Yesterday a bit of news came across the wires that I almost missed. World of Warcraft (WoW), a MMORPG, reached 10 million users. Having 10 million users of any social network is pretty amazing but consider this: Every WoW user pays between 13 and 24 dollars a month to maintain their online account.
At its essence WoW is a social network; like minded people come together online to share a common experience and make connections. The fact that these people do it while slaying orc kings and mystical monsters is no different than a social network based on people who enjoy needle point. To be honest I don’t understand either.
WoW is making 1.8 billion dollars a year maintaining a social network. I never like quoting marketing books but Blizzard, the makers of WoW, have really found a way to maintain the Long Tail when it comes to this product. Blizzard has a ‘niche’ market of 10 million users who are incredibly loyal to their brand and product.
What does this mean for other social networks based on a free service, supported by ad dollars, model? Reconsider your deliver model. WoW works because it delivers an incredibly content rich experience, combined with an addictive game play model. If Second Life had considered changing their business model maybe they could have been as successful as WoW.
I am not saying by any means that all social networks should begin charging for their service, that’s ridiculous. Just consider for a second if you were launching a new social network, would following the WoW model be that bad? I don’t think 1.8 billion dollars a year is a terrible way to run a business.
I am also predicting that Sony’s Playstation HOME is going to be a wild success and that is based on the very free content model I was describing against. All I am saying is don’t discount user base from paying for a service. If your network or service is worth paying for, users will pay for it.
I would love to hear some of your thoughts on business models for social networks. Who out there would pay for a social networking service? Would you like to see something more interactive than the typical online social network?