And by YOU I mean YOU Internet marketers, B2B, B2C, and B2E experts, PR masters, and SM junkies in general who are raving about the stuff. Yes guys and gals, YOU are –mostly– alone in this one. Here’s my take on the why, using a cool example to draw parallels from.
Consider these two sets of competing products: Sony’s PS3 (console) and PSP (handheld) vs. their Nintendo counterparts, the Wii and the DS. Despite being technically superior in many aspects that pertain to gaming, both of Sony’s devices were never neck to neck in the race against those from the big N. Hell, they were never even close. And why? Because Nintendo’s creations were actually groundbreaking; they represented innovation at its most exquisite level. And that, friends, draws customers in: 87.5M vs. 51.2M on home consoles and a staggering 147.5M vs. 68.5M on handhelds [Source: VGCharts Network]. You can call Nintendo’s strategy gimmicky, but the features it bestowed upon their products were unmatched for a long time. Even now, with the addition of motion control on Sony’s home console front, the dynamics introduced by the Wiimote and Wii Motion Plus controllers are legendary.
[Edit: thanks to Danny Brown for commenting upon something that was missing from this comparison --price. Nintendo's gadgets have always been priced way lower than Sony's. Still, if we consider price as a feature, Sony did fail at attracting buyers in THAT specific area, which, in such a competitive arena, can prove quite damaging.]
What we are dealing with this face-off (ha!) between Facebook and Google+ is what I like to call “Race of the Features.” Unlike the aforementioned example, where the hardware limits the ability to improve upon a shipped product, integrating –and enhancing– features from Facebook into Google+ and vice versa is a relatively easy task.
Besides that, we have an inescapable issue here: Google is not a groundbreaking platform; not by a long shot. So, even though there might be differentiation at some point or another –sharing, notifications and video in Google+ are, for example, very well thought out– the competing guy will always be quick to catch up. This could be a very drawn out case of the proverbial pissing contest.
YOU might like these shiny new/improved features because they suit YOUR purposes best. But on this race, Facebook can turn the tide at any moment.
When Nintendo’s Wii console came out, it drew in thousands of new players that were previously oblivious to electronic entertainment; it practically defined the term casual gaming. Housewives, top execs, teachers; they all jumped onto the bandwagon of Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Almost overnight, the Wii was in more households than the PS3 could ever expect to. And, although it has struggled with stains like shovelware (kiddie movie tie-in games, anyone?), most of these casual gamers just don’t care. What they have is good enough for them and, in the long run, only numbers matter. Lemme try to be funny here: My name is Legion, for Wii are many.
Facebook has the whole social media thing pretty much nailed down and has a subscriber base that ranks in the hundreds of millions. Now, I’m not saying it does everything right; we know better. But for the large percentage of users that don’t mind what it does wrong, Google+ offers no compelling reason to do the switch. There’s no real, overwhelming benefits for the brunt of these individuals.
Now, returning to the subject of YOU. YOU might want to trade the blue for the multi-colored because YOU are smart, because YOU are mindful of privacy, because YOU care about the value of networking, and because YOU simply adore engaging and sharing. I know I do. But, you know what? The moms and the teachers and the co-workers… not so much. For them, Facebook fills a more primal purpose: just being social. They will, I think, choose the Like over the +1; they will remain within Facebook’s ranks and files.
Let’s look at this real quick: Nintendo has a perpetual collection of aces down its sleeve with the oldest and most revered franchises in the gaming industry: the Marios and the Pokemons, the Metroids and the Kirbys, the Zeldas and the Smash Brothers; Nintendo owns exclusivity for all of them. These fellas –in any of their incarnations– have only been available for the big N’s devices and they move numbers without failure because people know and love them.
In the subject at hand, Google’s perceived strength is search. Yeah, Google Docs has its followers because it has proved to be a powerful tool with zero to little competition, and Chrome is slowly gaining ground as the prettiest kid on the block, but this doesn’t mean much in terms of profitability. Even Google’s first peripheral property, Gmail, has not yet attained the elusive No. 1 spot when compared to old, established brands like Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail (or Windows Live, whatever you wanna call it). The thing is, the G has had trouble gaining traction as a brand on fields other than search. Google+ is up against a giant that has a choke hold on the social media market, and removing it from the topmost place will prove to be a monumental task.
Now, back to YOU. YOU have only recently started using Facebook for professional reasons. YOU have been using Facebook as a marketing, engagement & networking medium for a relatively short time. YOU have had no chance of developing a strong bond with Facebook or have chosen not to, for maybe YOU move quickly with the times and the trends. But the mainstream does not. They love and then they settle, at least for a while, and marketers know that: it will be a long time before Google+ becomes fertile ground for ad revenue.
What does Google+ want to be?
