The Role of Fun in Online Success

Rob Hof

The success of World of Warcraft and other online role-playing games has a lot of online businesses salivating about the possibilities of embedding game dynamics into their services. The idea is to keep people coming back and spending hours on a site.

But at the Supernova conference today, Amy Jo Kim of game design services firm Shufflebrain noted that some of the most successful companies online already have done just that. Take eBay: The competitive action of auctions is pretty gamelike, not to mention the feedback score. "eBay is like a game in many ways," she says. Then there's MySpace, which features extreme character customization, another feature of online games, as well as the ability to earn points. Hadn't thought about either of these as especially gamelike, but Kim makes an interesting case. And it sure explains why these are two of the most popular sites on the Web, where people spend way more time than most any other places.