Expectations and Entertainment

Posted by on Jul 13, 2013 in Featured, Newsletter


Everything in software hasn’t changed over the last half decade, but a lot of things that matter have.

Before the app came to dominate the world of software, a developers greatest challenge was convincing the gatekeepers that their product deserved to be in the marketplace. There were a series of people who decided what was going to be on the store shelf (and where it was going to be). If you couldn’t convince people that you fit into the business model, you never got your shot.

The app, however, exists in a world where the shelves are infinite, and everyone has access. Now the developers greatest challenge isn’t being heard by the people in charge, it’s being heard above the howling of the mob to reach your audience. How are you going to get their attention?

At the dawn of the invasion of social media and smartphones, most people had extra time, and carving out a few hours from the average of 5 per day people view television was relatively easy. With a little bit of focus, a lot of work, and some clever marketing, you could grab a slice of people’s time and attention for something fun, new, or useful.

Building an audience was a challenge on a browser. Getting a critical mass to engage with your app on a smartphone is a much tougher proposition. The marketplace is fierce, and every consumer with the slightest bit of savvy has their inbox stuffed with unanswered emails, their phone loaded with apps (many of them untouched), and a Netflix Queue loaded with films that they’ll never have time to watch.

It isn’t just the consumers, of course. A moment’s hesitation in an old-school business model unleashes a swarm of disruption that has changed the way we access everything from taxis and apartments to the keyboards on our smartphones.

With consumers drowning in new ways to spend their time, how do you create the entertainment activity that feels like a lifesaver? How can you create someone’s next new want when their brain is already overloaded with everything they need to do next?

For films, books, and other classic media at least the value proposition is understood: Entertainment needs to be, at least on some level, relaxing and engaging. When someone cracks open a novel, or starts playing a movie, they have a set of expectations born from decades of crafting. It’s an escape. And if it goes beyond those simple expectations to provide even the tiniest moment of enlightenment, even better.

Creating engaging interactive entertainment is a tough job—you not only tell the player what it is they are supposed to do, you have to explain to them why it’s worth their time to do it again, and you need do it in a way that makes it clear that it’s more about play than work.

Unlike linear media, your expectations of how you experience that content may not translate from one experience to the next. Every one has its own conditions, and rhythms.

Core gamers accept that they’re signing up to climb that hill (although the differences between genres are getting more and more subtle as the budgets continue to grow).

Casual and mobile gamers need to be seduced every single time. A great idea (and the art to match) may get them to download, but to bring them back you need to have a spectacular idea, and a dazzling trail of mental gumdrops to convince them to replay or purchase.

It takes the perfect trap to allow them let them just let go…

Image Credit: Thomas Guignard

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