Why enterprise apps vendors should pay attention to World of Warcraft

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy June 22, 2014
An immersive user experience, attention to detail, more money than you can imagine are driving gaming companies. Why don't enterprise app vendors learn from this?

via We Fly Spitfires
The other week I spent a good amount of time talking to someone in the security department of a large telco about gaming and World of Warcraft (WoW) in particular. For obvious reasons I am neither revealing their identity nor that of the company they work for. What I will say is we've been connected both digitally and more recently in real life for some six/seven years. In short, this is a trusted source.

I casually said that from everything I've seen, the gaming and porn industries have consistently been streets ahead of everyone on topics such as usability and security. The same may now be true of popular sports sites like MLB.com and ESPN owned Cricinfo whose mobile app is among the best I've seen. I've often wondered why this might be and as usual, the answer was staring me in the face. Money. Lots of it.

But even the best known games wax and wane. I learned for instance that WoW now has some 7.6 million subscribers each of whom gladly fork over $15 a month. That's on top of the $60 they paid as an entry fee. That's been falling steadily the last couple of years as WoW shows it age.

In its most recent earnings call, Activision Blizzard returned net revenue of $772 million with profits of $293 million. Not shabby for a game that's been around for 10 years. And there are a lot of games like this. Minecraft is another you can start for free and pay later. My entire family of grandchildren are huge Minecraft fans.

Games come and go but the appeal of an original can live long past its sell by date. As one observer put it:

I must confess, I haven’t logged into World of Warcraft for over two years. TWO years. And, it’s not because the game changed much, but I have, and so has the gaming community. We’ve come to expect better things. Yet, I still compare EVERY new MMO game to World of Warcraft in some aspect. My criteria for judging MMO’s has mostly been, “Is this as fun as WoW?” I know I’m not alone in using this criteria.

Elsewhere, I note a commentary on Facebook recent investments and in particular the emergence of mobile App Ads that resonates:

In 18 months, this one advertising product has resulted in 350 million app installations. Facebook does not break out revenue by ad product, but by our estimate that would translate to roughly $1 billion. "By the third day of testing Facebook [App Ads], it was already dominating every mobile-ad source out there," says John Earner, CEO of mobile-game startup Space Ape, one of the first developers to use the ad unit. "By April of 2013, App Ads was the worst-kept secret in the gaming industry." Space Ape's Samurai Siege game pulls in $70,000 a day by spending up to 75% of its marketing budget on App Ads

This got me thinking more about the world of enterprise apps.

Some time ago I postulated that mobile apps priced at $1-5/month could yield revenue north of $2 billion, even if I was 90% inaccurate in my estimates. The higher end number was an astronomical $60 billion which even I find tough to justify. No-one took me up on that idea yet Facebook and the gaming industry are benefiting hugely from inventing the mobile experience to an extent that enterprise vendors must surely eye with envy.

Vendors I have spoken to in the past on this topic tend to smile wryly arguing that enterprise is somehow different because it is about doing serious 'stuff.' Yet the newer breed of vendor seems to have little difficulty in getting widespread adoption. Why? They make life easy and they inject a sense of enjoyment into the application design. In short they create a great user experience that people want to use.

Speaking of DSO and receivables inside a sales rep's Salesforce mobile app is hardly going to get the juices flowing but the potential is there to solve many problems that suck up time and effort and prevent people from getting done what they really need or which lead them to make bad business. Toss in a soupcon of UX creativity and who knows what might happen?

Then there are the security aspects. That element alone is worthy of consideration because if enterprise vendors were to take a leaf out of the gaming companies' books, they'd quickly learn that hard won trust is gold. The SaaS players have already demonstrated how this can be overcome but that's only a beginning. There are still vast swathes of business that have yet to be convinced.

I foresee a time in the not too distant future where the vendors who move to solve the ongoing UX issue and can grasp the concept of $1-5 apps will be winners. Until then. I guess we all have to suck up the ongoing mess that many vendors present to their users.

Endnote - Blizzcon is the annual get together for WoW, Diablo, Starcraft and other gaming enthusiasts. Tickets go on sale on two dates only, six months ahead of the event itself. They are sold out within minutes. How many app vendor events go like that? None.

Images via We Fly Spitfires.

Post updated for actual results from Activision Blizzard, authors of WoW. ht Gary Turner.

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