Caught between a Qualitative and a Quantitative place

The evolution of Community Management as I’ve seen it in recent years.

After being laid off from Couchsurfing this past July, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my career, while I’ve also spent a lot of time interviewing with companies. This is the longest period of time that I’ve ever been looking for a job, which has been a source of both introspection and lead to some observations about the changing landscape of Community Management as a career and occupation. I’ve written this blog post to help describe some of the challenges that I’m currently facing and what I’m seeing with the current crop of Community Manager positions that are open these days.

To reference the title of this blog post, I think I’m caught between the transition from community being largely focused on qualitative data, and now to a place where quantitative data is more and more important. Many employers are looking for data and success metrics that prove an applicant’s success in past roles, which can sometimes be hard to provide. On the flip-side, some companies don’t focus on or ask for these metrics and they are looking for other qualities in an applicant.

Though the growth of the job market has increased opportunities for a community professional, it hasn’t brought much clarity or consistency to the role, leading to a number of different challenges to those in the market. More specifically, I’ve noticed a few different specifications that Community Managers can get into, while the line between community and marketing continues to blur.

Build Relationships with Users

For a long time, much of the focus of community was to build relationships between a brand and its users, as well as connecting users to eachother. It’s often the goal of a community team to build brand advocates, increase positive sentiment, create community connections, and gather and process product feedback from users.

Most of my career has been spent doing exactly this, where I’ve spent countless hours talking to users, running user meetups, getting product feedback, and making sure that development teams are aware of what users want and need in the product. Many small companies focus on this process because they are trying to build a product pre-traction, or they’re trying to figure out how to evolve and grow. You may see big companies have their community manager focus on these tasks too, since they probably have other employees that focus on audience growth and user acquisition.

For the most part, I think community is still largely about building relationships with users, but I’m seeing more and more that companies are putting emphasis on marketing related activities. My most recent example of this split is my time at Couchsurfing, where I was 100% focused on helping support the product development teams and our VIP user programs, while we had someone else that handled all of our Twitter/Facebook/blog stuff. While this was good for me because it allowed me to focus more, I think the break from social media may have caused me some harm in terms of keeping up with the latest social strategies and techniques.

Social Media Specialists

During the same time that Community Management has changed, so too has social media management. Social media is no longer just an aspect of community, it has grown into a fulltime focused position that requires vertical/platform specific strategies and content generation experience. Each platform has its own weird ins and outs, with different communities requiring a different approach and unique platform uses.

It’s no longer good enough to just be on social media, it’s important to make sure you’re creating the right content in the right places. It’s also important to make sure that you’re measuring all of this activity and how it affects outlet growth, as data can indicate what tactics are working and how you need to adjust your strategy. The evolution of social media management is where I’ve seen marketing have the most impact on community.


Other observations:

  1. Writing and content creation is increasingly important for some roles. Creating content rapidly and using it as a means to drive traffic and user acquisition is often rolled into Community Management.
  2. Specialized CM’s for subject matter communities. The need for a community manager to be an expert in, or very familiar with a subject matter has become very important to employers.
  3. Make sure you’re documenting all the success you’ve had in your current role, especially metrics and data. I’ve sometimes made the mistake of not taking notes of various numbers, percentage increases, etc. that were the result of my work.

The need for people-people

Through all of this change, it’s still very important that a community professional is a “people person”. It takes a lot to be able to work with a community of users that just went through a bad product launch, or address a community that has received a buggy marketing promotion. In past jobs I’ve been described internally as the “meat shield” and I’ve had to join the frontlines of the community to help address a prickly situation. Since the community manager is often the most public touch-point for users, it’s very important that the CM is good with people, especially when the company is in a tough position.

A community manager is someone who has to wear many different hats and work with most departments across an organization. I’ve found that most CM’s enjoy this variety, but I think it has lead the “Community Manager” title to become a catch-all term for anything that doesn’t fit into product or marketing. We’ve also seen the requirements for a successful community manager continue to expand and evolve, which can make it tricky when you’re transitioning between roles.

