We look at why the games development community has embraced the latest web craze
Website of the moment Twitter.com is fast finding a place in the hearts of developers.
And not just because it’s fun to track the minutiae of how high profile users like Stephen Fry, Jonathon Ross or Lily Allen live their lives.
While the site has been around since 2006 only now is it registering on retinas. It’s not just being embraced by retailers in every sector – from computing to bicycles – but creatives in the games industry are using it to air views or contact fans. And those that do are reaping the first-mover rewards. These rewards are not yet in cash, but are grabbing an early user base which, in Twitter-speak, is ‘followers’.
Twitter is a conversational social site, demanding users make short postings of just 140 characters via their computers or via mobile phones. Follower lists of friendly Twitter users appear in your feed – and yours in theirs.
Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams of San Francisco podcasting company Odeo. Angel funding investors include Jeff Bezos of Amazon. The California-based site reportedly turned down a $500m all-stock offer from Facebook late last year. Tech industry insiders believe the company – yet to turn a cent – is holding out for a better offers.
Stone told Develop: “Twitter helps people find out what is happening right now whether it's among a group of friends or the whole world.
“As a real-time network of information, Twitter is becoming a relevant tool to more and more people every day.”
There are some famous cases of Twitter aiding businesses. From an independent coffee shop in Houston, Texas which doubled clientele by inviting followers to meet-up at the coffee shop, through to Dell running a site-specific promotion that gave it over $1m in Twitter-trackable sales.
While it has even aided the non-game development community – spawning legions of third-party apps for power-users making money as iPhone Apps sold through iTunes – the real draw is in reaching games players and engaging them in conversation.
Call of Duty creator and developer Infinity Ward is one such company.
The studio’s Robert Bowling runs its twitter.infinityward.com site, which has been courting users for short-form ideas for Modern Warfare 2.
“Twitter puts your players in the studio with you and makes them part of the brainstorming session as it happens. It’s a conversation w/o PR,” he tells Develop, economically sticking to the 140 character limit.
Clearly for developers and businesses, as a way of testing a market concept or pushing out an exclusive, time-sensitive offer, Twitter seems to be quicker than RSS, broader than SMS and more immediate than websites or wikis for all the businesses using it.
It’s also good for chat – or even gossip. Veteran designer David Perry whipped the media into a frenzy by posting details about a UMD-less PSP.
He told us: “Twitter is an amazing tool. Over the coming years consumers will continue to steer the future, we can ignore that fact, or embrace it.”
And it’s fitting that a site forcing users to be economic with language is popular at a time when the games business and global economy is facing frugality.
One expert said told us Twitter is useful for any company conducting marketing in a recession: “Dwindling budgets suddenly make low-cost social media look like the pretty girl at the ball.”