Game Development Reference
Interview with Ryan Cleven: Social Platforms—cont'd
better than you in CityVille .” Or, “Do you need a pink pony? I'll send
you one.” That she can speak to those game elements with me, and
then act on them in some way, gives us a relationship based on the
game, and that is the social part of the game.
The iPhone is really falling down by not giving us new verbs to use
to describe relationships on the device. They are relying on the apps to
do that. If you think about it, “tweeting,” “posting,” “friending,” or “lik-
ing” are all verbs that are owned by someone else. If they had those
kind of verbs on the device, then you could build a social network for
gaming on top of it. As it is, you are going to have to use another social
Q: Let's talk about ways to integrate the concept of virality into game design.
A: Virality has a fundamental relationship to how people acquire your
game. It means something totally different to a console game you pay $60
to get than it does to a game that is free to play and that you can have
within a few seconds. Even digital download games—they cost $10-$15
and have a 200MB download. That is a lot different from something that
costs no money and effectively has no download. Most Facebook free-to-
play games that are successful are extremely quick to download. Their
business model requires virality. It is not just something that is nice to
have. The barrier to entry is low, so the results of that virality are easy to
leverage. If you are considering virality in a game, you have to think about
how people get into the game in order for that virality to be useful. Now
that is not to say that you can't make use of virality in a more expensive
game. It is more that if your business is sitting on top of virality, you make
sure that the virality will translate into people actually playing your game.
So, from a game design point of view, the problem is that virality and
the business model are so inextricably linked. For the game design, it's
not really about virality so much as designing around a business model.
The virality is about getting people around you to come and play the
game. So why are you doing that? On the one hand, it's about bringing
people in so they buy stuff, and on the other it's about providing the user
with a good experience. Designers can leverage existing relationships, as
it can be very difficult to use virality in a place that was devoid of initial
Q: What's an example of a game that would be almost impossible to make
virality work in?
A: So this will sound weird, but … World of Warcraft .