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A game to test the power of social

June 7, 2012

For months everyone has been talking about whether or not social has real power- the issue has been discussed and debated back and forth.

It’s taken someone in the world of gaming to put social to the test by coming up with an ingenious idea to test its power.

Peter Molyneux is one of the mavericks of the gaming world- something of a veteran who’s been through the wars at Microsoft and beyond. Now he’s free of his corporate constraints he’s set up a new company to explore new possibilities in the world of games.

His first effort from his new company, 22Cans, was described by the New Scientist as follows:

“The first experiment, “Curiosity”, puts players in a virtual room containing a single black cube. Players tap away at the cube, causing it to fracture and shed tiny layers from the surface. Other fractures also appear because everyone playing the game is tapping away at the same black cube.

After an undivulged, large number of taps, the cube will open, revealing something “truly amazing, absolutely unique”, says Molyneux. The twist is that only the player who performs the final tap will get to see inside the cube, and 22Cans will study how news of the revelation spreads. “We will rely entirely on social media,” explains Molyneux. “How will this person prove it? That in itself becomes a fascinating aspect of this experiment.”

Before the cube opens, a second phase of the experiment will be launched. Players will then be able to purchase one of a limited number of chisels to amplify their tapping strength. These range from a iron chisel, costing 59 pence, that is 10 times more powerful than just tapping alone, to a diamond chisel that is 100,000 times as powerful. Again, there is a twist: Molyneux will only sell one diamond chisel – and it will cost £50,000. “It’s an insane amount of money,” he admits, but the aim is to see whether pure curiosity will drive one player, or a syndicate of players assembled through social media, to buy the chisel. “This is not a money-making exercise; it is a test about the psychology of monetisation.”

While the game might not determine the future of social media, it might determine the future of social media marketing.

Clearly, the ability to drive interest in the game will depend on how much perceived cache it can generate, but the idea of the winner having to get the word out is also a really fascinating dimension.

We’ve seen Zynga do this kind of thing, but not at this level and at this scale, so the challenge for 22Cans is all about how social conversation and marketing can impact the psychology of monetization.

Let’s see what they can do and who they get to help them.

 

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