A popular piece of SEO news making the rounds as 2011closes out is the story behind a social networking game called Empire Avenue. Empire Avenue, or EAV as it is casually known, is a game which is based on trading “shares” in each player to amass wealth and climb to the top of the leader boards. While some see the game as more than that and rather a valuable networking tool, it appears that not everyone is sold on this “friendly”, “social game” and see it as more of a breeding ground for more of the same type of behavior that exists in almost any other type of social game.
To be sure, EAV does have some SEO heavy hitters listed on their rolls and quite a few that consider them self heavy hitters because they do well at the game. The premise of the game is that each player earns a score based on their activity on a number of social networks and/or peer endorsed blogs. The more active a person is, the more dividends they can pay to shareholders and the more their stock will be worth. This is how they build their social network empire within the game that is supposed to extend outside the game. In theory it sounds great, but after contacting several players and monitoring recent web activity associated to play, it may not be worth the effort to “play.”
The game itself has a hierarchy which primarily boils down to a popularity contest. Some accept this for what it is and play on – every game has a pecking order after all. The problems arise when players shares are bought and then later sold. While it makes perfect sense to take profit as that is how the real world works, when the commodity is a virtual representation of an actual person, hard feelings arise. In some cases, rather ugly incidents arise and play out on social networks for all to see. In some cases people forget it is a game.
As one player related, he saw a massive Christmas sell-off of his stock because he was much less active as usual choosing to spend time with his kids rather than playing a game. He related that one player sold him off, but dropped a “courtesy note” saying that it was only because he “feared he didn’t take his dividends seriously” and “had a responsibility to shareholders to constantly strive to increase activity – not backslide.” Does that sound like fun?
In another case, a player was alleged to have made inappropriate advances toward at least one female player, two we have easily located with almost no research, which made each female player uncomfortable and led to one leaving the game completely. For people with nothing better to do that have a thick skin, it may be fun. For a business – forget about it! It only takes one wrong move and one player with some pull to start a massive smear campaign comprised of EAV players to sink good PR. While many players would not tolerate or participate in such negativity, there are too many who would if for no other reason kicks – and earning activity points.
The final analysis on the game is still out. If you plan to use it for fun alone, it seems there is little harm in it. If you plan to use it for business – beware. Remember it only takes one misstep to sink a world of good PR. Cleaning up a mess is harder than avoiding it in the first place, and EAV may be that mess to avoid until it is policed better than it is now.