.
Maybe the social networkers and the MMORPGs will both evolve so they meet in the middle and become the same thing!
So is this barmy or do you detect a gem of truth? Let us know by clicking the comments button.