Cramming SimCity into a FarmVille-shaped Hole
In the past few days at least two new “city building” social games have been announced: Playdom’s “Social City” and Digital Chocolate’s “Nanotowns”. (The near-simultaneous emergence of these with strikingly similar UIs and gameplay reinforces how small a creative community Bay Area game development still is, if nothing else.) These aren’t the first city-builders to have been put up on Facebook: My City Life is doing well with over 4M MAU to date (and steadily climbing), and My Town is just behind with about 3.2M MAU (others such as Metropolis, EnerCities, and TinyTown are slightly earlier entrants that haven’t fared as well).
The art is a bit higher quality in these latest entries than in some past social games, and there are a few gameplay refinements in each. Still, this doesn’t represent a new generation of social games so much as another time around the same track: first we had x-wars and farming, then restaurants, now city building. Hard to say what will be the next flavor of the month – dungeon-crawling or dungeon-making, maybe (a ‘lite’ take on the venerable Dungeon Keeper?).
The thing that struck me about each of these is how much they are leveraging the gameplay tropes of the Farmville generation (no, it wasn’t the first, just the exemplar of that group): they are still largely single-player with mini-missions, the drive to grab neighbors, “employ” your friends from Facebook, etc. Not surprising, as these publishers believe they (or someone else) has found a set of game mechanics that work, that are familiar to the audience, etc.
But it makes me wonder how long people who have played the same game in the guises of Farmtown, Restaurant City, Farmville, CafeWorld, etc., will joyfully sign up for (and pay for, at least 2-5% of them) another version of the same game. Do these social games have a half-life that is being reduced with each revision of the same gameplay? Or will they prove to be evergreen with some portion of the millions of people still flooding onto social sites like Facebook?
This entry was posted on March 4, 2010 at 8:44 am and is filed under social games. You can subscribe via RSS 2.0 feed to this post's comments. You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.