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Content driven marketing

September 26, 2010

Most popular sites these days are driven by the content that users create. For example the big social networks out there are all user created because they require their users to create an account, fill it with their personal information and the interact with other users. The only thing they provide is the medium, the platform and occasionally, updates that increase the level of interaction one may have with the site.

This is nothing new and has been done in gaming for years. If you are an avid gamer, you’d have easily recognised the picture above as being from Little Big Planet, a game for Playstation in which users create and share levels with each other. This means that the game will effectively never end in terms of content. As long as you have people interested and playing your game, they will keep creating content for it. The cycle propagates and perpetuates itself and becomes self sustaining, effectively becoming as perpetual motion machine. Yeah, take that laws of physics, you ain’t got nothing on human nature.

Now as this has been successfully applied in games, so too has it been applied in the aggregate sites like ArmorGames where the majority of the content is created by people outside of the website. Though, also there are games that are designed in-house, the vast majority are independent productions. This has a two fold effect, both beneficial. Firstly, the site gets free content that a user has spent hours/days/weeks on and secondly the user themselves get exposure to a vast audience that the site holds. This audience will become play testers, idea generators and will provide basic feedback which any creator needs in order to polish their game.

But there is an insidious side to this. The user who creates the game actually gets no financial reward out of it. The site will make money from advertisements placed on the same page and even from clicks (which if you’ll notice with Armorgames, the adds are suspiciously close to the game, so stray clicks off the game play area will cause a new window to open and add a free clicked-link benefit for the site). The website makes money, which covers the overhead of traffic and everything from that point on is profit. But for what? They haven’t actually done anything to earn that money.

Sure, it could be argued that they provided the audience, but if you think about it, they didn’t really. The audience is an ephemeral entity. There is no way to gauge how many people within that audience will look at the game, or how they choose to interact with it. While the creator of a game can say to the site, “I’m giving you X” the website cannot define and delineate that same promise by saying “we are giving you Y” as barter. The fundamental system of trade is broken here because the creator of the content is getting ripped off.

The worst part is that somehow, the game creator thinks that he/she is getting the better part of the deal!

But now, we’re getting flash games with user submitted content within user submitted content sites, the next level of this charade has manifested. Now, with some games like Starlight 2 or Neon Rider World, you get to submit your own levels and ideas which are then rated by others and incorporated into the overall blob of game content. This is great if the game is outstanding. Look at Total Annihilation, that game was made so much more epic by the user created units that you could incorporate into battles. I really miss TA, and have a massive bone to pick with commercialism for raping that franchise. You know what, Supreme Commander is just not the same, it’s crap compared to TA!

Anyway, how much further into user content driven marketing are we going to go? The player creates the levels which in turn benefits the creator of the game by making their game better. This in turn generates more interest and clicks for the website in the form of exposure and advertising. The player sees little to no benefit beyond the satisfaction of creation and the ability to play other peoples levels.

How is this fair?


From → Technology

One Comment
  1. kieran permalink

    i think its completely fair, they are generally just hobbiest game makers, rather than professional designers that are doing it because they enjoy the art, and sharing their creations

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