I’ve KW, but I’m also Supernovan , a level 80 restoration shaman. Like over 11 million people worldwide, I play an MMOG called World of Warcraft, or WoW. Believe it or not, I’m going to use it to explain some of my research interests.
I study the legal/policy/business issues of the networked world. That means studying the Internet itself, but also how people use networked technologies. Today, there are 2 billion Internet users in the world, and five billion mobile phone subscribers. Including this guy, President Obama.
I had the good fortune to serve on President Obama’s Transition Team, helping to put together the new Administration in Washington. Some people found my Warcraft habit a bit… interesting. But honestly, you should see what some of my colleagues do in their spare time.
I’m sure you’re thinking, it’s wonderful our faculty have such fascinating interests. Well, if not, I’m going to try to convince you that WoW and games are worth studying, and actually have some connection to what I do here at Wharton.
Think of Warcraft not as a game, but as a simulation engine. Tens of thousands of real people interacting in a virtual environment. Epidemiologists have studied WoW to understand how diseases spread, and economists have studied the virtual marketplaces in WoW and other games.
It’s also a serious business phenomenon.WoW generates $1.2 billion in annual revenue. It brings in more money in North America than Avatar did… every year. Games as a whole exceed Hollywood box office revenues. They will be the largest entertainment medium of the 21st century.
That’s just the money to the game developer. Roughly 400,000 people in China make their living playing WoW to generate virtual gold that gets sold for real dollars to players in other countries. Outside of WoW, virtual good are becoming a huge market, with Zynga, the US market leader, on track to generate over $500 million in revenue this year.
OK, let’s talk specifically about my research. Here’s a recent list of major tech trends from Ron Conway, the top angel investor in Silicon Valley. WoW illustrates all of them. Lets take a look at some highlights.
Social networks are all the rage on the Internet today.WoW is a social game. Here’s a snapshot of my guild. We interact through text chat, voice chat, Google groups, and other mechanisms. The social dimension is central to the richness of the game.
Tosucceed in a Warcraft raid, you need to process large amounts of information rapidly, so the experience is all about real-time data flows and analytics. And you have to admit, doesn’t this look like more fun than regressions and linear programming?
Some of you might find the interface reminds you of ones you saw on Wall Street. After all, what’s finance other than a great big game?
Mobile and location based services are transforming the Internet. Not surprisingly, we’re seeing the games go mobile, and location-based services like Foursquare are making activity in the physical world into a game.
An important area in my research is looking at how open platforms foster innovation. There are thousands of add-ons, blogs, and user-generated websites based around WoW, magnifying the value of the game.
Here’s what WoW actually looks like – it’s a cloud computing data center. I testified before Congress last week about privacy issues around cloud computing. It raises a huge set of legal and business issues.
The growth of those clouds, along with the explosion in online interactive media such as games and video, is changing the nature of Internet traffic. The Web is no longer the dominant form of online content.
That’s one reason many are concerned that the openness of the Web will give way to proprietary toll roads controlled by powerful gatekeepers. In my work I’ve developed alternatives models for network neutrality based on interconnection rather than non-discrimination. IF you think I can explain that in 15 seconds your wrong,
The real issue is who makes the rules. Warcraft is a virtual environment controlled by the game developer, but for the networks as a whole, we need to empower the FCC to evaluate market behavior and protect the open Internet.
One reason we need an effective regulator is to deal with unpredictable situations. For example, this dragon isn’t supposed to be there. A guild figured out how to pull it from a faraway dungeon and deposit it in the capital city of the opposing faction, where it killed everyone in sight.
Now of course, that’s silly. But if the Internet can go from a way to put coffeepots on webcams to a place to collect cat pictures to the platform for billions of dollars of economic activity and a major influence on social phenomena like the Iranian elections, we shouldn’t write things off just because they seem silly at first.
At the end of the day, we all need to keep in mind what’s important, celebrate creativity, and prepare for the increasingly digital, networked world we’re living in. Thanks.,