Even before the term user-generated content became big in web 2.0, it ruled a niche in the computer game industry. Games like The Sims took the concept and ran with it. They were not alone as multiple expansions to popular games were created by users.
Cases in point: Diablo’s Hellfire expansion and Counter Strike (based on Half-Life engine). CS became so big that eventually the company behind Half-Life bought the team that was working on it. (Blizzard are rumored to work on Diablo 3 for Playstation!)
The question about user-generated content is a closely watched one because it paves the way for an engaging experience at reduced costs to the game developer. In a way, this reflects the fascination with reality TV shows. When the cost for developing a game reaches tens of million, developers are looking for ways to cut costs.
BBC recently aired an interview with Will Wright, the creator of The Sims. He praised user-generated content but readily admitted the vast majority of it was junk. Based on the one-percent rule of contribution, I figure that 99% of the users never created anything anyway. According to Will, 95% of the creations were junk.
That’s some pretty dismal statistics. I believe it was Warren Buffet who said, however, that a cigarette butt found on the street doesn’t offer much but when you consider the price, it’s an amazing deal. Same thing with user-generated content: if it costs you nothing, how can you complain about the quality?
P.S. You can view the BBC interview with Will Wright here (requires Real player).