Reality Meets Fantasy: Social Networking and World of Warcraft
It seems every couple of months the next big ÂWorld of Warcraft-killerÂ is announced. WeÂve already had RIFT this year and next on the horizon is the long-awaited Star Wars: The Old Republic and, of course, Guild Wars 2. The thing is, while no other MMO has yet stolen WoWÂs crown, that doesnÂt mean Blizzard can be complacent.
The fact that theyÂre continuing to add new features like the Dungeon Journal suggest theyÂre about as far from complacent as you can get. Yes, I love lore, I love content updates, dungeons and raids and NPCs too, but I also like it when the game gets extra features which help gameplay in someway or are just cool.
IÂm talking about things like an in-game encyclopedia (a la Aion or even Warhammer Online) which gives more lore on a specific thing or NPC and means I wonÂt have to alt+tab to go and check WoWpedia every half an hour. IÂm talking Twitter integration so every time I kill a boss, find something rare or obtain an Achievement, I can opt-in to have it auto-tweeted. These are features that upcoming titles like the above mentioned GW2 will have from day one, so to remain competitive it would be in Blizzard's best interest to at least follow those trends if not being the trailblazers themselves.
Blizzard is making a start on integrating social networking and expanded in-game information into Azeroth but thereÂs a way to go.
You see, Blizzard and every other MMO company have become masters of social media - things like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - because they have to. ItÂs a brilliant way to get in touch with the community and seem more personable, more reachable. Not to mention that you have a potential audience numbering in the billions in terms of marketing potential. In this day and age, itÂs foolish to ignore the shift away from forum posts to blogging and social networking. But what if this wasnÂt just applied to the official posts or adapted into the armory?
Imagine this scenario: youÂd log on to WoW and on the breaking news pane there could be a list of recent GM posts or RSS feeds from the community site. Your account would access info from Twitter so youÂd be able to see what friends were up to recently, who killed Nefarian, what gear they got. Once logged in you could access the encyclopedia by typing /encyclopedia or clicking a button on the UI and then search down the location of an elusive NPC and the entry would give you their location, some lore and other interesting notes. Kind of like the new in-game boss info, only expanded to include details on the rest of the game.
Then you see via Twitter, which youÂve integrated so that any @yourusername with a #wow hashtag flash up in-game, that your best friend needs an extra DPS to do a heroic Bastion run and wants you to come along. While youÂre flying there, you type in /news and a feed appears. Oh look GhostcrawlerÂs just posted about how heÂs removing Paladins from the game. You click the link and the blog post appears, giving you something to read to pass the time.
Then, while youÂre in the dungeon, you see random NPCs doing something weird and take a screenshot, and that image could automatically be forwarded to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. When youÂre fighting Sinestra, you click the record video button and when you click it again, the video is auto-uploaded to YouTube. As Sinestra falls and the Achievement pings, a tweet goes out to all your followers announcing your victory and you snap the obligatory screenshot to go with it as well.
Of course, some of this stuff you can do now. Folks playing WoW on a Mac have been able to make use of the in-game record function for ages and you can also tweet in-game using add-ons. However, there is an argument that Blizzard should make some of this stuff a part of the game for all users, as they have done with useful features in the past like the quest locator on the main map, or the raid UI and threat meter. We can hope that theyÂve already considered all these options and itÂs just a matter of time and engineering before some of this fantasy becomes reality.