3 Lessons from World of Warcraft

Here’s a social network almost no one outside of gaming talks about:

Twitter this!

Twitter this!

The World of Warcraft.

For those unfamiliar with World of Warcraft (WoW) it is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game with a fantasy setting (much like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons). Users develop a character like a fighter or wizard and join with others in a virtual world to complete quests, explore and fight opponents. As they gain more experience, the user increases levels and becomes more skilled and powerful. The player can also collect artifacts, treasure, weaponry and armor.

While social media pundits are in awe of Twitter – with its seven million users and zero revenue – WoW has amassed a passionate and devoted community of fans and actually makes money. Try this on for size. WoW has:

  • 11.5 million users
  • More than $500 million in annual revenue
  • A demographic of 23-39 year old males
  • An average user playing 23 hours per week

Those are numbers that Twitter – and other social media platforms – would kill for. I know many people dismiss WoW as a game – and it is – but it is also a social network (and other than all the elves, magic, and sword fights – it isn’t much different than Second Life). Players interact with each other, there’s trading and commerce and, of course, teamwork.

There’s a lot to be learned from WoW’s corporate parent Blizzard Entertainment on how to run a successful social media company.

1. Charging for content

Unlike Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites (and even some new MMOs), Blizzard charges its users for access to its network. Blizzard realizes that good content (on good platform) has real value. WoW charges a subscription fee (an average of about $13.99 per month). It’s probably too late for Facebook, but think about how much revenue Facebook could generate from its 200 million global users for a nominal $1 a month fee: $3.4 billion annually. Giving away your best assets might not be a successful, long-term business model on the web – just ask the newspaper industry.

2. Constant improvements

Blizzard has captured about 60 percent of the MMO market because it doesn’t rest on its laurels. It is constantly updating and improving the game – adding new modules and experiences for its users. The recent launch of “Wraith of the Lich King” is a perfect example of how Blizzard is constantly innovating, adding creative elements and helping their users get the most out of the experience.

3. Building a passionate community

Blizzard doesn’t just reach its millions of users on WoW the game, but through many different channels. The company has online forums, holds contests, displays fan art, distributes WoW toys and comics, and has even added an auction capability and mobile phone access. Blizzard is in constant contact with players listening to feedback, hearing out disputes and complaints, and soliciting its faithful for new ideas.

These three principals can valuable lessons to not only other social media platforms – but to businesses in general.

One Response to “3 Lessons from World of Warcraft”

  1. Hey, GREAT Article! I agree that WoW is a social network from which many great things have developed. I have friends all over the world who play in my guild and that is just one server!

    Given that players come to rely on each other for their services (Hard to beat a reliable HEALER or dedicated TANK for example) the community becomes interdependant on the individuals within it. That alone make WoW a great platform for communication. When you add in an economy found in the Auction House (Not unlike a mini-EBAY within the game) that draws the players into professions of gatherers, craftsmen, and artisans it becomes an actual reality to enjoy…like a vacation from life in many ways.

    At anyrate, I found WoW so interesting that I wrote a book based on some of the ideas and charaters I play with. I am not a professional author, but I was so into gaming (WoW being the main platform) that the words just came to me and now I have been published. This is just another element of personal development that is linked to WoW. Check out my website below.



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