Maybe we’ve been looking at this all wrong.
Sure, one of Zune’s great strengths was in creating a community, a social. It was a chance for people to connect with friends though music. While that was certainly a great differentiator from other music services, there was something else about Zune that made it stand out above the crowd: the gamification of music listening.
Where Xbox had gamerscore, Zune had playcounts.
Where Xbox has achievements, Zune had listening badges
Where Xbox had leaderboards, Zune had leaderboards
Maybe this is one key thing that Xbox Music could use to stand out above currently available music services. It’s quite common for people to treat their Xbox gamerscore like they would treat their own children. When I was a part of Zune Social, I saw people treat their playcounts and badges the same way. They were earned, they were cherished, they were shared, they brought about competition, they brought people together.
One of the other big advantages of this gamification was that it rewarded people for getting out of their comfort zone. With listening badges, you were rewarded for listening to various artists and albums. You were given something for stepping into a new realm, for trying new music, for diversifying your musical bonds. If you had a Zune Pass, you felt you had a leg up on the competition because that monthly subscription opened up the entire marketplace to you, giving you grand opportunity to earn even more badges and rack up the playcounts.
It wouldn’t be a stretch for Xbox Music to reintroduce this aspect, especially since they are now part of the Xbox fold. Xbox Live is all about community, gamerscore, achievements, getting something for taking that extra step. This all can apply easily to music.
I’m sure right now, Xbox Music is taking a tally of what we’re listening to (and from what devices). If it’s going to have total playcounts, it needs to come from every device we use to listen (Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, Android, Web). It would even be cool if it could give a breakdown of those total plays versus what tuners we used for listening.
This thought already has me excited.
I will say one thing. Zune made it so that a play was counted when you got 20 seconds into a song. I would argue that it should be when you got to 20-30 away from the end of a song (if not having to listen to the entire song). 20 second snippets for song beginning was too easy for people to game, and something should be done in the rule book to combat that as much as possible.
So I look at this and think that by just putting this into place, Xbox Music can immediately step out from the crowd. Beats Audio doesn’t do it. iTunes doesn’t do it. Slacker doesn’t do it. Pandora doesn’t do it.
Xbox Music can do it.
Welcome to the Social. Now, game on!