I have been a World of Warcraft fanatic ever since the game came out in November 2004. While I was playing tonight my mind started to compare the similarities of this online game with the online applications and sites we use today. WoW has over 6MM online users willing to pay a monthly fee to run around and kill stuff and chat with buddies.
There are other sites that let us connect with people as well and chat with them, but people on WoW stay on for hours on end. On MySpace and YouTube you might get caught up in the just one more picture/video syndrome for a long period of time, but I doubt it is 3-8 hours a day. Maybe its not fair to compare an online game with static sites that don’t offer the interactivity of an online universe. But sit back and take a look at how great some of these sites could be if they implemented what WoW does just a bit more into their fold.
- An Online Economy. Imagine only getting to see secret pictures of someone on MySpace if you trade them some pictures of your own. Or maybe you want to create some widgets for your MySpace page and the only way people can get to them is by making you a friend and writing a comment. Lame examples for sure, but an online economy becomes addicting no matter which way you look at it and it draws people in even more.
- Real Time Chat. Remember IRC rooms? 9rules has one and whenever I dive in it becomes a great time due to the conversations that can startup at will. However, with social sites we have gone backwards and conversations aren’t even close to being synchronous or in real-time. There might be modules that add IM features, but where are the large rooms with people talking about specific topics? Why can’t we have those. Hell that might be a great idea for 9rules, but to a lesser extent where we only open the rooms up for certain hours so there isn’t dead time at 1am.
- Customization. This is where MySpace won the battle of social network supremacy. Facebook will make a charge, but users have to sacrifice the ability to customize with a clean interface that everyone shares.
In WoW you get to customize your character and overtime dictate what he wears. You can even customize the UI so the game really does become your own. There are restrictions to what you can do so things don’t get out of hand, but allowing customization in a controlled environment can be a very, very good thing.
- User Feedback. The WoW Community is both strong and vocal and its good to see when a lot of people agree on changes that should be made, many times Blizzard (the creators of the game) implement those changes in one of their weekly patches. Which brings us to…
- Frequent Updates. Updates don’t necessarily mean features, but even small tweaks allow your users to know that you still care about your site and are working on things. However, don’t tweak just because you want to look fresh, tweak for improvement.
The more I think about the size of WoW and how much is going at once I am marveled at how successful a company could build an online environment that people get sucked in versus some companies that can’t take the time to get their UIs looking crisp on their web apps. We should all play video games.