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Category Archives: Internet

An Unrealized Aspect Of Video Games…Is Online Shopping?

As a 23-year-old male I have plenty of experience with video games. They are a great form of entertainment, and many of the games coming out these days could qualify as forms of art (if those who create music are “artists” then the same could be said for video game developers). One thing that I can’t comprehend is how the gaming industry is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to online integration.

As anyone working in the digital space can attest to, bridging the gap between the online and offline worlds is a growing part of business. However, video games have not embraced this the way other forms of entertainment have. I also want to make clear that I’m not talking about mobile games and apps, I’m talking about console gaming (PS3, Xbox, Wii) and “hardcore” PC gaming.

There is so much potential lying around that developers have yet to pick up. For now a gamer can connect his or her social profiles to their Xbox Live or PSN accounts and have posts go out when they gain achievements, but what does that do for the gaming industry? It doesn’t add any layers of engagement for the player, and doesn’t make the game more enjoyable. This is where I can see companies really taking a leap forward to create something amazing and immersing.

Let’s take a game like Grand Theft Auto. All murder, profanity, vulgarity and criminal behavior aside, this series has become more and more realistic with every new release. You can purchase clothing, accessories, cars, and more within the game’s world. Does anyone else see this as a perfect product placement opportunity for companies? I understand that GTA may not have the best “image” that a brand would want to associate with, but since character customization will oftentimes reflect the player’s personal preferences I think this presents a unique opportunity.

Think about this: as most people have a credit card associated with their Xbox Live or PSN accounts (if the don’t, it’s easy to add one) what if you were customizing your character with future products from clothing companies and saw something you actually thought was really great, then you have the option to buy it directly and get it shipped to your address in real life.

It wouldn’t be a complicated process to put together. A gamer’s credit card information is already connected to the gaming network they are on, and their address can be as well.

Would you like a 6-, 8-, or 12-pack?

The amazing thing about games these days is that character customization can be VERY specific: height, weight, skin color, body type, shoe size, clothing size, etc. You can virtually try on products and see how they would actually look on your body. Take a company like Adidas (they’re one of my favorites): they can have products featured in games that characters can try on. If you like the product and would actually wear it you have the option to purchase the product for real. You go to a confirmation screen that already has your billing/shipping information included and you can buy the product straight from there. After buying it you get thrown right back into the game, playing a character that is wearing clothing you will actually have in your possession in a matter of days/weeks.

Similar things are being done with television, such as this History Channel app that allows viewers to purchase products they see on TV from an app. Video games give viewers/players even more control than television does, however.

This same thing could be applied to video game soundtracks. Like a song you hear from the soundtrack of the game? Buy it. You get the song in a format that allows you to take if off of your console and put it on your iPod or other music player.

I see video games as a final/underused frontier for marketers and companies trying to reach a larger market. Product placement has occurred in games, but it wouldn’t be difficult to expand that and allow actual purchases from within a game.

What do you think? Would direct purchase from video games be a good idea or a not-so-good one?

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Are You Prepared To Pay The Price Of Personalization?

At work last week a group of Digital Innovation Group members got together to discuss 2012 and the trends we predict will happen in the approaching year. It was a great discussion, as most of our brainstorms tend to be, and a lot of intelligent and insightful points were brought up. For example, one trend that anybody who works in the digital space, and pays attention to the types of apps, innovations, and businesses that have been created in the last year or so, has seen is the emphasis on personalization online. From the biggest online companies like Facebook and Google, to the smallest startups, the internet is quickly becoming a place that caters to you and your interests. You can log in to online shopping sites and suggestions are no longer based on top reviews, but on your past purchase history and browsing behavior. Most advertisements are catered to what you have shown interest in while surfing the web. Everything is being tuned to what we already enjoy and like which helps businesses (it means we’re more likely to purchase the products we see) and users (because we actually are interested instead of feeling like we’re getting spammed).

However, there’s a big flaw in the personalization of the internet that occurred to me during the team brainstorm: we are slowly moving away from the exploration and discovery that makes the internet so great.

This is really important, because the internet allows anybody access to information and resources that they would never have had twenty years ago. Our ability to find funny videos, end up reading interesting (yet, irrelevant) articles on Wikipedia, or “stumble” onto cool content via StumbleUpon is something that our (read: my generation) parents could barely have dreamed about. But we’re slowly losing the ability to find new content because everything is being spoon fed for us.

Take StumbleUpon: you hit a button and a random webpage is given to you. When you create your account you can choose your interests so that the random webpages will somewhat cater to what you’d want to be shown. I clicked as many interests as possible, even if they are only slightly interesting to me, because I want as much random content as possible. If I had only chosen sports, fitness, food, and advertising I would never see the beautiful pictures, hilarious articles, or original videos that I do end up seeing because I chose so many interests.