As I look for a new role, I’m keeping all of the above in mind, in hopes that I can find the right role for me while also making sure that I pick up the skills needed for a more successful future.


What do you think? Let me know by shooting me an email at Sam@SamHouston.me, on twitter @SamHouston, or by leaving a comment. You can find me on Linkedin if you would like to learn more about me — let’s connect! Thanks for reading!

Being Real and overcoming the Attention Economy

Last week I interviewed for a job and I met with several people. I tried to describe to each of them a problem that I see everyone facing in the very near future. The problem I see is this: We’ve got too much stuff to read/listen to/watch and a limited time to do it all. This problem particularly affects people like me, because my job is essentially to come up with stuff that is interesting to people and to engage them on a variety of different social platforms. If no one gives a shit about what I’m saying or where I’m saying it, I’m just wasting time and money.

This past December I was grappling with a number of different concepts, with the main concept being “Realness”, as in “being real” or authentic to others. I decided that I wanted to “be real” with everyone around me and I only wanted to interact with people that were being real with me, since I feel that this is the way to get the most value out of life. If we all drop our acts and speak honestly with each other, I think we can connect with each other in a more meaningful way and get what we want from life.

And I think that’s what everyone is looking for, and that need will only increase over time. The fact is, so much of our world is Bullshit right now. We’ve got politicians constantly changing positions and distorting facts, companies totally destroying nations, environments and economies, and a growing amount of mistrust in the people and organizations around us. It’s quite sad, and I think the public cynicism and apathy that will come out of these trends could force us to change how we live our lives and do business with one another.

We’re also running into a problem where everyone is becoming increasingly addicted to the Internet (read that article, it’s well worth it!). You can’t have dinner or drinks with someone without constantly checking Facebook, your email, or Twitter for the latest information. We’re disengaging with the world right in front of us to keep connected to the world around us, but I think we’re missing the bigger picture and losing out on the great experiences of every day life. Our ever increasing thirst for more information and content has warped our attention spans and our ability to prioritize what’s really important, since everything seems important and deserving of immediate attention.

Meanwhile every company and product is trying to get your attention with new advertising and new ways to access even more information, but we just don’t have enough time to give. And if it’s all a bunch of bullshit anyways, who cares?

Some people call this problem the “Attention Economy“, where we only have a finite amount of time that we can devote to the content and information around us.

My hope is that there will be shift in the way we communicate with one another and a change in what people find important in their daily lives. We’ll need to reduce the amount of noise in our life, focus on the few channels/people/etc that we consume and communicate with on a daily basis, and a big factor in this decision making process will be the way that we’re communicated with. We need to be communicated with in a way that makes sense to us, with information or content that adds to our lives in a positive way or connects with us on an emotional or intellectual level. There will still be room for mindless entertainment and fun escapes, but I think we will collectively have to find more balance in our life and take power over our Internet and content addictions.

There are companies already trying to figure out what’s important to you and filtering out content based on those inferences. Most notably is Facebook, with its somewhat controversial “black box algorithm” called EdgeRank, which is used to decide what you see on your Facebook News Feed. As a user of Facebook, you only see a subset of the content from your friends, the bands and musicians you like, and the companies you’ve liked on Facebook. That’s why you typically only see the same people/things in your News Feed, and never see any content from that random person from high school (that you’re not really friends with anyways). But EdgeRank isn’t perfect, and it still doesn’t solve the problem that we’re facing with millions of Blogs, constantly updating twitter feeds, and the bombardment of advertising and messaging that we experience every day.

In my opinion, it’s very important that companies, brands, musicians & bands, and individuals keep these trends in mind. If we focus on giving as much value to the people around us by being real and authentic and creating something that addresses real needs and wants, we will find the customers, listeners, and friends that are most important. This may result in fewer “friends”, or a smaller customer base, but it will be a group of people that will give us real results. Those results could be an increase in money if we’re trying to monetize relationships, like a band does when it sells a new CD at a show, or it could result in tighter, more enriching relationships with the people around us.

