Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Star Trek Online -- The Baby Boomer MMORPG?

Here's something actually worth reading from the New York Times: investors are showing interest in online services aimed more at older computer users than 20-somethings.

Some of the key quotes from the NYT article:

Technology investors and entrepreneurs, long obsessed with connecting to teenagers and 20-somethings, are starting a host of new social networking sites aimed at baby boomers and graying computer users. The sites have names like Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Maya’s Mom, Boomj, and Boomertown. They look like Facebook -- with wrinkles.

"Teens are tire kickers -- they hang around, cost you money and then leave," said Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and author of the blog "Infectious Greed." Where Friendster was once the hot spot, Facebook and MySpace now draw the crowds of young people online.

"The older demographic has a bunch of interesting characteristics," Mr. Kedrosky added, "not the least of which is that they hang around."

This prospective and relative stickiness is helping drive a wave of new investment into boomer and older-oriented social networking sites that offer like-minded (and like-aged) individuals discussion and dating forums, photo-sharing, news and commentary, and chatter about diet, fitness and health care.

Social networking has so far focused mainly on businesspeople and young people because they are tech-savvy and are treasured by Madison Avenue. But there are 78 million boomers -- roughly three times the number of teenagers -- and most of them are Internet users who learned computer skills in the workplace. Indeed, the number of Internet users who are older than 55 is roughly the same as those who are aged 18 to 34, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a market research firm. [emphasis mine]

Peter Pezaris, president and chief executive of Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., said he believed that older customers were stickier than younger ones, but said the evidence so far was anecdotal. He said 96 percent of the company’s active users returned each month, a statistic that he said impressed the venture capitalists who considered investing in the site.

Ms. Ayers said that the investors are learning that social networks aimed at older users are a big draw for investors, consumer products and services companies. "Not only do we have a lot more money, we pay a lot more attention to advertisers," she said. The advertisers on Eons include Humana health care insurance, Fidelity Investments and the pharmacy chain CVS.
So what does this have to do with a Star Trek MMORPG?

First, consider that one of the key aspects of a MMORPG is that it is a persistent world -- it shares some of the characteristics of a service.

If you were running a service-driven business, wouldn't you be interested in attracting the more "sticky" customers -- the people who, once they've signed up with a particular service, tend to keep sending their money to that service? (Can you say, "consistent revenue stream?")

Now consider that the people who grew up with the original Star Trek are now the very people in their 40s and 50s who are considered more reliable customers.

So, bearing in mind that not all online service users are gamers, should Star Trek Online's features, which will determine the kinds of people who are attracted to this online game world, be driven in any way by this kind of information about the numbers and "stickiness" of older online service users?