My mom brought me up always saying two things “Make good choices” (trying my best), and “Don’t take the easy way out.” Being fed our content is the easy way out. Sure, it makes being online easier if you have a specific goal in mind (i.e. shopping for something specific), but what about when you want to just browse around and explore? There are so many doors that are automatically closed to us. I love to explore and read about anything interesting to me. This doesn’t necessarily parallel with my browsing history or past preferences.

I think the technology to personalize the online experience is great, I really do…for certain things. When I’m going to a specific company to order something, show me what I may like from that company (I’m probably going there for something similar anyways). But, if I am just browsing the web I wouldn’t mind stumbling on to some hidden gems that don’t necessarily go along with what I’m normally interested in. That’s exactly what makes them interesting.

Are you prepared to pay the price of personalization, even if it means sacrificing your ability to explore and discover?

[UPDATE] Why Lady Gaga and Amazon Just ‘Get It’ Better Than You Do

Lady Gaga is known for her outrageous and eccentric attire on stage and in the public image (and just a tad bit of musical talent as well). Amazon is known for being one of the largest online stores, quality customer service, and great deals. When you put them together what do you get? A stroke of genius that proves just how much more they understand the way consumers work these days.

Mashable posted this morning that Lady Gaga is selling her new album for only 99 cents via Amazon. Amazon is also sweetening the deal by forking over 20 gigs of Cloud Drive storage per purchase. This is a major move by both the artist and vendor; rarely has an album been priced for so little, let alone the release of a brand new album from arguably the hottest artist right now (her single “Born This Way” was the fastest selling single in iTunes history). So why are Gage and Amazon charging less than a dollar for an album that millions would purchase for $10-15 dollars without hesitation? Well…

1) Simply because she can. Money isn’t an issue for Lady Gaga OR Amazon…not one album’s worth at least.

2) She understands that consumers in the present day need incentive to buy into something…but if they love, and are loyal to the person/product, they will promote it effortlessly and persuade their peers to buy into it as well. Selling an album for a dollar seems a lot less serious when you consider that Gaga has ~45 million combined fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter that are sure to pay up a dollar for her new album…and then post tweets, statuses, personal messages, and many other types of free Gaga advertising all on their own. Not a bad way to get the word out huh?

3) Amazon’s Cloud Drive is a direct competitor of Google’s and harnessing the power of 45 million Gaga fans, plus Amazon’s fans and massive email list, allows it to immediately compete and perhaps succeed against a giant like Google.

4) Gaga’s reputation as a unique, barrier-pushing artist (check out her recent SNL performance where she sported a pregnancy “bump” whilst performing “Born This Way”) is only bolstered by a bold move like this. It continues her trend as the artist doing things unlike any before her, and also sends a nice message to her fans showing that she cares about them beyond their money.

The end result of this campaign, assuming it reaches the same level of success as Gaga’s music career or Amazon’s online success, will more than make up for any losses taken from selling the album for such a low price.

This is a great strategy. It will get tons of press (I have already seen people I know sending emails and posting on Facebook about it) and allows both parties involved to gain new fans and customers. Possibly (however unlikely) it could also pave the way for a new business strategy that could help save the music industry from its ongoing troubles with pirating, torrents, and such. Now how cool would that be?

What do you think? Is Lady Gaga doing something smart, or is it another attention grabbing headline that will pass without a big deal being made of it?

——————————————

[Update]

The Amazon servers got hit so hard from the Gaga faithful that the album downloads are now delayed. As a result people are ripping the digital music service by giving the album one star ratings. I am personally having trouble figuring out if this is a measure of extreme success, or extreme failure. Obviously Lady Gaga has nothing to do with this, except making her fans way too insane so that they cause an event like this to occur. Amazon definitely has to except the blame for this…seeing as how Gaga’s following has helped her become the world’s most powerful celebrity according to Forbes.

While something like this occurring would negatively impact a campaign or business move under normal circumstances…I believe that this will be the exception. Nobody is going to not buy the album for a dollar because it will take them a little while longer to get it, and the fanbase is so gaga for Gaga that this will just create more press and draw attention to it. Lady Gaga will escape from this unharmed, if not even more formidable. Amazon may have some explaining to do, and will most likely take a PR hit, however.

Props to Gaga though for helping to crash the Amazon servers that are able to handle things like Black Friday rushes and other massive deals. It just shows you how amazing the artist really is.

