This is the first of a few posts I intend to write about Empire Avenue.

Why not one ? Well,  I have just written a very long post – and to paraphrase Mark Twain – I realized that I did not have the time – right now – to write a short one – and the problem is that there is a lot to say and I don’t want to bore you. So here are some highlights – that I will drill down on in future posts..

Needless to say I have no idea what strategy Dups and the team at Empire Avenue have and are working to but until last week – in my opinion – they had cracked a very big problem.

They had :

  • A game – that was serious – with real world applicability.
  • Integrated the game into many Social Networks.
  • Set it ip so you were allowed to buy and sell stock in people based on their Social Media activity. (Empire Avenue itself was one of the social networks it measured.)
  • Established that there was a big and fascinating future for them in Social Media with Global Reach and first mover advantage.

It wasn’t perfect. It had problems. But it worked.

This week at SXSW they announced massive and radical changes to the application that has resulted in an online ‘uproar’. I understand the comments being made and can see both sides. I totally get why EA might have done the changes – BUT for all the commentary I have read, the big point has become lost. No doubt that ways of engaging on the site are different. It is all a lot harder – and some of that is down to UI design changes – and some down to info that used to be there that is no longer.

But to me the error is the obvious switch to what has been dubbed ‘Expand, Engage and Evaluate’. That is …

  • Expand your networks by buying and selling stock in your fellow gamers through an interface that is decidedly non friendly for transactional use – you would never see such an interface on another stock trading site.
  • Engage with your fellow players in the networks they operate in – EA have built a content integration section that is again lacking any serious UI input and really – why? Are players really going to jump over to EA to engage in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google et al ?
  • Evaluate – ie measure how you are doing with metrics that are generally not very useful, clunky and currently deliver less information than you used to be able to get to in the old model.

Me ? I am sure it will all be fixed – but doesn’t get away from the fact that they are moving more towards a site that is a ‘me too site’. Their focus seems to now be around the Engage part. What is truly peculiar is that they have always had ways to engage with others on the site – in interest tags and communities and comments and buying / selling stock and none of this is part of the engagement.

Communities are hidden away and ‘interests‘ remain untapped – though there are very clear ways they could be incorporated into the whole experience. In short they seem to have

  • defined Engagement as what you do on OTHER sites – what a massive loss.
  • put massive time, resources and energy into ‘upgrading’ themselves into another content site.

Meanwhile Klout, PeerIndex and others are attempting to build measures on activities in the social media spaces … and do NOTHING as interesting and deep as EA do. It is a shame – because  it is the tools that will make the difference – not the content – and certainly not content integrators.

But there’s more

  • Social Media is only part of life – there are ways they could have brought real life into how players engage outside of the platform
  • Any of the measurement competitors like Klout can be – are being – gamed – what does a +K mean in terms of what people understand by my knowledge of (say) Social Media if I am running missions to get people to award me +Ks …
  • Connect.Me are attempting to do a good job at establishing Trust Networks – but again – they are being gamed, though seem to be trying to make a better job of avoiding it.
  • Meanwhile EA – the game – is nowhere as easy to game. it reflects whether people are using their $s to buy into you – or not. Again – tonnes of improvements to make this work properly – but not insurmountable.
Which brings me to the final point for now – I wonder how EA collect all this feedback – I have seen great input from people like Chris Voss – and as he has pointed out there are a lot of people on the Avenue that are rooting for the company. But feedback is through a loose collection of Facebook communities into which EA may or may not comment.
When such a space is made – it will be a whole lot easier for all. Until then I am nervous for the future of a what could (still) be a phenomenal company.

So – more to come – this is part one – need to move on to the rest of my day.

23 thoughts on “Empire Avenue

  1. ‘Change is good’ says someone below. Change may be inevitable in the long run, but in the short term what happened to ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. If we had some assurance that the PTB had a definite goal in mind – eg by sharing it with the punters, that would be one thing. But I get the impression that they are stabbing around in the dark, trying first one thing and then another in the hopes of coming up with some magic formula. Not a happy bunny!
    Having said that, I love EAV and the people I have met – more bonding than any of the other socmed sites in my opinion. 
    I just hope it all shakes down, and soon.

