CAVEAT – I have not talked to anyone at EA about the ideas laid out below – I am simply writing as a sideline(d) observer.

I recently posted to Beyond Bridges { you can read it here } regarding Empire Avenue. If you don’t know them – check them out – more from me on that at another time. BUT – The more I think, the more I read, the more I engage. the more I realize that I have almost got a book to write …. don’t worry – this is just a post – and I won’t get round to writing the book 🙂

This post was prompted by a post from fellow resident of the Avenue Ryan J Zeigler on his blog ROI Sucks – and then I saw this today by Empire Avenue – which is mainly unrelated – but connected!

To Ryan’s post first – GREAT post. And as far as I can see it is the first of a series he is planing in an interview with the team at EA. I hope it will warm up a bit – and get down to what they see as the raison d’etre of EA.

I found Ryans’s piece interesting and good to see some insights – but I really would like to see less drill down on the technicality of the game – and more focus on what they think it is all about. For example this piece was very much focussed on the nitty gritty of Google ve Pinterest v APIs etc … and while I agree – all very valid – the fact is that all EA can do with any of the other networks is use whatever data gets delivered through the API.

And if they are going to stay on the technicality of the game – then I would like to understand what they are doing to improve the quality of their data. For example – mention was made of the fact that they reward comments and interactions on a network – not just the postings. So my question is then ‘how do you assess the QUALITY of the engagement ?’ We all know that EA’s own mission system is being used to drop butt loads of EAVS onto your lap in return for which you literally sprinkle comments and likes and +1s onto the mission providers page.

…. of course – EA then sees that has engagement and rewards accordingly.

There isn’t an easy fix for this – but until we work this through – and Klout, PeerIndex, ConnectMe and a host of others are all suffering from the same problem – we will be stuck in the endless loop of measuring the stuff thats easy and ignoring or forgetting that which is hard.

What SEEMS to be the problem is that EA have latched onto something that I believe is the way of the future – that’s what my next post is all about. But bottom line – it plays into understanding skills and competency and abilities and trust and ….. across networks – and measuring all of that. I think they were off to a flying start.

BUT

1) I don’t think that EA see that is their future – pity – because there is a big future there

2) They have a massive idea on their hands – think about it – they have a social media stock market  – imagine the days before stock markets – and someone said – what we need is a place to buy and sell stock in a controlled and managed way – hard idea to get across at the time – absolutely. Big idea with legs – TOTALLY.

3) They seem to be approaching the problem in piece meal fashion at least as far an outside observer can see.

4) They are becoming a follower in the Social Media space – a sight twist of focus – and they become the leader.

Consider the EA post referenced above.

To summarize (because I don’t want go into the nature of the game here) – they have made some short term tactical decisions to allow certain benefits to players. Now they want to expand the game – in a way that is going to have an impact on those players – and those are the very players that are EA’s evangelists.

Meanwhile – they are having a hard time (I think – and I read )

1) getting players to sign up and join the game

2) retaining those players once they have committed.

Classic – they are about to piss off the evangelists in an attempt to improve the game – at the same time  as trying to make it better for the 90%. Which BTW is a small 90%, we don’t have the figures because EA don’t release them – but I have to say I see a lot of the same names over and over again. It can’t be a vast world. And bring no value to the people who are not yet in the game. For example by lowering the learning curve of engagement.

I have to say – of all the networks I operate in – it is the best , The people in the company and the game are QUALITY. They have engagement – and engagement in spades. But something is wrong

  • Adoption – not happening
  • Retention – having a hard time
  • Evangelists – annoyed that the game is getting boring – AND – about to be rolled over by the company.

I wrote on a post in FB somewhere today … Devil / Deep Blue Sea … Rock / Hard Place – EA lies some within.

My suggestion in this one is as I wrote in the comment :

We need to ask ‘What problem are we trying to solve’.

