Commentary

In The Crowd We Trust

I like Valve.  The development company is one of the major reasons the PC market has remained a thriving platform for core gaming even in the face of dedicated gaming consoles.  Valve offer indie developers and modders a platform for distribution through the Steam service.  It also revitalize classic titles with similar distribution deals.  So when managing director Gabe Newell talks about crowd-funding games, it might not just be a cursory side comment.

It's an interesting concept.  Games are expensive to make, and crowd-funding or pre-purchases could certainly help bankroll titles, especially for smaller developers.  But if the crowds are financing the games, it begs the question: What about crowd-sourced games?

Crowd-sourcing has worked out great for a number of brands, and has proven to be a very powerful evolution from user-generated content.  Looking at RYZ Shoes, or the success Starbucks has had from MyStarbucksIdea, it's clear some very nifty things have been created by listening to user contribution.  However, gaming and entertainment properties haven't really begun that listening process.

Sure, almost every game publisher runs a forum and employs community moderators -- but user contributions rarely impact the final product unless there is nearly unanimous clamoring for a change that borders on a bug fix.  While many user suggestions in any forum are useless, often there are some very astute users with incredibly clever solutions or additions.

Community contributions to games can actually have tremendous results. "Counter-Strike" (the mega-hit and violent videogame scapegoat before "Grand Theft Auto") was born from a user-generated project.  Portal, a later high-profile Valve release, started as a student project.  EA's "Sporepedia" has more than 113 million user-created submissions, and "LittleBigPlanet" has seen over a million levels added to it by users since release.

With the trend toward digital distribution, many new market opportunities open up around content that scales based on user demand.  Embracing the crowd, and creating a framework for a new market model supported by collective contributions (both financial and creative) could pay off in spades.  

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1 comment about "In The Crowd We Trust ".
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  1. Paul Greenberg from The 56 Group, LLC, July 24, 2009 at 12:56 p.m.

    The games industry has been one of the key innovators when it comes to contemporary business models designed around the the engaged customer. You had open source code, modding, community conversations, and now this. The innovation keeps on going. I'm going to be writing on this on my blogs on ZDNET and elsewhere because I think that these kinds of innovations are precursors to a more generation "co-creation" and co-participation business model that is necessary to the 21st century.

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