There's a sad, long piece in Inc. today about the rise and fall of Turntable.fm, the super-buzzy music site that everyone was using about six months ago. Things aren't going so well over there! They lost a whole bunch of users about six months ago and a lot of them haven't come back.
What's not really explained is what drove everyone away. I remember Turntable as awesome; I used it almost nonstop for two weeks. I trolled as often as I sincerely participated, usually with this song. I logged hours and hours in those rooms. I got one of those cool hats.
But then I left. I got tired of it.
I don't feel like I'm getting tired of Facebook or Twitter, nor do I think I'll get tired of Rdio or Pandora. These services are defined by what they give me — updates, links, tweets, photos, and music. It's tough to get burned out on content.
Turntable.fm gave me lots of music, but that never felt like why I was there. Listening to music in Turntable.fm was like playing a game. Actually, Turntable was a game: it had points, avatars, ranks, and its own chat system. It demanded all of your attention, all the time, just like a game. It was fun, just like a game.
Thing is, that also means it didn't take long for people to get bored with it. Turntable made one of the most wonderfully passive human experiences into an aggressively, even obnoxiously, active one. They added mechanics to listening, for god's sake, which is only allowed for as long as it's fun. And, like most games, eventually it's not.
Here's the Google Trends chart for Turntable.fm over the last 12 months:
Now here's the chart for Draw Something, the sketching game that got its parent company purchased by Zynga for $200m a couple months ago:
A peak, then a fall. You can almost hear the people in those curves mumbling to themselves, all right, I get it, that was fun. Now I'm going to do something else. You can feel the music fans getting tired of doing all this work. You can feel the people who enjoy actually drawing, or even just playing Pictionary every once in a while real life, getting burned out.
Turntable has lived the life and may die the death of a game, not a music site or a social network. Even their plan to revive the site, called Kiwi, take cues from social games:
Code-named Kiwi—inspiration struck during a New Zealand vacation—it will be something like Pandora, but with playlists based on the recommendations of the user's Turntable friends...
...Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures supported the Kiwi idea—it's similar to the way Zynga, another of his investments, moved away from its live Poker game to Words With Friends and FarmVille, which people can play at their leisure.
Oh, and one more thing about casual games is that people don't really come back to them once they've left. Maybe if there's some huge new feature or level pack or whatever, yeah, a few people will give it another go. But most either wait for the sequel or move on to something else.