I've been following Adam Martin's commentary over at his blog T-Machine for a long time. He covered the Virtual Goods Summit for Free to Play and his insights are awesome. Unadulterated, opinionated goodness. His posts came a week after the initial burst of coverage, so if you missed them, here they are.
Virtual Goods and Social Networks
Making Virtual Economies Work
Branded and User-Generated Virtual Goods
Here's some choice quotes from the coverage (bolding by me):
Outspark - Susan Choe
At the end of the day the gameplay will keep some of the users, but not all of them. Half the gamers in our ecosystem come because of social interactions; the gameplay is good, but really the events and social activities is what gets them to come back, even in monster-killing games.
Meez - Sean Ryan
we start with the holiday theme. Then look at what the advertisers want to see. Then we look at the upcoming features, and make sure we have compelling items there. A lot of our prod dev driven by trends/fads in the userbase - pop culture influences etc.
Meez - Sean Ryan - what is a VG? We all talk about it like they’re just clothes, but that’s just one third. Another third is world-features (can I levitate, can I glow like a lightbulb), and final third is privileges, access - “can I sit in a special seat in a public space?” etc. [Adam Martin - think this is the future - VGs that open up new activities, as opposed to merely being about status etc.]I agree with Sean and Adam. When we designed our virtual goods economy at Tenuki, it was based on Legend of Zelda, i.e. acquiring items that unlocked abilities that opened new areas of the world or new functionality. Players could customize those special items, so functional was tied to decorative. (We had the problem of trying to innovate everything we touched - don't make that mistake. Honestly though, basing all our game design decisions on Nintendo games is probably the smartest thing we could have done.)