“It may be only a few days into 2011, but tech investors seem to be partying like it’s 1999,” wrote the Wall Street Journal yesterday, talking about investors getting lathered up over Tech.
To read the news, the world is facing a tough economic environment. Governments are having trouble servicing their debt. Good jobs are hard to come by. Investors are continuing to hoard gold and cash. Many say that we’re still deep in a recession and the market is going to correct. And for every indicator pointing to a tech bubble, there are a dozen more that indicate there isn’t one.
1. Tech is sexy again. Apple and Facebook have transformed the mobile and social web, respectively. Apple has made mobile cool and accessible; it has changed the nature of the relationship with wireless carriers, and even though it levies a tax on those who distribute via its platform, it has spawned incredible creativity in the form of hundreds of thousands of applications. And it has transformed the music industry in the process. The company’s market cap is now north of $300B.
If the old web was connecting clients to servers, and people with content, Facebook has made people the new content. What you do, what you post, what you share, who you are connected to is all content on the Facebook platform.
2. Platform disruption. We’ve just gone through a period of incredible platform invention and innovation. The browser stole the show from Windows, and now Facebook and Apple are stealing the show from the browser. But these platforms are different in one big way that is going to continue to spawn incredible new amounts of innovation: they give you distribution. Sure, they tax you for it, but they deliver incredible distribution. As a result, we’re going to see more innovation, but it’s going to leverage the platform disruption. And did I mention the cloud?
3. Investors reducing allocations to venture capital. In the early to mid ‘90’s, leading up to the Internet bubble, investors did the same thing. Meanwhile, entry prices on private market investments started to go up, because active investors were more eager than ever to get into deals. Whether Facebook is an anomaly or not, once it’s public, more investors are going to want to get back in on the excitement. That will likely result in more capital going into the private markets, further driving the tech bubble.
4. Public market tech value opportunities are few and far between. If you subscribe to the Warren Buffet model of public market investing, and you’re looking for value stocks in tech with great growth potential, they’re hard to come by. On the other end of the spectrum, the seed investment market has become similarly highly valued.
5. The 15 year cycle. Although there is no way to predict the market, there is evidence that IPO cycles tend to peak every 15 years. Enough people have to forget the last bubble for there to be a new bubble.
Now, it’s no sure thing that we’re going into a tech bubble. In fact, a black swan event could create major disruption and shake the market again. But if history is any predictor, a lot of indicators are lining up to pave the way for another tech bubble.
Mobile, social, and cloud here we come.
With social games seeing some incredible growth over the holidays, it seemed appropriate to start the New Year off with a post on the topic.
Today’s social games are transforming not only online gaming itself but consumer and enterprise services as well. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s a lot to be learned from their powerful yet subtle principles.
Old: A progress bar that does nothing more than tell you the game is loading.
New: Graphics illustrating the growth of a city, which send the player a powerful aspirational message.
Old: Your score increases as you earn points.
New: Coins appear on screen and reinforce a reward dynamic by requiring you to click on them.
That’s just the beginning. Here are 28 design principles from social games:
Goals and work – Engagement:
1. The story is the setup for the game. It tells you who you are and sets the stage for…
2. The major goal is what players are trying to accomplish and creates a competitive dynamic.
3. Minor goals + levels provide direction, a way to move up, and a sense of accomplishment.
4. Work. Only 45% of Americans like their jobs, but in games work is fun and enables earning.
5. Time. Work takes time, forcing the player to do other activities and return.
6. Objects. Players prepare, build, or assemble, a form of work, in which nothing comes complete.
7. Collections. People love to collect not just badges but stamps, art, photos, music, postcards…
8. Simple animations represent complex actions yet are easy to understand and inexpensive to create.
Viral Growth – Adoption:
9. Staffing requires other people.
10. Socially locked items only unlock if you invite friends.
11. Social goals require the involvement of friends or other players.
12. Points can in some cases only be earned by involving others.
13. Gifting items that you must give away or get points for giving away promotes reciprocity.
14. Sharing photos (screenshots) of scenes/people/pets/ items provides a sense of pride.
15. Wall posting is free marketing that leverages existing users.
16. Suggestions to invite friends produce some number of conversions.
Game mechanics – User behavior and monetization:
17. Sound effects lend authenticity to virtual objects and actions.
18. Clickable coins, which users must click to get, create a subtle click/reward dynamic.
19. On-screen goals + locked items constantly remind the user to invite friends + complete objectives.
20. Success step by step, illustrated during game loading, sends a subtle aspirational message.
21. Virtual guide makes the game personable and trusted and gives the player someone to impress.
22. Visiting (virtual guides and real players) reminds users what they are striving for by example.
23. Limited availability and expiring items create scarcity and a sense of urgency.
24. Badges are a form of status.
25. Repeat points reward players for returning multiple days in a row.
26. Notifications with incentives such as free gifts give users a reason to open emails and click.
27. Land and expand (not the enterprise sales kind!) causes players to buy items to build and fill space.
28. In-game purchasing means players don’t need to leave to buy.
These are just a few of the design principles today’s social games are applying. Many have been used by more traditional games for years, but their leverage of widespread social graphs makes them much more widespread and impactful on a much larger user base than ever before. They’re no longer restricted to hard-core gamers. Soon enough, they’ll be everywhere, from the games themselves to just about every web site, service, and mobile offering available. Apply these principles to your service today!
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