No Joke: How to Earn $1 million in less than 2 weeks

Louis CK has proven that people are willing to pay for quality content, even if it is available freely.

The comedian put out a video of his latest performance at $5 a pop via his website. He then used social media to market it and whammo – in 12 days he amassed a whopping $1 million.

Story via Mashable.

Beyond Zynga (and Twitter): Social Gaming With Purpose

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of game mechanics and social games – in fact one of the companies I’ve chaired (Creative Enclave) launched the first truly massively multiplayer social game on the Facebook platform in 2007. Back then, Zynga consisted of no more than a handful of staff. Back then people didn’t take social games that seriously.

Today, however, it is a totally different story. Social games are BIG business. Take a look at some of the stats emerging from the S-1 Zynga filed as it catapults towards an IPO: 38,000 virtual items are created within their game portfolio a second. Yep, you read that right – a second!

Zynga has 60 million DAUs (daily active users) and here’s the kicker for me: they conduct 2 billion minutes of play a day!!!

What is that telling you?

Some relatively privileged folks have a ton of idle time?

Play is really pivotal to the human psychi?

But are we at the point in our development as a species and as custodians for our planet where we can afford that much ‘down time’?

We still have people starving by their millions, we still have diseases that could be cured or prevented. Surely, we owe it to ourselves to focus on solving these issues before we embark on such wholesale frittering away of our time?

Yes and no.

YES, playing games like Farmville doesn’t progress humanity.

But also NO: I am not advocating that we do away with play altogether. Far from it. As I said at the outset, I am a huge fan of play.

What I am in favor of is social gaming with a purpose.

What if, in the course of having fun within a game, a user wasn’t only growing their capabilities as a mafia boss or trainmaster, but they were also (or instead) using their brains to help solve seemingly intractable disease puzzles?

Social gaming should help people come together to improve the world we live in. If we are playing games, let’s ensure they have a higher purpose. Let’s ensure they enable us to make greater insights into our pyschi, improving our understanding of our emotions, of our bodies and ultimately moving us to the point where we are not bounded by disease and scarce resources.

Aligned with this insight I want to draw your attention to the move by some of the Twitter co-founders back into The Obvious Corporation. I’ve written a fair amount about Obvious and product factories, but what is really interesting (especially in the context of this post) is the mission statement of the new Obvious:

The Obvious Corporation makes systems that help people work together to improve the world.The proliferation of technology can seem superfluous, but with the right approach, technology can benefit individuals, organizations and society.

It seems that others, like Ev, Biz and Jason are thinking along similar paths.

[As a footnote, I do recognize the great work Mark and the Zynga team are doing in supporting disaster relief. What I am advocating extends far beyond that focus.]

 

Globalizing Game Mechanics, Foursquare At A Time

At Seggr, we are both huge fans of game mechanics and the way in which Foursquare has embraced  their uncanny ability to tap into our deepest human needs and grow community. As the Foursquare user community explodes globally, so too are we finding that brands are starting to recognize Foursquare as a thought leader in bringing them deeper engagement via the use of funware.

Jennifer Van Grove has captured the essence of the way in which Foursquare is leading the charge in this arena. Her Mashable post is titled 5 Ways Foursquare is Changing the World, and in it she sets out how this location-based service is playing out in the real world.

The five key points that she makes are:

1. Social Media as Currency –  customer loyalty, as she points out, is stuck ina pre-digital plastic quagmire of cards and anachronistic point tallying. However, Forsquare’s check-in model is leading to social media being treated as a currency and we predict a major shake up of loyalty systems.

2.  Gaming social activity –  thanks to Foursquare, Twitters initial “what are you doing” has morphed into “who has the most interesting life“.  Foursquare mandates that you check into physical places, which means that your friends can be notified not only what you are doing, but also where you are doing it. Exponentially,  this maps out into significant benefits for those who participate as well as the economy as a whole and for individual businesses.

3.  Localized brand loyalty –  Jennifer points out that Foursquare is redefining what it means to be a regular:

…mayor-only rewards are cropping up everywhere Foursquare is played (which is now nearly everywhere) and they’re creating customer loyalty battles that are good for regulars and great for businesses…. Foursquare has found a way to make being a regular at your favorite pizza joint mean something tangible.