In the example above where EA are focussed on asking the players what they want – I can’t work out what problem they are trying to solve. It’s like the guy in the car in the country asking how to get to New York. Well, the farmer replies – if I was going there – I wouldn’t be starting here !

If we don’t know what problem we are solving – we don’t know how to phrase the question – and the answers that come back will be given in the understood context – which is not necessarily the same as EA might see it.

I have only been on EA for a year, but it strikes me over and over that the changes made do not solve problems that the players are having. There is another agenda – which we don’t see – and thats ok – but without that agenda – we can’t answer the tactical questions.

Meanwhile – there have been complaints – and so now we are being asked to vote – and within the vote – one of the options can’t technically be delivered.

In this instance – I would just leave it alone and instead focus on getting more players into the game – so players can easily spend EAVS on lots of different people and network and leverage and …. which I think is what the game is meant to be about.

If I was EA – I would focus on two things

  • make the game more interesting and sophisticated for the evangelists and long time players of the game
  • make it more accessible and easier for a new player – so they aren’t swamped and run away – because they THINK they can’t catch up.

Nobody has asked – but that won’t stop me – a first crack at suggesting some of the many ideas I have for what could be done to enhance the system – and allow us to work toward accomplishing both of these things.

I D E A S

  1. Mutual Funds – yes we can buy stock – but imagine if some of the big players were allowed to create share packages that they could sell – so I bundle say 10 or 20 stocks in to the Fractal Mutual Fund – and then new players can buy into that fund – I of course take a commission on it – since I am carefully managing the portfolio on their behalf
  2. Flag somewhere if players have used real $s to buy EAVS 0 it isn’t a big deal one way or the other – but for example – someone who has splashed out on $500 of EAVS has a definite advantage – and new players should be able to see what is possible by spending money – and not
  3. At the same time create not a ‘business’ versus ‘personal’ league ladder – but rather a ‘weighted’ rating – not sure how the equation would work – but lets say that there is an algorithm that ties
    – number of shareholders
    – number in the portfolio
    – wealth
    – portfiolio value
    – wealth growth over a )7, 14, 30 day average period)
    – etc etcPLUS
    a weighting factor as we call it in business – a ‘handicap’ might be the golfing equivalent for revealing directly – or indirectly – as to the $$s being placed into Empire Avenue to buy EAVs, upgrades, slices of cakes etc
  4. Allow Mergers and Acquisitions – at the moment a player can edit the game – imagine if they could simply sell their portfolio to another player ?

And – if anyone is interested – I have a lot more where they come from >>>

My thanks for your attention.

19 thoughts on “Empire Avenue – Redux

  1. Lot of good ideas to be fleshed out, John. I think my biggest disappointments in the game are the lowered threshold for missions (it was share price > 70, now it’s down to 50) and the ‘lame-gaming’ of the missions – 500E to +K someone? That just devalues the Klout score.

    I joined EA to expand my network and engage with people that I wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet. And that has happened… but I find myself having to put more and more effort into the game to keep my share price rising and I’m pumping up my FB, G+ and Twitter just to try and increase divs so more people will invest so my share price will rise… ad nauseum. 50 new ‘Like’s on my FB page is really meaningless if all that happened was that 5 people went and clicked the ‘Like’ button on 10 items – that’s not engagement. I’d far rather have fewer likes by people who are actually reading the content but there’s no money in Quality, only Quantity.

    • Reduced missions I don’t actually mind – but totally with you on how they are being used to game the system – and indeed the other networks.

      As I said in my piece – i try NOT to be drawn in to the needless likes and dialogues – but it does happen ….

      Bottom line  I think we are in full agreement – we need to work out how to measure and reward QUALITY – over QUANTITY – and right now – definitely not happening !!