If we look, for example, at Twitter’s inability to be profitable and assume it’s because there’s just not much buying power and message reach due to its numbers, we can extrapolate and visualize Google+’s short/medium term future IF they only want to be up in arms against Facebook. But go ahead and read this post by Jeff Nolan on how it could stack up against other players: G+: Twitter and Tumblr are Biggest Losers.
What I think is that, with some focus and direction, Google+ can be something other than what it’s trying to be right now: a Facebook killer. But for the time being, only YOU think it can be so.
In the end, it’s all speculation, right?
WARNING: This post has a lengthy story attached to it. If you wish to jump directly to the main subject, click here.
Ezio Auditore da Firenze’s diary, page 32:
From the corner of my eye I see nervous movement: detection. But it’s not one of Cesare’s men, of that I’m sure. I curse under my breath and turn around, trying to determine the identity of the man who has seen me for what I am: un assassino.
The robber -a pair of raggedy pants and a filthy shirt immediately betray the man’s secret trade- does not need further prompt than my murderous stare and initiates the flight, clambering atop a stack of wine crates and making his way towards the nearest rooftop.
His skills are commendable; the ease with wich he bounces from wood to windowsill and from iron bar to terracotta tile surely provides him with a great advantage when it comes to exercising his “profession.” In the end, though, escape is moot for I am now in full pursuit, barely a meter or two behind the thieving bastard.
As confident as I am in my chances of catching the fleeing criminal -now bridging the gap between two houses with a gracious leap- a third player makes an unexpected and quite unwelcome appearance.
“Hey, you’re not allowed up here!” shouts one of Cesare’s lapdogs, jumping down swiftly from a roof just above our level. The robber successfully catches on to the ledge of the building in front of him, but realizes his run is coming to an abrupt end when he notices the guard closing in.
Under traditional circumstances, the enemy of my enemy would be, indeed, my friend. This is not one of those. As soon as the soldier is done with the ledge-hanging scoundrel, he will come after me. I have to get rid of both.
Sadly, I am now in a bad spot myself.
I cannot stop dead in my tracks and break my momentum without risking falling into the same gap my prey has just closed. I have to make the jump. And I do, falling on top of the unfortunate soul and knocking the breath out of him.
“What now my unwilling companion?” I ask the wriggling man beneath me. His stench is so overpowering that it, more than the looming menace of the guard above us, almost makes me want to let go and fall to my fate, whatever that may be. But at more than ten meters above the cobbled street, and with no haystack in sight, that does not seem like something a reasonable man would do. Contrary to the opinion of members of the Church and the Templar Order, we assassins are, in fact, very reasonable individuals.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, but you will have to excuse me,” I say as I rise my right foot and place it on his lower back, just above his buttocks. “I’m afraid there are more pressing matters I have to attend to, after all.”
As I push my weight downwards in order to use the bedraggled man’s body as a foothold and increase my chances of facing off against the approaching guard, I feel a certain lightness coursing through my body. After a few seconds of this unusual -and not quite pleasant- sensation, I see my hands are no longer grasping the ledge, my body no longer touching that of the thief. Instead, I find myself speechless, trying to make sense of the dire spell that has befallen me:
I am slowly rising, soaring into the air above FUCKING Rome!
Ok, got a bit carried away with the story. OK! Maybe a lot. That’s why I’ll wrap this up rather quickly; the message is concise.
This all happened in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, a game by developer and publisher Ubisoft. A set of events and conditions converged during a game session and produced the aforementioned bug: I literally flew over Rome. My character slowly rose to an altitude of more than 1000 meters before my amusement turned to rage and, losing my current quest progress, the bug simply forced me to reset my PS3 system. This is obviously something the game’s developers did not have in mind.
And here comes the crux of the matter: why don’t you test your games well, oh lofty developers? Are you so eager to cut costs and take advantage of the current electronic content delivery trends that it just seems easy for you to rush your games out the door and let us, the players, do the testing for you? After all, it’s more attractive for a dev house to rake in the bucks now and distribute a patch later, no? That is, if someone finds out and complains, tee-fucking-hee. Hilarious.
And this is not the only game who suffers from an early and bumpy birth: Final Fantasy XIV is now under a serious revamping process for its release on the PS3 platform (delayed, thankfully, in order to fix the numerous design woes that plagued the PC version) and Fallout: New Vegas is still ripe with game-crashing bugs. These among many, many other titles already in store shelves.
Although it’s true that games are becoming meatier and more complex with each passing day, it is only fitting that developers adapt their testing models accordingly. Relying on end-users to reveal design and programming faults comes off as being just plain lazy and greedy. And in many cases, developers don’t really put much of an effort to make right by their wronged players.
So what IS the right way to crowdsource?
“In case anyone forgets – ship early / ship often. Getting your idea out there. Let the crowd shape it for you”
But that my friends, only applies for already good, unbroken products. Great examples of this philosophy in the gaming arena are Media Molecule‘s Little Big Planet and the upcoming Little Big Planet 2. For now, I beg from the developers: test your games. Thoroughly.
What’s your take on the matter?