If we don’t do this, you’re going to have a hard time finding success. Sure, there are companies and people out there that will find success by Bullshitting and not creating real value, but do you really want to be like those people? We have a very small amount of time on this Earth, and I’d rather not waste it acting like someone I’m not, or doing something I don’t believe in or think is worth it.

Over the past two months I’ve tried to be more Real through my writing, by opening up about parts of my life and being more vulnerable. It started when I shared for the first time publicly the story of how my father died, when I made a post on Quora that answered the question: “What does it feel like to have a parent commit suicide?“. The reactions were stunning and happened almost immediately, with friends and strangers reaching out saying that they were amazed I went through this tragedy and spoke so openly about it. I even had a phone call with my mom about it, where we talked about what each other experienced during those couple of days. That was the first time my mother and I ever talked in that depth about the day my father died.

Last month I decided to share my story of why I’m not at BandPage any more, and that too  received some great reactions from friends. All of a sudden I’m talking to friends about how I feel, the struggles that I’m going through and facing every day, and I’m also hearing about their daily struggles and concerns. I feel like I have a deeper connection and understanding of some of my friends, and I think they have a better understanding of me.

Recently I’ve noticed others sharing publicly and it has been quite inspiring. Two weeks ago Frank Ocean, a new hip hop artist, got a lot of attention when he announced that he was Gay. The announcement created a lot of controversy, but it also resulted in a lot of support and a better appreciation for the great strength and courage that it takes to be open about who you are in an environment that usually is not accepting of “alternative lifestyles”.

On the video game side of things, Jeff Green recently made a post about his battle with depression, a post that surprised a number of people and received a lot of support from the gaming community. It was great to see Jeff speak so honestly about his 25 year long struggle with depression, and even greater to see hundreds and thousands of people support him.

I truly hope that over time we will see that letting our guard down and opening up to others about the common struggles and challenges that we face daily, will result in a better world. You could probably argue that I’m naive in that Hope, but I’m afraid of the consequences of an increasingly cynical and jaded culture. I think it’s time that we decide that we’re done with the Bullshit, that we need to connect with each other and companies around us in more meaningful ways, so that we can collectively live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. I encourage you to give it a try, and I’m going to continue to try it myself too :)

Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

Sam

I realize the above could be seen as perhaps a bit naive or altruistic, but these are things I’ve had on my mind for a number of weeks and months. Hopefully you get something out of this, as I honestly just needed to get some of these concepts and points out of my head and onto virtual paper. Please let me know what you think!

2011 – The year of Music

In January I made a post about new New Year's Resolutions, and while I haven't done some of them, I can actually cross most of the resolutions of my list. The one resolution that I'm most excited about and feel like I've successfully kicked the shit out of is "Go to More Concerts".  This year I've gone to Coachella, Outside Lands, seen Best Coast/Wavves, went to a small Alkaline Trio show, and tomorrow I'll be seeing Blink-182 (from the pit!). Next week I'm going to another Blink-182 show down in Mountain View, and I'm even going to meet Tom Delonge, the guitarist for Blink-182. It's super surreal that I'll get to meet Tom, since he's some what of a hero of mine, so I'm very excited to finally meet him and hopefully tell him how much his bands mean to me. Later this month I'll be going to Treasure Island, a relatively large music festival in San Francisco.

Not to mention a new Blink-182 album came out this week, "Neighborhoods", which is their first album in eight years. I also got my first tattoo, which is a huge guitar that's the length of my left forearm.  2011 has been an amazing year for music and I'm super happy about that.

