August 22, 2014

Twitter – Please Avoid Star Wars Galaxies Fate

What happened to significance of “Sticking to Your Core Competency?”

That’s always been a fundamental principle of successful business. For example, I’ve always admired how the LePeep restaurant chain (@LePeepB2B) embraces that principle. Serving only breakfast & brunch, their hours are typically 6:30 AM to 2:00 PM, even in very high rent locations. This enables them to have only one shift of workers and focusing on delivering a GREAT breakfast & brunch experience.

But, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, how does this relate to Twitter?”

A recent article by Jim Edwards (@Jim_Edwards) inspired this blog post. His post “This is the Single Biggest Reason Twitter Can’t Keep New Users” argues that Twitter is struggling because they ONLY have 241 million users. (emphasis mine) Wow! How many other brands or services would love to be able to tout that as a positive? Shouting to the world, We have over 240 million users!

#WhatIf, instead of worrying about “How do we gain more users?” they instead focused on “How can we best serve those we already have?” As illustrated in the example below, the former may lead to dumbing down the platform and failure, while the latter provides a proven formula for success.

Following the Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) Comparison

How can you not succeed when given opportunity to leverage the Star Wars franchise? Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) (@SonyOnline) not only failed, they failed spectacularly! – the leading site covering Massive Multiplayer Online Games – called SWG the “Worst MMO Failure of All Time.”

As originally launched, their game appealed to several niche audiences: role players, people that enjoyed “sandbox” (non-linear) experiences, players that wanted to build their own immersive game environment, etc. SWG not only did all that, it did it better than any other game ever had. But SWG followed the “We only have XX users…” approach, and wanted more. So they did a couple massive overhauls of the game, called Combat Upgrade & New Game Experience, as documented in “A Star Wars Galaxies history lesson…

The net result? The SWG servers were shut down on December 15, 2011. If SOE had taken the “How do we best serve the customers we have?” approach, they could very well still be in business. People loved SWG so much many of them banded together to reverse engineer the server code and form SWGEmu (@SWGEmu) with thousands still playing every day.

Bringing it Back to Twitter

Recall this entire post was inspired by Jim Edwards’ piece. While disagreeing with his overall analysis and conclusion, he provides several very salient points:

  • “Twitter is work. It’s useful, but it requires a lot of effort.”
  • “Either percent of people complained about the sorting and filtering of Tweets.”
  • “…another 62% complained..setup & controls…needed a better explanation.”

Where did the last two points come from? A survey of 270 Twitter users to find out they they didn’t like the app (*). (It’s a service, not an App, but let’s not mince words.)

Say what? Wow, they HAVE over 240 million users. Have they done a survey of current users to find out WHY they like & use the service?

This clearly suggests that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is on a path to “redesign the entire Twitter experience” in order to fulfill his objective of “not [being] satisfied until [they] reach every connected user on the planet.” Prior to doing so I strongly urge him to study the failed Star Wars Galaxies model, and other business failures resulting from such attempts.

One need not look hard to find countless examples of failures when someone tried to be “everything to everyone” and ended up being “nothing to no one.”

Questions? Comments? What are your thoughts?

Please comment below, via my Twitter (@subbob) or on my Meddle page. I’m very interested in supporting points, constructive feedback and always willing to consider alternative, even contrary, points of view.

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Sticking to Your Core Competency, Brian Manning (@bcmanning), 26 August 2013

Star Wars Galaxies, Wikipedia article Calls SWG “Worst MMO Failure of All Time”,



  1. Very interesting write up.

    I’ve never been a twitter fan. Is it useful? Out of 240 million (real?) users sure… a few people are going to get some use out of it. But is it providing anything new/inovateive that isn’t out there already? My answer is absolutely no.

    Twitter is nothing more than a vehicle to cash in on celebrity, in my humble opinion. The same number of ‘normal’ people that find it useful is probably less than the number of famous names getting paid by Gatorade to tweet OMFG this Grape Super Frost flavor is kill1n it!

    I also admit that I must be wrong, the stock is doing well, the DO have a lot of members… and I thought twice in it’s existence “this is the end for twitter.” Apparently it’s like herpes… a lot of people got it, and its never going away.

    Follow me on twitter @nickschale lol.

    **Great GREAT comparison to SWG.

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