  2. I’m excited about starting my own social community and beginning anew with great new features. My favorite is setting up missions and driving social engagement like this it’s even starting to look like some other sites that are getting tons of attention.

    • thankyou kenneth – i don’t disagree EA is powerful – I just wonder if they are maximizing their potential

    • Change as they say is inevitable – I wouldn’t however conclude that it is automatically good – as a wise man once wrote – if you don’t know where you are gong – any road will do.

      In the meantime – my thanks for your comment – hope you approve of my comment change – upgraded to disqus 😉

    • My thanks for your comment.
      Like you – I am sure it will change again – I am hoping that the next time will be for the better.

      In the meantime – hope you like my change to using disqus for comments

  3. “Social Media is only part of life – there are ways they could have brought real life into how players engage outside of the platform” That’s really where the benefit of EA exists – I’ve met people through the game interface that I wouldn’t have met otherwise and engaged with them on other platforms. The engagement mechanism on EA is clunky at best. The real challenge that I have with EA is the rewards system that is supposed to keep me there. The rewards for certain achievements are ludicrous and the costs for upgrades are apparently random.

    The upgrade to allow me to invest 50 additional shares per player is 250,000 eaves or US$20. If I want to BUY 250,000 eaves (because otherwise I have to save the equivalent of 8 days earnings on the site) it will cost me US$60 for 255,000 only because they are currently ‘discounted’. The same US$60 in cash would buy me up 3 levels.

    The changes to the UI caused some features to become much more difficult to locate and I have gotten very good at ‘Right Click’ – ‘Open in new tab’ so I don’t have to keep using my back button when it turns out that I went to the wrong screen.

    The ‘Premium’ for running missions – which are meant to expand engagement – is atrocious; 100% of what I want to give away plus an additional sum if I want to apply any criteria to who can accomplish the missions?

    There’s more but I have my own blog writing habit to support……

  4. I met Dups in San Mateo just a few days after I joined at a live meetup/focus group at Altimeter. Very engaging. If you have a chance to meet the crew in person at any of the various tech events they attend, do so. It’s well worth making the personal contact to help understand their vision.

    • … for those that are doing the changes – if you are having the change done unto you – it can be a tad scary, uncertain and problematic. Thanks fro commenting Shawne.

  5. Change almost always creates waves. I am not a super fan of it myself. I don’t have any “real” need for missions at this time but intend to use them later on in the year. As the major changes age, I believe the powers that be are indeed listening to our chatter and tweaking here and there.

    I still believe that EA is extremely beneficial for staying informed of current events, and find most individuals playing are very helpful when something is asked of them.

    The main reason for commenting here was to suggest that you perhaps contact. (e)PDSTEIN as I think I recall Paul putting forth an invitation for guest articles about EA,

    In any case, best of luck in all your endeavors. I appreciate your missions and information. You will remain an asset in my portfolio for some time.

    Enjoy
    Bill, Lynn, and Friends of Bewitched. (e)BIS

  6. I agree that EA changes have created an uproar. I have tried to find things that I used to know how to find and still am looking. Can’t wait until I can find everything again. However, I still like it for the engagement.

    • Not sure that I agree that ‘ramification is the future of marketing’ – bit would say that it is going to contribute a lot to that particular discipline. I guess my problem is that there are games – and then there are GAMES.

      Right now we only have games – simplistic, point scoring – and easy to ‘Game’. As a result there is race to the top (which is the race to the bottom) for scoring and winning points and getting ahead and leading leagues and …. its all about easily measurable online only activity – without due thought about quality and off line.

      I believe EA are / could be on THAT cusp – but methinks that ‘the changes’ are focussed on me too / simple quantitative counting – and they are losing sight of the potential big goal.

      (Of course – when I say ‘losing sight’ – that pre-supposes that they had such targets in their sights to begin with !!

  7. The new “Engage” page is hideous. EA has yet to figure out how to make engagement across all platforms work for both the user and itself beyond raising share value. Which is part of the point, but not the entire point. Or even the majority of it.

    Like all SM platforms, they’re going to struggle to monetize the service. At least they’ve got some “pay for it, b*tches” bits deployed, i.e. buying eaves w/real chedda via PayPal.

    I thought I saw lots of value in missions, but that’s waned in recent weeks. Would love to learn how to make that tool wax again…

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