The other day I noticed that my kids and a few friends were all staring at a screen while 2 of them were handling XBOX consoles while playing a game. What caught my attention was that I realised that it was a very familiar scene. Kids always play games together, even though only one might actually be holding the controls.
We recently got our youngest (6) the Ninendo DS Monsterjam game (he loves Monsterjam).
We had to order it out of the US as I couldn’t find it here. the other kids knew about the present and were talking about it every day until it arrived. The Nintendo DS isn’t exactly a console for you and your friends, but what happened is that the youngest would sit on the couch and my other 3 kids would sit right beside him telling him what to do, taking over the console if it became too difficult for him, cheering when they unlocked yet another great Monsterjam truck. They are playing interactively all together, even though the Nintendo DS was meant to be a single user console.
Same thing happens on our computers. My older kids play all kinds of interactive games on-line. Not just because they like the games, but more importantly, because it allows them to interact with other kids. Kids from the neighbourhood, from school, or from another part of the world. I have a 10 yr old son that doesn’t speak one word of English yet, but he is in constant negotiation with other kids on this on-line game called runescape.com using the English language.
The success of the gaming industry is enormous. According to this article here, the gaming industry as outpaced movies and music in 2007. Almost $19 Bln in sales, incredible figures really. What is also interesting about it is that people are willing to spend enormous amounts of money on game consoles too (more than $9 Bln). That is interesting too me because it shows that people are willing to spend money on machinery before they even get to play the game itself. People pay for value they get or want.
So unlike the Internet where free but an ad based service is still the major business model. The main reason for choosing this business model is scale. If something is free people are more likely to use it. With scale come ad revenues (although you really need a lot of scale to become rich and famous, ever done the math on that?). Why talk about that in a post on gaming? Well, it allows me to jump to another place where interaction takes place, the social networks. In another survey done by comscore we see that the most popular widget in November 2007 was the MySpace widget. Other widgets like Slide, RockYou, Photobucket, Superpoke, all score high in this ranking. All of which are used in social networks like MySpace and Facebook.
I have written a lot about social networks and argued that current social networks aren’t really there to provide value to its users. Instead they are there to monetise the network. Now look at what people do on those networks. They use it mostly to interact! That is where the value is, it’s about interaction. According to comscore people in the age of 18-24 are far more likely to interact with Facebook applications than people of 25 and older. It is a different generation. Each new generation will grow up in a world where interaction, playing and gaming together is normal social behavior.
I always thought girls were interacting more through MSN, while boys tend to use on-line MMorg games as their interaction platforms. But there are a lot of social games aimed at girls too. My daughter is now playing horsetycoon on-line with her friends. They talk about it when they go to school, they interact with their friends, even while they aren’t on-line, and they agree to meet each other again, right after school is out.
Because of this trend we can see in human behavior, I believe that the future of social interaction will lie in gaming. The children of today are basing their entire on-line interaction on SMS, MSN and on-line gaming. It is the combination of play and social interaction what makes it such a powerful and addictive interaction environment. If I were a marketeer with a brain I would definitely start thinking about the interaction possibilities through gaming. There lies a world of opportunities waiting to be developed. I have said it before, a new social networking generation is rizing. Forget about social networks like MySpace and Facebook, gaming will become the social network of the future.