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Why Classmates.com Needs a Game Designer

January 23, 2009

Some fundamental design topics/lessons:

  • Is the reward worth the effort/cost to get it?
  • Is there a saddle point, a cheat or a way around the designer’s potential strategies?
  • Is information withheld and then dangled like a limp carrot due to #1 and #2
  • Has a competing game or two turned a once innovation into a present day expectation?

So, think about those questions as I relate to you an email I received today:

Brenda, you have 12 signatures in your guestbook.

Want to find out who’s thinking of you? Upgrade to a Gold membership to see everyone who signs your guestbook.

No, Classmates.com. No! Your design is flawed, and I suspect your days are numbered. If only you had a game designer. It’s about fulfillment of fantasy not frustration of desire. It’s about providing information, and charging me for something I perceive as valuable. Better yet, find advertisers who find the presence of all these people valuable and just let the player in.

See Classmates, I’m on Facebook where these contacts can actually contact me, and we can reconnect without your $2.50 per month fee. In fact, we can do everything your site does and way, way more. Have you looked at Facebook’s features, Classmates? You’re advertising horse when there’s a guy with a BMW waiting to give it away.

Classmates, in your attempt to lure me, you even blurred out the names of these 12 contacts. From a design perspective, you know, I may be more inclined to pony up if I knew who these blurs belonged to. Right now, I assume it’s 12 people who won’t migrate to Facebook. However, I’ve found a work around for that a while ago: I left a handy note on my profile telling people to find me on Facebook where it’s all free, gloriously free. The end result? The people who really want to get in contact with me do, and the rest just sign my Classmates page. Right now, you have accidentally provided me with an optimal state and a free form of screening. I like it just as it is. Why would I want to pay and ruin that?

There’s more. You are charging for a minor feature others are already giving away (Linked In and Facebook). You are withholding names (names I haven’t thought of in years, probably) and banking on my curiosity and, by default, my wallet to get that information from you.  What you’re selling, this “micro transaction”, doesn’t have the appropriate bang for the buck, though, particularly when you have left me an optimal and free workaround.

So, no Classmates.com. No.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kroms permalink
    January 23, 2009 2:47 pm

    They don’t really need a Game Designer I guess, just a better business plan.

  2. January 23, 2009 3:23 pm

    in that context, we refer to game designers as business strategists, but it is the same thing.

  3. January 24, 2009 12:28 pm

    I’ve been saying this about a lot of stuff lately, that every institution imaginable needs some game designers on board. So I guess add Classmates.com to the list of government, investment firms, and a bunch of other websites that “just don’t get it.”

    The worst part is that when they tell you that people have contacted you, and they don’t tell you whom, well, then, they might as well be lying. Imagine if a game came out, promised features, but you couldn’t see the features list until you bought the game. Or you couldn’t see the cast list for a movie until you bought a ticket.

    The question I have, though, is does Classmates.com have ANY features worth paying for? Or is it, as you said, a horse racing a BMW that’s still going after the BMW has already won and lapped it a hundred times?

  4. Michael Read permalink
    January 25, 2009 11:18 pm

    Oh Brenda! You took the words right out of my fingertips in regards to classmates.com. I had been getting so many damn mails over the last few months from them that I completely deleted my account.

    I wholeheartedly agree – They need a game designer or at least someone with the right mindset. This is a game they are obviously losing quite badly.

  5. January 26, 2009 7:30 am

    While you’re entirely completely utterly correct, it’s even worse than that. Classmates has been outed as falsely claiming there are people who want to contact you. So you pay your money and get nothing. How’s that for frustration?

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