Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Social Technology and the Video Game Project Manager

If you don't regularly read Jeremiah Owyang's posts on his site Web, you should add it to your RSS feed / daily routine. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jowyang

The Social Media Business Software Suite

A recent post discusses 16 classes of the Social Media Business Software suite ca. Q4 2010. He breaks these down into the following categories:
  1. Listening and Learning (2 entries)
  2. Social Platforms (7 entries)
  3. Aggregation and Integration (3 entries)
  4. Publication, Sharing, Connection Technology (3 entries)
  5. Infrastructure / Core Technology (1 entry)
The Listening and Learning category contains brand monitoring, social analytics and social insights. Metrics are often the stuff of business analysts, but project managers play a key role in raising team awareness of the importance of gathering data. Producers and project managers should evangelize their value to engineering teams, and work to include the design for data-gathering systems in the GDD or project plan. The data collected will only be as useful as the collection mechanism is thorough - clearly this is an area in which planning and organization are key, and can be shown to provide real value.

I don't need to go into much detail about Social Platforms - I'm going to assume that you are aware of Twitter, Facebook and blogs. The real interest for most consumers is in the Aggregation and Integration categories where the user's social identity from one platform may be transferred, combined, or replaced by that of another platform. Today's Facebook announcement about Single Sign On (SSO) for mobile apps is a good indicator that this is the Next Big Thing for a lot of users.

Businesses who were ahead of the curve in implementing social media strategies are leading the call for Social Media Management Systems (SMMS), much as they cried out for digital Content Management Systems (CMS) when the web gained popularity and they recognized its power to communicate with site visitors. This, too, is a new frontier - I'd definitely look for more entries in the Publication, Sharing, Connection Technology category soon. SMMS is matched in the Infrastructure / Core Technology category by Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM). While Salesforce dominates the CRM field, sites like are gaining steam in the social world, providing opportunities for the company to interact directly with users seeking guidance and support. After all, Customer Service is the New Marketing!

Takeaways for the Project Manager

My key takeaway from Jeremiah's article is that the web is an ever-changing platform which enables collaboration for both work and play. Our users' experience with the web, and their resulting expectations of connectedness, directly impact the way that our users play games. Producers and project managers in the video game industry must keep up on trends not just in our own neck of the woods, but also in web technology. Project managers contribute to planning of new products, support of existing ones - there is clearly tactical and strategic value in the integration of social media and web technology into our products. During planning, the project manager can evangelize these technologies, and create a project plan that acknowledges the power of social media.

While some companies saw the Social Revolution coming and were well prepared, many others dug in their heels and persisted in the belief that games did not need to be social. They didn't understand that even a single-player, offline game may spawn a community of fans (something companies like BioWare have known for years). Harnessing the word-of-mouth generated by these fans is a way to improve ROI on the publisher's investment in a title - it's like free advertising by the people most likely to influence others!

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