Coachella

Coachella was an amazing experience. Over three days, I saw some of my  favorite bands: The Strokes, Cut Copy, Arcade Fire, Best Coast, Jimmy Eat World, Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, and many more.  While having a great music experience, I also had an amazing human experience with some of the best people I know. I drove down to Coachella with a couple friends from San Francisco, and we stayed in a house together with two of our other friends from SF/Boston. The house had a pool and hot tub, grill, and a really nice kitchen & livingroom. Essentially we would go to awesome concerts all day, come back to a vacation home and hangout in the pool and chill out. It was such an awesome experience and I can't wait to do it again next year with the same group of people.

 

My Tattoo

On July 2nd I got my first tattoo: My dad's electric guitar that he named "Old Glory". Old Glory is the only guitar that I own that was my dad's, so it has a lot of sentimental value to me and it's something that I hope to keep a hold of forever. I decided to get the tattoo because I felt like this was one of the best ways to pay tribute to my dad, remember his talents and gift as an amazing musician, and symbolize my love for music and love for my dad – all at the same time. I'm very happy with and proud of my tattoo, and I know my dad would be too.

 

Outside Lands

In August I went to San Francisco's Outside Lands, a three day festival in Golden Gate Park. Not only is the music lineup stellar, but the park is a beautiful setting for a three day outdoor music fest. Joy Formidable (pictured) blew me away with their fantastic sound and fun stage presence, and Muse once against melted my face with one of the best performances I've ever seen. Arcade Fire, Phantogram, The Black Keys, Best Coast, and John Fogerty all put on great shows too.

Next Up?

Tomorrow I drive all the way up past Sacramento to see Blink-182 from the pit. I'm excited to see these guys live for the seventh time, and the first time in over two years. Then on Wednesday next week I'll see Blink in Mountain View, and meet Tom Delonge as a part of his 'Keep a Breast' fundraiser. I'm excited to get the chance to meet the guitarist/vocalist for my all-time favorite band, and I hope to get a minute to tell him how much his band means to me and how much they've changed/shaped my life.

I've got a couple more shows coming up…I'm seeing the Crocodiles and Dum Dum Girls in a few days, going to Treasure Island Music Festival in a couple weeks to see Death from Above 1979 and Cut Copy, and in November I'm going to see New Found Glory.  Tons of concerts!

All in all, I think I've spent at least a couple grand on music this year…but it has been money well spent. Music has transformed my life and has been a central pillar of my life since birth. I've started to think a lot more about music, the music industry, and I hope to work in the music industry some day. I think there is a huge opportunity to take what I do for game companies and bring that to a music company or band…and that has me very excited for the future of social media, community management, and above all else, music.

I’m speaking at PAX East this weekend!

Hey everyone – just a quick update…

Tomorrow morning I'm heading to Boston to attend Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East 2011!  I can't wait to visit Boston again, see all my gamerDNA buddies, and see a PAX East that has been reborn to be bigger and better. I'm also going to be speaking on three different panels, each of them about Community Management and/or Social Media.

Here's the list – I hope you can make it out to one of them (or all!) and say hello!:

How Your Favorite Game Companies Use Facebook
Manticore Theatre

Friday, 8:00pm – 9:00pm

Like this. Like that. Facebook has taken the world by storm and has become a crucial platform for community managers and companies to help keep in touch with and grow their online communities. With the constant evolution of social media and Facebook in particular, you may not know some of the cool things happening on your favorite game studio's Facebook page. Join Collin Moore (Community Management Vet) as he moderates a discussion with community managers from across the game industry (Insomniac Games, Playfish/EA, Harmonix, and Robot Entertainment), about the importance of Facebook to game companies, and how pressing the "LIKE" button is just the beginning.

