A year ago, I wrote a scathing review of Empire Avenue, the online marketing and influence evaluation tool, and virtual stock market game. Shortly after the article, I stopped using the service. It became time consuming, and provided too little return for the effort.
Over the last 30 days, I returned to Empire Avenue. I wanted to see what changed. Had things gotten better, or worse? Should a marketer invest valuable time, energy, and/or money into Empire Avenue? Individual answers will be different based on why you are “playing,” but these are my opinions.
Lets take a look at the issues that most bothered me a year ago.
The Dual Currency
Empire Avenue had Eaves as their original currency. They are used for buying and selling shares, dividends, missions, and game upgrades.
Then was created a secondary currency called Vees. This currency was a bit different. At the time, it could not be used to buy shares or upgrades, but could be used as mission incentives, redeemed for prizes (like an Amazon card) or services/products in the “People’s Market” being sold by other players.
My criticism of the Vees was that their use was too limited. One could not use Vees to buy Eaves, or Eaves to buy Vees, despite that Vees could have be said to have a Eaves value.
I am happy to see that things have changed. A player can now use Vees to buy Eaves, and game upgrades. However, the exchange value is much lower than the market value that I calculated last year. I had determined 1 Vee was worth roughly 347 Eaves. The current best exchange equates to 1 Vee being only 300 Eaves.
Despite this change, Vees still are only being used by a few players. Vee missions are very few and far between. Ultimately, the Dual Currency idea was ill conceived, motivated for the purpose of generating cash for Empire Avenue rather than adding to game play.
Over-reliance on the “Leaders Community”
The Leaders Community program was devised also to raise funds. It looks like they finally reached the limit placed on total number of Leaders Packages they had, but at one time a person could spend $100 to become a member. They got a fancy badge on their profile, better dividends paid, and some “free” game upgrades.
The big problem was the belief that these “Leaders” were actually leaders deserving of a greater voice. I don’t know how much influence they currently have, but the “Leaders Community” (a private group) is still the #1 most active group on Empire Avenue.
This leads me to believe they still are having a significant influence, just for a one time payment for the title. Not all Leaders are bad, but I have seen some really bad players/marketers as “Leaders.” The title, prestige, and influence needs to go away.
Mission Thieves, what Mission Thieves?
The issue of how Empire Avenue handled Mission Thieves was a problem for me as well. Missions could no longer ask for engagement (likes, retweets, likes, or comments), and a mission was considered completed just by clicking the mission link.
The theory behind this was if a mission was to view good content, then people will automatically engage with it. In reality, what they did was make steeling legal within the game.
Every player had the opportunity (and still does) to preview the content before accepting the mission. If you want to say good content will get the engagement, then players should have the responsibility of previewing to see if they want to engage.
This is still a big problem. One of many examples, since my return, was a person who accepted a mission to this blog, and provided no engagement. I looked at his profile, and he had no attached networks. What the heck is he doing then? My theory was that he was collecting Eaves to then use in an Investment Mission to boost his real profile’s share price.
Why would Empire Avenue allow a player to complete missions when they don’t have any connected networks? How about the scenario of completing a Twitter mission, but not having a Twitter account connected? Their whole theory of a person engaging good content goes out the window.
What I wrote about a year ago was about a time I tweeted the names of my “Top Conversations” for the week, as per Empire Avenue. An offended person, probably thinking I was spamming her, replied that she had no idea who I was. I used Twitters advance search, and found not one exchange between the two of us. Where was Empire Avenue pulling the data from that said we had a Twitter conversation with this person?
There were other examples as well. If I posted more on a certain network, the score they gave me went up even if there was no engagement, If engagement went up, the score would stay flat or even go down. It looked as though Empire Avenue was rewarding those who were completely automated, and flooding their feeds, over those that had real engagement and interaction.
This time around, I noticed that my main networks have scores that have been continually going up. My individual share price continued to climb the whole year I was away, but then really started to soar once I came back in earnest. It does look like they improved their algorithms, but I am not 100% certain.
What seems to have happened, over the past year, is that Empire Avenue has spent some time and energy trying to get bad decisions turned into good outcomes. However…
- The dual currency system is a failure.
- The Leadership Community idea is a flop.
- Missions have very limited worth. (However, very simple Twitter and Facebook missions can be explosive.)
- As an evaluation tool, there are better free solutions out there.
- Gameplay, like most online games, is rigged heavily in favor of those spending money, which devalues it as an actual Social Media tool.
Empire Avenue has slowed their trek into obsolescence, but they are still on the path. They need to start pruning, evaluate what is working and what is not. It is time to put an end to things like Vees and the “Leadership Community.”
Will Empire Avenue disappear as a result of these shortcomings? Probably not. Keep in mind, even MySpace continues to exist. However, I expect fewer and fewer legitimate players and marketers will participate.