Press ‘X’ to Add a Friend: Gaming as the New Social Space

There is an event going on that you most likely don’t know about – and you probably wouldn’t care about it if you did.

On the popular social streaming site, Twitch.tv, 50,000 gamers are trying to complete a Gameboy video game from 1998. “Twitch Plays Pokémon” is either an insane experiment, or the next evolution in social media. Thanks to some clever programming, someone has modified a virtual version of Pokémon Red to accept the input commands of over 50,000 simultaneous users. This exercise in group gaming has proven that even the simplest tasks can be nearly impossible when mass coordination is required.

It’s also a unique case study showing one potential future for the social media industry. Can you imagine having 50,000 people spending a week staring at your brand? This is gamification on a massive scale. Each of these users is wholly engaged in their activity. Memes and fan communities numbering in the tens of thousands have sprung up overnight. Gamers who weren’t alive when Pokémon Red was released are following the progress as if it was the latest FOX reality show. Unfortunately for the three brands that stand to profit from this phenomenon – Game Freak, Nintendo, and Twitch – only one is actually seeing any gains. Twitch is seeing active user counts (and ad views) that haven’t been matched since the DotA 2 International Tournament last year.
In fact, if Nintendo knew the stream was happening, they’d likely actively fight to have it shut down.

Of course, it’s easy for game and tech companies to fall into these types of social success. We’ve already written about the ties between social media and console gaming (and those are getting even closer all the time). In the near future, however, it isn’t hard to imagine this kind of gamification extending beyond the Sonys (Sonies?) and Microsofts of the world.

Nearly every social media junkie online is writing about the coming social cataclysm, when the “Big Four” networks fall out of favor and the new icons of social are brought to power. Some believe content curation platforms like Twitch are the future; others turn to niche networks like Wiser and Kaboodle.

There’s only one thing we can agree on: Change is coming, and it’s time for big brands to stop relying on Facebook.

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