Panelists include: Collin Moore [Game Industry Vet], Sam Houston [Online Content Manager, Playfish – EA], John Drake [Manager of Communications and Special Projects, Harmonix], James Stevenson [Senior Community Manager, Insomniac Games], Justin Korthof [Community Manager, Robot Entertainment]

 

The Roads to Becoming a Community Manager (East Coast Version!)
Wyvern Theatre

Saturday, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Based on the great feedback we received after this panel at PAX Prime, we've decided to do it again! East-Coast Style. You hear us on podcasts, see us in videos, read our blogs on websites, retweet us, argue with us on forums, and give us high fives at PAX. But have you ever wondered how we became community managers? From games journalism to forum moderation to public policy and QA, every road is different. Find out the random history of some of your favorite game studio community managers, and hear their advice on what skills and knowledge you’ll need to become one of gaming’s next-generation of community managers.

Panelists include: Alli Thresher [Community Moderator, Harmonix Music Systems, Inc], James Stevenson [Community Manager, Insomniac Games], Arne Meyer [Manager, Community, Naughty Dog], Sam Houston [Online Content Manager, Playfish, EA], Jennifer Kye [Company Blogger, Social Media Editor, Gameloft]

 

So I Still Have This Website…
Cat Theatre

Sunday, 3:00pm – 4:00pm

The community-focused panel from PAX Prime is making its way to the East Coast. You've spent the time and money building your community site, and now you're looking to take it to the next level. Maybe you want to get a job as a professional Community Manager, or maybe you're just looking for tips on how to get publishers and developers to pay more attention to your site. Whether you're just starting out, or have been running a site for years, this panel is the best place to get your questions answered. Together, these community managers have represented some of the biggest franchises, developers, and publishers in the game industry, and most of them started out just like you – running a fan site.

Panelists include: Justin Korthof [Community Manager, Robot Entertainment], James Stephenson [Senior Community Manager, Insomniac Games], Matthew Pruitt [FPS Community Manager, Electronic Arts], Sam Houston [Community Manager, Independent], Jessica Shea [Community Manager, 343 Industries]

 

Please stop by the panels if you can, I'd love to meet more gamer friends, and if you have any questions about Community/Social Media, I'd love to help you.  This is a total vacation for me and I can't wait to relax, walk around PAX, and try to experience the show as a gamer and not as a guy doing press interviews all day.  I also can't wait to see my gamerDNA buddies, as it has been over a year since I've seen most of them.

Update: Just spent two months with EA

Hi everyone! It's been a couple months since the last update..and as always, a lot has happened.

After I lost my job at Perfect World, I started receiving calls and emails almost immediately from people, interested in talking to me and trying to line me up with opportunities that were out there.  Through sheer luck, right timing, and knowing the right guy…I was called by EA, interviewed with them on Friday of the week that I lost my job..then started at EA the following Wednesday.

For the past two months I was a contract Community Management Specialist, and I worked on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – An upcoming action RPG being made by Big Huge Games and 38 Studios.  I worked with EA to create our social network accounts for the game, create all the assets for those social networks, as well as create assets and fill out data for Xbox Live/Xbox.com, PlayStation.com and PSN.  That was just the first two weeks, because after that we had to officially announce the Amalur IP to the world at San Diego Comic Con via a panel starring Curt Schilling, Todd McFarlane, R.A. Salvatore, and Ken Rolston.  Luckily I was able to convince the team that there was value to having me be at Comic Con to live-tweet/facebook the panel, so I got to go to Comic Con for a day and spend time with the four visionaries by 38 Studios.  It was pretty awesome!

After that, I worked on various Community plans for Reckoning, and transitioned on to doing more asset creation and data filing for the upcoming FPS "Bulletstorm", from Epic Games and People Can Fly.  All the new PSN icons, Xbox Live icons, etc for both Reckoning and Bulletstorm were made by me – so check em' out!

Besides all that, I got to work with the EA Partners video editor to create some community videos for Reckoning, one of which I'm really excited about since I selected the footage for it and the video came out pretty awesome.  I can't wait for it to release!

