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A few things Mark Wallace

Tag: Facebook

Facebook vs. the Virtual World, Round 2: Function Over Form

Cloud Party, a virtual world on FacebookIt looks like Facebook is winning this round: I wrote a few weeks ago for Wired about Facebook “killing” the virtual world, and was met by a great deal of skepticism about whether Facebook could become a meaningful platform for 3D social experiences (even though they’re already taking place in the Facebook-based game space). Now comes news from one of the skeptics (my friend James Au) that there’s a very Second Life-Like virtual world available on Facebook! It’s called Cloud Party, and it’s apparently not too shabby, though still early in development.

It will be interesting to see what kind of traction this gets. In large part, it will depend on how well integrated with Facebook it is. One of Second Life’s greatest failings was its complete inability to stay integrated with — or at times even aware of — what was happening on the Web. If Cloud Party can evolve to support people’s lives on the Web and on Facebook, it could be very interesting. If it attempts to create another hermetically sealed experience with no compelling reason to engage, it will languish.

More interesting still is the question of whether a 3D social environment like this can thrive on Facebook at all. Even if Cloud Party doesn’t prove a success, subsequent offerings might well do so. (It’s rarely the first mover who wins the day.) My off-the-cuff opinion is that it won’t work — at least, not until there’s some meaningful and widely appealing affordance offered that Facebook doesn’t include. In other words, I’m arguing for function over form here. Two things need to be in place for a 3D social space like this to flourish:

  • It needs to offer functionality that its platform or channel (be it Facebook or the Internet) doesn’t offer
  • That functionality needs to be something that a very large number of people want but aren’t currently able to obtain

I don’t buy the contention that 3D social interaction around user-generated content is that killer feature. So I’m scoring this round for Facebook once again.

Conquer Your Neighborhood in Parallel Kingdom

Parallel Kingdom is a location-based game that lays a massively multiplayer online role-playing game over the top of a Google map of your current surroundings. It’s not the only game of its kind, but it’s a very cool concept, one that points toward the future for much of mobile gaming — and for the mobile incarnation of social media as well. Think of location-based gaming as the teaspoon of sugar that’s going to help people swallow location-based services in general.

PK is fairly straightforward, giving you simple mobs to hunt down and resources to collect, within half a mile of your GPS-determined or tower-triangulated location, whether you’re on an iPhone or an Android handset. One note: I got the game going on my iPhone for about a day, but haven’t been able to get it launched since. According to a recent interview with the developers, however, there are about 70,000 more or less active players, which sounds fairly respectable to me, given the nature of the game. Continue reading

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