  2. I am interested that you wrote this after a year. I have just done 8 months and still feel I am learning how it all works. No wonder people give up – in fact several people I joined with have done just that, not seeing the point of it. 
    I am now very choosy about which missions I do – I really dislike being regarded as advertising fodder (sorry, I know some really nice people who do this, but it is not for me). I like the word games, Gaye’s questions, interesting photographs, RT interesting ideas etc. Not crazy about being asked to like-bomb. I started playing the game deciding I would not use my own money. Now I would rather buy eaves than stretch the truth beyond endurance.I think your post is interesting and thoughtful – and it seems to me what we need is more of a permanent, structural dialogue with ‘the management’. ?Google hang-out ?Forum ?Tweet-up. Maybe we could have a users group which Brad/Dups etc would also participate in. At the moment I belong to 5 different EAV groups on twitter – and I am sure there are lots more!- and they are all generating useful ideas, but I am not sure how many are acted on.At any rate, thank-you for getting us going with this piece!

    • thanks for your comment – have to say after 12 months – I far from understand the detailed nuances of the game – but as you can see from the post = my fascination for EA is NOT the game – but what I think they could do. That said – my vision is long term … but short term – they have me hooked in a way that NO other game of the internet and iDevice world has – like – I just don’t do them.

      As for EA engagement – couldn’t agree more – and hoping that they will take it to heart. In fairness Dups did give this post a call out (not a link 🙂 ) in his Blog post when they announced what they were going to do. Now we need the action.

      Said it before – say it again – they need a single space that they contra where they can manage at least some of the conversation.

  3. ○○○ The real issue is that EA is a GAME. Indeed, It feels like a place to live, work and be entertained as well. I guess that is why I am there for 8-10 hours a day- everyday [INTERMITTENTLY] ○○○

    • It is indeed a game – but it has potential to be more IF they work with some of the players – and IF they want it to be more – and IF they start to focus on their strategic mission and objectives for the company.

      Of course – being a game might be their mission – in which case it is working out – but then it is just a me too. 

  4. Great layout, easily found for each post, I like your concepts, I would email them to the top of EA if I were you, they are great concepts.  Sometimes, they need to hear from the real users, (us) and seeing it from our side, helps them to understand.  
    I do think that if people are not stopped from mission abuse, then the whole system will break down. Blockades are now starting on a few groups I belong to and that may be what gets the top’s attention. Posting names and blockades by large groups.

    • My thanks Michelle – mission abuse is definitely being reported from everyone – and truly annoys people – me – I just calculate it – I think the bigger abuse is EA themselves – simply charging you double for whatever you are going to do – what’s that about. 

      If they just killed that – then 50% failure on missions would be paid for at a stroke !

  5. Lots of great suggestions here John – I think the bought eaves vs earned is less of an issue for me. Ultimately if you’re not engaging with people it doesn’t tend to be sustainable. 

  6. This is the most thoughtful piece I’ve read on EAVE since I joined two months ago. I read the interview with Ryan Ziegler, and feel the same. Less drill down on the technicality of
    the game – and more focus on what they think it is all about.

    When I joined EAVE, it was in response to a friend telling me about the missions, as I believe the social space has changed. The idea of reciprocity via reward appealed to me, and still does.

    However, my excitement is muted somewhat since they rolled out an upgrade that shifted the focus to more social engagement. My question is why would a leader in a unique space, join the also rans?

    At the present time the problem with EAVE are the missions. The increasing dissatisfaction with how missions are received, or should I say, stolen is a thorn in their side.

    If this were strictly a game where no cash is exchanged, to purchase eaves, it would be easier to dismiss peoples complaints. However, eaves are the commodity members trade with hard cold cash, therefore it falls to EAVE to protect the interests of their members. There needs to be some form of insurance policy with the purchase of eaves. The statutes of the market place need to be preserved, and members are well within their rights to expect that.

    As I see it, the future of EAVE is bleak if this issue isn’t addressed sooner, rather than later.

    • Catherine – my thanks and so kind.

      One of the points in my post is that it is unclear who uses cold hard cash to buy EAVS and thus advantage in the game – and who doesn’t.

