Is it Time to Get Emotional Over Software?

“Welcome. You’ve Got Mail!â€�

When Gmail first launched, it was superior to AOL email in every way but one. I ultimately converted to Gmail because of its superior functionality: I’d never need to delete another email and I could view threaded conversations in a much more intuitive manner. Still, as lame as it sounds, I really missed that cheerful “Welcome!â€� I had grown so accustomed to with AOL.

This afternoon on the subway I watched a fabulous TED talk by game designer David Perry called “Will videogames become better than life?â€� [watch the video below]. One of Perry’s opening questions is: Can a video game make you cry? The answer for many is, yes.

The emotional connection between gamers and their games is well documented and has fueled the outstanding success and growth of gaming industry. How successful? Well, it puts web 2.0 to shame:

Retail sales in the PC game software industry reached $911 million in 2007, bringing the total console, portable and PC game industry to $18.8 billion, a 40 percent increase over the $13.5 billion generated in 2006. –Source

U.S. online video game subscriptions are generating $1 billion a year in subscription revenue –VentureBeat

The average MMOG game costs $50 to buy and subsequently charges $10/month. What software product(s) do you know that can command similar revenues? Clearly there is something going on with games that transcend simply graphics and entertainment.

Despite this, rarely do you hear a startup talk about ways it is working to establish an “emotional connectionâ€� between its product and users. People talk about fostering community, and yet, people freely jump between various soc nets demonstrating little loyalty. The focus of most startups remains on functionality, price point, and network effects. Too often, people completey ignore interface altogether, let alone make it the primary focus. Color palettes aren’t even the tip of the iceberg and yet that’s where most interface innovation ends. Personally, I believe web software is missing out in a big way. It will be interesting to see how a new generation of web products can better take advantage of this opportunity and how this comes to impact the ability to drive revenue, retain community and grow a product virally.

I know it’s something I’m thinking about regularly.


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