I think by this point the idea of “social networking” and “games” being two separate worlds has melted away with the popularity of casual games on Facebook. Very few people who use social networking sites have not heard of Farmville or Zynga, even if they don’t play the games themselves. We also have been seeing the gamification of sites (adding game elements to a site) – with social tie in, often with facebook tie in, to try and increase engagement in sites that might otherwise get only brief visits.
However, the other side of gamification is the socialization (or is socialification?) of games. This is where games start using social network tools sites to help promote themselves. Like gamification socialification can be done well or poorly. I do remember taking a test to see which faction I would be in some game that looked very cool – but at the moment I can’t remember what the game was called (or find it in my Facebook apps – I just looked) even though my thought was “Wow I’d like to check this game out.” That said – having the social network site tie in can help promote a game. Blizzard has World of Warcraft feeds that you can set up on Facebook (and that is nicely tuneable so it doesn’t spam your feed) so anyone who friends me will get occasional updates about what I’m doing in World of Warcraft, which if they don’t already play, may get them interested.
Today I came across a new Blizzard site, designed to promote the upcoming expansion pack – Cataclysm. It is called Darkmoon Faire. Unlike the achievement feed I think this has more potential to draw new players in. The fact that I got “1 Light in the Darkness” is just some random fact for most. However “fortunes’ and “factions” and hints of some of the elements of what makes World of Warcraft interesting might draw in new players who might just think of the game as just being “beating up on monsters”. I haven’t had a chance to do much on the site yet, but just reading through the FAQ and glancing at the page it definitely shows an evolution of Blizzard’s socialification activities.
The interesting thing about the socialification of a game like World of Warcraft is that as an MMO it already has a social component. We have guilds, groups, group activities, interaction with other players who are near you, etc. However, the social aspect within the game is in its own realm (literally). Guilds may create websites that people can socialize and discuss things outside of the game, and many do. However, there is the game (or virtual world) social network and then there is the “real world” social network. With the integration into sites such as Facebook (and Twitter) the divide between “virtual world” and real world becomes increasingly permeable. Some will chose not to participate (as with RealID) or they may chose a mixed participation. They may let friends know their interest in WoW through something like the Darkmoon Faire site, but yet not share their particular identities within the world. However, as socialification of games continues keeping that division becomes more of conscious choice rather than just the natural state of things.