      Me – have to say – I was tempted to fork out 25 dollars to do the final 500 to 600 pie – rather than the 250,000 EAVS it cost me – BUT – I can hand on heart safely say that I have yet to part with a dime – (don’t tell EA that – they need to make money ) … so I sit at around 150 stock price – with the 600 pie, 30 or so 700 holdings – no 800 – because the ONLY way to do that is to use cash …. still not too bad for an ‘effort only’ player.

      I also TRY to refuse to engage in mindless likings and commets to up the ‘engagement’ – and the my score – if i like – i really do like…. there are a FEW execeptions – I am not stupid enough to say no to 10,000 EAVS to like a couple of posts for a site I would likely never go to – but therein is the rub – the gaming of the game – which is affecting the overall measurement.

      Even the likes of Triberr – which I love – but only recently into – can potentially disappear into the chasm of send my post – i’ll send yours.

      So – to me when i run a mission – and half the dudes run away with doing nothing – so be it – it doesn’t really affect me – though it obviously does you – so the challenge, as per my post – is how to keep all engaged – whatever the level.

      So – I still wonder who else would like to see a split in rankings between the cash dudes and the gamers ? I still wonder about my handicap idea.

      Thanks again for your response – much appreciated.

  7. Currently what is on the table is the question in regards to Pie Upgrades. Where does this help those who can’t play the game because they have a quota on the number of shares they can purchase.

    By having Mutual Funds I see
    This might assist the new players who aren’t getting the high dividend earnings but what will it do for the top 50 players who have reached a dead dead and who have spent money on quick fix upgrades known as more dessert?

    • I personally can’t see what allowing anyone to buy 100, 100 or 100,000 shares does – except allow the whales to buy more and more of the expensive growth stock that in turn increases tier wealth and amplifies the 2 / 3 tier system we have today. BUt I don’t care if they allow it or don’t allow it – it is moot. since all play to the she rules – kind of like F1 racing cars all have to have the same wheels – they’re rules

      so part of the point of the post is that i think they are asking the wrong questions – and should rather be working out 

      how to get more players on board
      how to keep those players
      how to make it more interesting for the big / experienced players

      mutual funds is one of many possible ways to do that 

      ANY player would be allowed to create a fund – EA could introduce min wealth criteria etc etc – so the big players get to act as fund competitors – truly demonstrating how they can manage their portfolios and win more people into their communities

      meanwhile small players who have just joined could easily dip their toes in – ai want to get going = i don’t know what i am doing – but if i bought the Chris Voss Medium Risk fund – that will give be steady growth and eavs – with out me having to think hard – and let me get up to speed in my own time – much as a new investor in the real stock market invests in mutual funds rather than stocks 

      as for the desert question – EA have essentially boxed themselves into a corner – since their system can’t really do what most people want – and so they leave it – or they are going to screw the wales and evangelists

  8. I can also tell you that I presented the concept of fund managers over a year ago and they weren’t too keen on the idea =p

  9. While I don’t see the EA team answering too many ‘why’ questions, I can tell you that the “meat and potatoes” of this post will be addressed in the follow-up post that I’ll release on Monday. I can give you a one word hint tho, ENGAGEMENT!

    • rant

      HA ! … On engagement – somewhere in the mists of time I have :-

      – complained that nobody at EA seems to actually play the game themselves – they would learn a lot if they did – as well as ENGAGING with their customers on their own platform

      – pointed out that they have a community system BURIED inside their own site – and yet on their new dashboards promote FB, Twitter and co – what a waste-observed that they use things like FB to manage customer interaction

      – suggested Get Satisfaction to them at least three times

      – been amazed that there is no single systematic place where requests, bugs etc are captured and measured – GS would do that – but at least – since they like FB so much run an FB group themselves that is managed

      – wondered why there is no easy way for people to engage with each other – easily through their own system- and I better stop now …. there is so much more

      /rant

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