Unfortunately yesterday, August 31st, was my last day at EA.  The contract was only two months, and unfortunately there wasn't enough work for me to do to have me sign-on for another contract.  Everyone at EA was awesome to work with, EA Redwood Shores is an amazing campus, and I'm so glad I got to work there for the time that I did.  Working at EA was such a good experience and I'm glad I got insight into what it's like to work at a game company like EA, with a great team of supportive people.

Now I'm getting ready to go to PAX, speak on two panels, and generally have a great time.  I'm really excited to see my friends and have a relaxing weekend in Seattle.  I've got a lot of people to see, luckily some of them potentially job related, and a lot of business cards to hand out.

I'll be following up this blog post with some details about some contract gigs I'm going to be working on while looking for a full-time gig, as well as all my PAX Prime 2010 details and where you can find me.

Summary of this blog post:  EA was awesome, and I'm really glad I got to work there and wish it was longer.  Hopefully there's a next time!

Moving to San Francisco and working at Perfect World Entertainment

I've got a job!

Senior Social Media Marketing Coordinator – That's my new position at Perfect World Entertainment, a video game developer and publisher in Redwood Shores (South Bay of San Francisco, CA).

After about two months on the job hunt and several interviews and meetings with various companies, I was able to find a great opportunity with an exciting company – Perfect World Entertainment.  I will be joining the Marketing and PR team in just a couple weeks, working alongside ambitious and energetic folks that are trying to take over the Free to Play MMO space in the US.

Perfect World is probably most commonly known as the developer publisher of Perfect World International, their main MMO in the states which gamers can play for free, but can also buy items in-game through their cash mall.  You've also probably seen the Perfect World cash cards at your local 7-11 or GameStop.

Perfect World also has two other games out now, Jade Dynasty and Ether Saga Online.  They've got a number of new games coming out next year, with Kung FOO! coming out very soon.  What most people probably don't know, though, is that Perfect World published the popular PC RPG "Torchlight", which is a game that released this fall and was developed by former Diablo/Blizzard devs at Runic Games in Seattle.

To sum things up – Perfect World is a very ambitious company that is very successful in China and they want to make a big impact in the US.  Their current games are doing pretty well (1 million active players across their three F2P MMOs right now, I read in an article most recently), and they've got quite a few coming out in the new year and beyond.  They're doing some exciting publishing deals (Torchlight for example), and I'm very excited join Perfect World as they transition into a new phase of growth and expansion.

As I mentioned in my last post, the prospect of focusing 100% of my energy on using social media to build game communities and market games is *very* exciting to me..and it is ultimately what made this position a real winner for me.  I'll be joining a great team with some big goals and a totally open canvas in terms of what we can do.

Perfect World has community managers for their games, and I'm very excited to work with them to help build stronger and bigger communities around their games. With three games out now (and more coming next year), we should have a wealth of content to share and talk about with our community.  I'm going to try to really push things forward in the F2P MMO space, which based on some of my research doesn't seem to get a lot of love in the community department.  I'm very excited to get on Twitter, Facebook, build our blog presence, and hopefully get into other mediums/platforms so that we can interact with our community in the places that they are online.

Ironically, the week that I accepted the position, Perfect World relaunched their web portal and launched a new company blog.  I encourage you to check out the site – Nice work guys!

This job successfully rolls up my passion for community, social media and marketing into one role – and I'm very excited.  I've got big goals for myself in the social media/game space, and I think this company and this team will help me attain those goals.  I'm looking forward to starting in just a couple of weeks!

The whole F2P MMO space is new to me, and working directly for a game developer/publisher…but I'm looking forward to learning what works, what doesn't, and taking the journey along the way.  If anyone has any suggestions/insights on F2P MMO community, please feel free to contact me!

On a different  note – I now need to find a place in SF in a very short period of time. If anyone needs a roommate, or knows someone that does, *please* contact me ASAP.  I need everyone's help, since I need to move cross country *very* soon.  Thanks for any help you can provide!