4. Personalizing place –  businesses are able to engage with their ” socially-active customers” at a much deeper level through services like Foursquare, while also using this engagement as a way to market themselves more widely. As Jennifer points out this two-way street builds community “on a whole new level”. Expect to see a healthy growth curve over the next 18 months in the number of people who can be defined as being socially-active. Consider as a benchmark where we were at in this respect circa mid 2007 and you’ll see how more social, more transparent people have already become.

5.   Verticalized game mechanics –  universities should all see themselves as ” more than classrooms and buildings…(as) an interconnected community of people, ideas and experiences, and (and should) actively (pursue) ways to enhance those connections.”

Jennifer is quoting (above) Perry Hewitt, Harvard University’s Director of Digital Communications. They have pulled a campus-based game based on Foursquare as a way to build connections between students, staff and other members of the broader Harvard community.

It looks like 2010 will be the year that game mechanics  is elevated beyond being seen as purely consumer-based gimmickry.

Foursquare Boosts Public Transit Use

foursquareThe location-based mobile network Foursquare has partnered with San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART to locals) to encourage use of their train service across 43 stations in the Bay area.

As regular metarand readers know, I am a big fan of game mechanics. Foursquare combines social networking elements with game mechanics, encouraging users to explore their neighborhoods and make recommendations.

For example, a user can become ‘mayor’ of a specific cafe or pub by checking in there more than anyone else. Updates are shared across services like Twitter which announce when someone takes over as mayor.

I’ve found these tweets somewhat irritating, but I think that is due to the way they are written – it’s usually a few microseconds into my scanning a tweet before I realize its a Foursquare announcement and I move on.

Foursquare

The BART partnership with Foursquare involves awarding $25 promotional tickets to riders chosen at random from those Foursquare users who log in at BART stations. Users can also duke it out to see who becomes ‘mayor’ of various stations on their regular commute routes.

All up, an innovative use of social media, mobiles and geolocation to boost public transport usage.

Designing for social business: game mechanics as catalyst

The Deloitte Tribalization of Business Study, which I discussed in my previous post, identified that “the biggest obstacles to creating successful communities are getting people to engage and participate, and getting people to keep coming back.”

I’m a big believer that incorporating game mechanics into the design of social business systems can have a significant catalytic effect.

Making business fun, makes for better business.

Ultimately, if designed right such systems can achieve the required inflection points – critical mass, etc to overcome the obstacles noted in the Deloitte study.

Let’s play a game. I’d like you to watch the following video. While you do think of an analogy and follow a linear narrative.

The stairs at the start of the video represent a business before it’s been optimized for social business: functional, static, requires effort. People grudgingly use them.

The escalators are installed. They’re shiny, they move fast and require little effort. Everyone jumps on board. But after a while they lose their soul, they’re just as boring as the stairs were. No-one smiles.

This represents a business that has had social media tools installed without following a systematic design process. At first it seems awesome that you can have a wiki, “Hey look, I’m talking to my other colleagues in sales”.

“It’s amazing. I set up not just one blog, but one for every day of the week!

The company sees the light. They decide to go back to their core business functions – the stairs – and design them right. They integrate game mechanics into their social business systems.

Everyone loves them. People leave work with a smile on their faces. They don’t mind a bit of effort, because they are loving doing it. The system (stairs) now allow people to express themselves creatively.

The business has got its soul back!

VentureWrap: Zynga Brings Kleiner Into Play With $29M

The Potrero Hill, San Francisco-based Mark Pincus social games venture, Zynga Game Network has closed a $29 million Series B funding round led by Kleiner Perkins.

New Kleiner partner and former Electronic Arts Chief Creative Officer Bing Gordon will be joining the board and getting actively involved in operations.

This follows a recent $10 million Series A and the investors in that round (Avalon Ventures, Foundry Group and Union Square Ventures) have participated alongside Kleiner and IVP in the Series B.

I suspect this funding will be used to fuel a number of acquisitions. This is borne out by Zynga’s additional announcement that they have acquired YoVille, a virtual-world app that has over 150,000 daily active users on Facebook.

[Hat tip to Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures]