Game Development Reference
Interview with Ryan Cleven: Social Platforms—cont'd
How many social networks is a person touching in a day that have
real impact on their lives? Probably two or three, tops. That could
increase, but it would also increase fragmentation and the value of each
of those networks would go down. There is probably a constant you
could figure out.
Q: Three years ago, you told me, “The console war is over, and Apple has
just won it. But Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo don't know it yet.” Do you
think Apple or Android have created a real social network yet for their
A: No. But they can. It is within their grasp. But right now, what is the
primary social network on the iPhone? There are a few of them, like
Game Center, which is built in to the iPhone, plus some third-party ones.
Any current Apple proprietary social network doesn't have the impact on
people's lives that other social networks do. Xbox Live, by comparison,
is integrated into the actual dashboard experience of the console. Game
Center is a tangential experience inside the phone. It doesn't surface your
identity to the topline dashboard. It doesn't broadcast changes at the
dash level. It doesn't have any kind of “toasts” or interrupts or anything
that makes it part of your daily experience. I think that Apple has really
dropped the ball there. So far.
Q: So when I think about the platform that knows the most about the
people I interact with on an intimate level, it's clearly my phone. So why
isn't anyone building games that make use of that information?
A: That information isn't easy to get access to, and there are probably
privacy laws involved. Who you are phoning or text messaging isn't cap-
tured by anyone but Apple, and they aren't surfacing that to app develop-
ers. If they did actually have a strong social network substrate that could
track all the messaging and make use of that, there would be a ton of
stuff there—a rich social graph. The question is, how would virality then
work on the device? Would you get a push from someone else to say,
“Install this app?” That would be really interesting. The lack of invites, or
recommendations, or gifting, is a glaring hole in the platform.
One of the key things about social games is that they establish relation-
ships. People often think that games have to be multiplayer to be social,
but they don't. Just the act of comparing my play to yours makes it social.
It's a new type of relationship. My mother-in-law can come say, “I'm