In summary…I'm scared, excited, and very anxious to start a new chapter of my life in San Francisco at an awesome game company and in a dream role of a job.  It was a great Christmas/Birthday present, and I want to thank everyone for all the encouragement, support, and help that got me here!

Thanks!

Sam "QforQ" Houston

The possible changes and impact of the EA layoffs & Playfish Acquisition

Yesterday our industry saw some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in one day, with EA announcing the $400 million acquisition of social gaming startup Playfish, and the 1,500+ person downsizing and studio closures at EA. I totally agree with Shacknews’ Garnett Lee when he wrote in a column yesterday, “As the dust settles this marks one of the most dramatic signs of the times for the videogame industry“.  What I would like to do is share some of my thoughts on what this might mean for the game industry and some possible outcomes that I see from this huge change.  Some of this may dip more into “What is the new game industry”, rather than just what will happen in the aftermath of the changes at EA.

More social game company investment and development

A $400 million exit is a pretty good indicator that the social game market is huge, and that doesn’t even take into account the hundreds of millions of dollars a year companies like Zynga are making (Zynga is a competitor to Playfish, with games like Farmville and Mafia Wars in their portfolio).  These companies are crushing it, with what I’m guessing is huge profit margins.  These games aren’t particularly complicated..and in most cases aren’t even original.  They’ve got to be cheap to make and maintain, and the money that is made on microtransactions and offers is huge.  This market was already expanding quite rapidly, but I’m betting this encourages more game developers (that are now unemployed?) to create new businesses, and it encourages more Venture Capitalists to invest a few million in a social gaming startup.

More “social” elements and micro-transaction models in EA portfolio games

This isn’t anything particularly new, considering EA has been dabbling with this stuff for awhile now.  Most recently we saw them launch Battlefield Heroes, a free-to-play, micro-transaction funded game based on the popular Battlefield franchise.  I’m not sure how well it has done since launch, but I’m interested in seeing how many more games we’ll be seeing from EA that are micro-transaction based.

This should also manifest itself in the form of more paid DLC for released games, which EA has said “extend the life and profitability of our disc-based games“.  Last week Dragon Age: Origins released and had DLC immediately available, and EA reports that they have “seen strong early performance”.

More engaging social game experiences

In my opinion..most Facebook games are pretty lame.  I don’t feel particularly invested or engaged with the games, with most of the motivation for playing coming from the competition with friends to be a higher level Mobster/Farmer/whatever.  Ultimately everyone is the same, with your character and farm looking exactly the same as all the other players.  I never feel invested in my characters or the games themselves, which I think is a lost opportunity.

I personally would like to see more engaging and interesting experiences – something more along the lines of Quake Wars or even Battlefield Heroes, but in the browser and as a Facebook game.  I’ve never played a Facebook game that blew my socks off, and I’d like to see that changed.

Enthusiast Press will start covering the social game space

I think it has been interesting to note the lack of coverage of the social game market by the enthusiast press (Joystiq, 1up, Shacknews, Kotaku, Destructoid, etc).  I understand why they do it, though, since they’re writing content for their community, and most of their community probably doesn’t find this stuff very interesting.  If perhaps the game experiences become more interesting and advanced, the coverage of the space will start to increase.  Or maybe if EA continues to dump millions and millions of dollars into the space the enthusiast press (and hardcore gaming community) will have to take notice.

It’s probably worth noting that EA owns Pogo.com, a company that makes free internet games and casual retail games, and the enthusiast press don’t really cover that side of EA’s business…so perhaps this one won’t come true 😉

Opportunities for game developers and publishers

I’m wondering what Activision thinks about all of this…Do they see a big opportunity to take market share in the vacuum that may form from all of the EA titles being canceled, or will Activision follow suit and join the social gaming market?

