2010-2011 | Six Degrees Games | Flash | Virtual world
Action AllStars is a sports-themed virtual world aimed at kids ages 6 to 11. It originally launched in 2008, and features major league brands such as the NBA, MLB, or the NFL Players Association.
I joined the team as VP Product / Creative to lead the efforts of trying to take the site to the proverbial “next level”. It’s a well-known fact that that subscription-based kids’ products are a notoriously hard nut to crack (in case of AAS this was further compounded by an older-skewing audience and the less mass-appeal sports-theme itself), but perhaps this is why the challenge seemed like a particularly interesting one to tackle.
I launched a number of initiatives targeting both retention and conversion, and maintained close, hand-on involvement with nearly every aspect of the process.
These features ranged from a more friendly, vibrant visual style and interface, new social features (incorporating even some ques and mechanics from Facebook games), more replayable cooperative and competitive content to a new approach to creating promotional materials.
We have also taken a more lean and “agile” and approach to actually developing these features, which resulted in a pretty significant improvement in the development team’s productivity.
While the changes were well received – overall product direction was largely responsible for securing an additional round of funding for the company – looking at the site from a business viability perspective painted a different picture.
Ultimately I had come to believe that focusing on obsessive product iteration at the expense of a number of other, equally important factors (e.g. reaching the right audience, rethinking the business model, embracing the brand-driven nature of the site instead of trying to go head-to-head with experience-driven competitors) was not sufficient to reach the desired results.
At that point I had to tender my resignation as I could no longer claim to have the answers and keep collecting a paycheck in good conscience, but I’m very much rooting for the AAS guys to eventually find the right mixture of “ingredients” to elevate the site to greatness.