I will never use Google again

This summer was when I first started really getting into all things social, beyond Facebook that is. I joined Twitter just this past June (sent my 1,000th Tweet today, btw), and signed up for LinkedIn, a host of Twitter clients, Quora (within the first few weeks of it’s beta release I believe), and many other sites that were, or still are, startups trying to get into the game even more recently than that. However, the best online discovery I made was no social tool, it was a search engine…called DuckDuckGo.

Now before you laugh at the somewhat childish nickname, go check it out. Give it one full day of trying it out and I guarantee you never go back to your previous search engine. This little engine that could emphasizes user privacy (“Google tracks you. We don’t” it claims on it’s About page), this privacy mission is explained in detail here (pictures included!), at the aptly named donttrack.us website. While promoting user privacy, it also makes searching almost too easy. How so you ask? Read on:

First, it has this little feature called Zero-click Info that gives you a snippet of information about what you’re searching for without you having to click through to a result. For example, this is what comes up when you search for James Cameron’s Avatar:

Keep playing with it and it also allows you to search things like the distance from Atlanta, GA to Columbus, OH (any cities, states, or countries will do…that’d just the route I travel most often). Why go to some website when you get this:

Next, the “Goodies” (c’mon, how can you argue against a search engine that advertises it’s ‘goodies’ on their homepage and not mean something explicit?) the site offers are incredible, and got me to switch over from Google. The !bang syntax, something I’ve never seen done on any website before, is it’s most useful feature. It allows you to search hundreds of websites directly, without wasting time going to the actual website and typing into the search bar. So, for example, imagine you want to search for…Youtube’s #1 total views leader, Lady Gaga. All you have to do is type in “!youtube lady gaga” in the search bar and you will immediately be brought to this page. Simple right?

**Helpful tip** If you’re using Google Chrome, set your default search engine to DuckDuckGo and now whenever you want to search popular sites like Youtube or Facebook, all you need to do is use the !bang syntax in your URL bar at the top of the browser and Bang! (yes, yes I did) you’re at the results in less than a second. If you ever thought that it doesn’t take much time to go to a site, find the search bar, then search the site….welcome to the world of DuckDuckGo.

The last great feature of the site is that it allows you to type in something like “Simpsons characters” and will return something actually helpful, unlike what Google will give you:

An alphabetical list of Simpson's Characters = helpful

VS.

The one true con of the site (impressive, compared to the many pros) is that it is not 100% independent yet. The image search still uses Google Images as it’s resource, and links you to the Google Images results page whenever you search for a picture. Once this site becomes fully independent and provides this service on its own (if this does ever happen, I don’t see a need right now to change anything), this site will be complete.

Give DuckDuckGo a try, I bet you’ll end up sticking with it. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The internet is old news


I was recently on the Scoutmob website where they were advertising a deal for their new T-shirt. In order to get a shirt they write: “Unfortunately, you can’t order your Scoutmob shirt via the iPhone or Android app. This will only work the old-fashioned internet way. I understood that they are saying this in a joking manner, but the reality is that this description of the internet as “old-fashioned” is actually very true in many ways:

1) When was the last time you ever heard someone say “internet” with any excitement? Even a decade ago people were in awe about what the internet allowed them to do. Nowadays everyone and their mom (and dad, and grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, etc) is on the internet now. At one point in time it was “new” and “revolutionary” to sit for minutes at a time (minutes!!) while your dial-up logged in on AOL. But now I see my grandmother getting impatient after 5 seconds of waiting for a page to load. Back when I was younger it was a big deal to be able to simply find out information (without Googling it…wtf were we doing back then?); I am only 22…that’s how fast things are moving.

2) While phones and tablets and game consoles are now jumping on the internet bandwagon full force now, it’s what is now capable on phones with things like QR codes and Stickybits, mobile shopping, social networking, etc. that are captivating the entire population. The internet is now just a means to an end, rather than the innovative service that once was.

3) The internet has simply become so mainstream that simple use of the internet is no longer an action. With words like “Google” “Youtube” and “Tweeting” becoming verbs, simply logging on isn’t a big deal. The realization of something like the internet being taken for granted is pretty profound if you think about the hundreds of millions, or billions, of people who use it daily. “E-mail” and “screen names” are not obsolete, yet, but they aren’t the go-to choices for communication for many people.

What does this spell for the future of communication? Something as revolutionary as the internet is now an expected luxury, more of a right instead of a privilege. This isn’t meant to preach any morals or points of views specifically, it is just an observation of how fast our world has progressed even in the new millennium. It’s astounding how quickly societies can evolve, and its a great testament to human willpower and ingenuity don’t you think?

Ask yourself this and I bet you can’t remember: When was the last time you went even one week without being on the internet? Post your answer in the comments.