Archive for the ‘social games’ category

A History of Social Games

May 26, 2010

Over on his blog, Jon Radoff provides a terrific map Jon Radoff's History of Social Games - http://radoff.comof the history of social games.  Really worth looking over.  He starts with ancient times and wends his way down to the present (leaving out many games, even some seminal ones, but still catching the main currents).

What I’m most interested in is where we are now and (of course) what’s next.  Jon’s brief taxonomy separates current social games into Strategy, Sim, RPG, and “experiences” (music, pets, etc.). Not a bad set of categories.   I’m particularly interested in the potentially convergent growth of RPGs (Mafia Wars, etc.) and Sim games (Farmtown, Social City), and whether both can interweave well with some kinds of strategy games.  Are these kinds of games sufficiently social that as they evolve they can support hybrids and cross-overs, or are we more or less stuck with these genres?

Advertisements

Ugly Viral vs. Pretty Viral

April 16, 2010

Recently I encountered yet another app on Facebook that required me to “become a fan” and install the app before I could even see what it was, much less whether I liked it enough to become a real fan.

Sorry, no.

That’s not viral except in the meanest, ugliest sense.  Like Ebola.  I saw a friend of mine — a trusted source of information — who ostensibly was a fan of this app.  So I clicked on it.  But when I saw the app’s reputation-extortion scheme, I surfed away, and wondered a bit about my friend.

This is only the most recent smarmy way that app developers have tried to extract virality from their users.  There are good ways and not so good ways to do this.  Why do developers persist in using techniques that fall into the doing “every horrible thing” category?  Isn’t there a better way to go about acquiring customers by social means?

(more…)

The (Psychological) Development of “Social” Games

April 1, 2010

At GDC this year I saw a slide in a talk that referenced different developmental styles of play (my notes are sadly unclear as to whose talk this was — if you know, please let me know!).  This has had me thinking about the developmental stages of social games.  Not the software development, but the evolution of the styles of gameplay we put in them as we learn more about creating them.

It should be clear to anyone watching this space that game developers are learning as fast as they can about how to create new gameplay in online (putatively) social games; we know a lot less than we still don’t know.  As such, it’s very interesting to me how closely the emergence of types of gameplay in popular social games is following the path of individual psychological development of play — and what this may tell us about the future of the design of social games.   (more…)

Better Revenue Forecasting for Social Games

March 29, 2010

One of the great things about social games is that there continues to be a wealth of information available that makes their business case much less uncertain than for other kinds of games.

As one example, Lisa Marino, Chief Revenue Officer at RockYou, gave a presentation at GDC on Monetizing Social Games that’s well worth reviewing.  Lots of good stuff in her slides, and in particular she provides some fascinating data on daily revenue per DAU.  This is a much more precise set of numbers than monthly revenue per MAU.  Measuring per DAU allows for better accounting of the initial fast rise of most successful social games (when DAU can be a very high percentage of MAU), ongoing engagement (how often your players return), churn, long-term drop-off, etc.   (more…)

One More: Integrating Design, Virality, and Monetization

March 25, 2010

In a gracious reference to one of my posts, Aki Jarvinen makes a great point about viral design: it can’t be tacked on at the end of creating the gameplay.  Like monetization (my point earlier), virality has to be integrated in, or else what you end up with is a Frankenstein’s monster kind of game, where the discrete parts do not play well together. (more…)

One Winner or Many? How the Business of Social Games May Be Differently Different

March 25, 2010

In a recent Technorati post, “The End of Social Gaming As We Know it?” there’s an interesting quote from Keny Yager at MorrisAnderson: “I think we are still in the wild, wild west of the social media experiment. There is going to be one winner and 100 losers.”

I hear this kind of thing a lot.  The first part is certainly true; the games industry is in a period of fast expansion and evolution — breathtaking even for an industry used to rapid change.  The second part seems to be based on a lot of industry history, where there’s typically been a king-of-the-hill reality: for those games depending on retail sales, the top few make all the money, and the rest go begging.  In MMOs, there was a broader base – at least prior to World of Warcraft, back when crossing the 100K player gap meant you were successful.

But there’s good evidence that social games (as a broad category) are different right down to the structure of the marketplace – they’re not just different as games, they’re differently different, requiring a new way of looking at design, development, production, funding, customer relationships, and overall commercial success.  If you look at social games developers from the point of view of a standard (venture) investor, then there are likely to be one or a few big winners – companies with billion dollar valuations.  But that misses most of the picture, like the proverbial iceberg. (more…)

In Praise of Ethics and Money, Part 2

March 24, 2010

Here’s my thesis: when you allow game design to be separate from monetization design, you divorce design from creative control – and the game experience inevitably suffers.  Oddly, this separation has been the case for so long in our industry that (outside of the scruffy indie crowd) we’ve all sort of accepted this as just the way things are.  Going the other route, making monetization an integral part of design, can lead to scamming your players – or to experiences they see as inherently valuable.

And unfortunately, this separation has led to a sort of ivory-tower entitlement on the part of many designers: “let me design the perfect immersive experience, and I’ll let the mercenaries deal with extracting money from people so we can get paid.”  I believe this is the source of a lot of the squawking now about ethics and monetization – yes, we should behave ethically in all our dealings; but designing gameplay to support monetization is not inherently unethical!  And even more unfortunately, I think it’s led us to largely forget or ignore the possibility of creating experiences for which unethical scamming is entirely unnecessary.

(more…)