Since so many developers are now out of work, now is a great time for new businesses to be created.  Hopefully we will see all these creative and talented folks start new game companies that will push the boundaries and do interesting things.  The traditional big publisher model of funding isn’t the only way to go, with alternative funding models like Venture Capital investment being real opportunities for developers.  Riot Games recently spoke to Gamasutra about how they have funded League of Legends without taking money from publishers and sacrificing IP ownership.

These new indie studios could partner up with hungry publishers like Warner Bros. Interative Entertainment, who seems to be pretty eager these days to try new things.  They’ve been acquiring quite a few studios over the past year, and most recently published 5th Cell’s Nintendo DS game Scribblenauts.  With 194,000 unit sold in the first month, I’d guess that 5th Cell is pretty damn happy with that arrangement.

What are your thoughts on the impact of the EA changes?  Where do you think the game industry is going next year, and beyond?  Am I full of shit?

Interested in your thoughts!

-Sam

What I did at E3: TweetMyGaming.com

Wow…I can’t believe it’s been a week since E3!  It feels like it was so long ago now, everything has been a bit of a blur and I’ve been pretty busy at work.  Lots of exciting stuff going on, and now I can finally talk about most of it!

First off, E3 was tons of fun!  It was a great chance for me to see some new friends (mostly people I met at GDC/on Twitter) and meet lots of new folks, as well as get an introduction to a different side of the industry.  There is a big difference between the attendance of GDC (students/developers and press) and E3 (markters/sales, press, and buyers), so it was really interesting to meet more folks on the marketing/sales side of things.

GamerDNA sent me to E3 to do all of our press interviews for a new project that we launched, called TweetMyGaming.com .  TweetMyGaming tracks all of the gaming conversations on Twitter in real-time, and shows you what the most popular games are right now.  It’s a project that I was involved with since day one, all the way from the conceptualization and finding a contractor, to the execution/product direction and then doing interviews with the press :).  It’s something that I’m very proud of, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to do yet another project around something I’m very passionate about:  Twitter and Social Media.

So far the project has been quite successful for us, with interviews going up on Kotaku , Joystiq , and Destructoid .  Destructoid’s article even features some quotes from me, as Samit Sarkar was kind enough to do an interview with me earlier this week.  It’s pretty good article, so I hope you check it out!

When I was actually at the E3 Convention Center, I did a number of interviews with Current.Tv and MTV Multiplayer.  These turned in to daily segments, and MTV Multiplayer has put up theirs:

MTV Multiplayer – TweetMyGaming Day 1 Wrap-Up

MTV Multiplayer – TweetMyGaming Day 2 Wrap-Up

MTV Multiplayer – TweetMyGaming Day 3 Wrap-Up

TweetMyGaming/E3 marks for the first project and event that I’ve had the opportunity to speak directly with the press and do interviews.  All the feedback internally has been positive, so I’m really excited and happy that I was able to do this for the company.  My hope is that I’ll get to do this more often, it was a lot of fun!

In the near future I may do a brief post about E3 and what I saw there, mainly with pictures from my iPhone.  So until then…see you around and thanks for reading my blog!

Introducing GameIndustryTweet.com

The past week has been a wild ride and I’ve been working hard on following up on my Video Game Companies on Twitter list in an effort to expand that service out to more parts of the industry.  The result of this effort is the launch of GameIndustryTweet.com .

GameIndustryTweet.com will be the centralized site for the video game industry and gamers to find their favorite game industry professionals on Twitter.  Right now the site covers Game Developers/Companies, Press, Public Relations and Community Sites that are on Twitter.

Every update to the site will be posted on the front page of the blog with a list of the new people that have been added.  This means that by subscribing to the GameIndustryTweet RSS Feed you will stay on top of all the latest people added to the list.

As for QforQ.com, I plan to continue to blog about Social Media and offer advice on how the Video Game Industry can best leverage these new mediums.  I encourage everyone to read my latest article on How to Engage your Audience on Twitter .  If you would like to know how to contact me please check out my About page .

Thanks everyone!  I hope you enjoy GameIndustryTweet.com !