Amazon Gets Into MMO-Powered Crowdsourcing

www.questville.comCall it World of Worldcraft. Amazon’s Questville, set for a late 2008 release, is a spinoff of the company’s Askville, a user-driven crowdsourcing question-and-answer service on topics ranging from everything from cars to electronics to relationships to science.

With Askville, users who provide helpful answers are given virtual gold as they rise in status (called “levels”) — two metrics familiar to anyone who’s ever played massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. Questville will take this to its logical conclusion, offering adventures and Quest Coins to helpful Askville users. With a game like WoW, you become more powerful by killing monsters and completing fantastic tasks; with Questville, you’ll get virtual rewards for providing helpful real-world information.

Though it may seem strange that Amazon is adding role-playing game elements to its services, it’s really the most prominent example of an idea that’s been bubbling for years, put forward by people like venture capitalist/Internet guru Joi Ito: Harness all that time, ability and creativity that users are investing in online fantasy worlds and leverage it for real-world, practical uses. Indeed, if Questville is successful, it could prompt other Internet companies to add MMO-style features to their own systems.

Hat tip to Alice Taylor of the essential game blog Wonderland, who notes: “We humans are such reward-oriented critters, aren’t we!” Yes, and big Internet companies are beginning to learn what game developers have known for decades.

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