Game Development Reference
Interview with Janus Anderson: Gaming and the
migrate to a new social network. Admittedly, I was a Friendster user, then
a MySpace user, now a Facebook user. I migrated twice to new social net-
works, and I found it a pain in the ass. But it would take something clearly
superior, and although I like the Google Circles feature, it's not enough to
make me want to move. Now if Google had a much better interface …
They could definitely become a player, though, because they can push
a request indicator to any Google service people use, and people get the
message that their friends are doing stuff. That could eventually change
the tide for them, but I think it's going to take a while.
Q: Do you have any advice for game designers coming from a traditional
space who want to enter the social games sector?
A: Lots of advice. Where to begin? I've seen a lot of friends come and
dance around in the space. It's full of trials and tribulations, for sure. First,
I think you really need to understand what makes the social graph and the
viral channels special. And that's something that Zynga has a lot of prac-
tice with, and has built a whole culture around. They spend an inordinate
amount of their time optimizing and maximizing the free customers that
you can get on Facebook. It's definitely nothing like in the heyday when
you could acquire those customers for free, because Facebook has ratch-
eted down those viral channels. Still, I think the fundamental difference
between products Zynga launches and products competitors launch is that
Zynga builds their products around core viral activities, so that the player
creates virals in such a way that it feels natural to the game. And in a lot of
ways it's even rewarding for the player to do it.
Q: An example would be nominating someone to serve as your Chief of
Staff in Empires & Allies?
A: Exactly. That's fun; it's interesting! People feel pleased that their friend
asked them to be Chief of Staff. That core viral loop is both social and
viral, and doesn't feel tacked on. A lot of competitors have very slick
experiences, but they aren't really thinking about the virals. They've
tacked on some bubblegum viral stuff after the fact. And you can tell.
Definitely if you are getting into the space, play your competitors
games and write down “What makes this game social?” “What makes
this game viral?” and try to integrate that stuff deeply into your design.
Don't just tack it on.