Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
and Bejeweled demonstrated that there was room for innovation in smaller,
more casual games: games for gamers who didn't have hours each day to
devote to their hobby. More and more Flash-based games, built to take advan-
tage of the increasingly high bandwidth of the ever-expanding World Wide
Web, appeared on the scene, providing users with quick, cheap experiences just
a click away from their favorite website. Yet few of these games made much
money or attracted serious notice.
Then, in 2004, a brilliant misfit from Harvard named Mark Zuckerberg
turned the geography of the battlefield upside down. A cynical loner, at least
according to the award-winning biographical film The Social Network , Mr.
Zuckerberg managed to take the principles first illustrated by sites like MySpace
and transform them into a global empire that connected us all with first our fel-
low students, then our social circle, and eventually our long-lost friends, family,
their neighbors, and even some pets. In so doing, Facebook manifested a new
breed of platform that appealed to a new, much larger and diverse user base,
rocketing the world of “gaming” far beyond old console or MMO crowd, and
even past the expanded living room audience the Wii commanded. The socially
“sticky” elements of the platform made it easier to encourage friends to make
connections, join in the fun, and eventually to play the games. Despite hav-
ing been first imagined as a platform for Harvard University students, Facebook
quickly expanded to accommodate other college students, who signed up by
the tens of thousands. In 2006, the network was opened to anyone over the age
of 13. Within two years, the site had more than 100 million registered users.
Beyond just sending messages to friends and posting pictures, huge numbers
of these Facebook users began to use the platform for gaming. More interesting
still, many were not people who traditionally spent money on console, hand-
held, or MMO PC games. Online social networks made a whole new breed of
gamer possible, a gamer who wanted to play in bite-sized chunks, in those
brief moments while they were online, checking on their friends or updating
their own statuses. Many would never have considered spending $60 on a
retail game but seemed quite comfortable parting with $2 or $3 per day to play
games like Mafia Wars or Farmville . Facebook didn't change just the demo-
graphics of gamers; it changed the economics of gaming.
At the same time, the rapid adoption of smartphones—notably Apple's
staggeringly successful iPhone line—gave millions of users a new way to play
online games, and a second, even handier mechanism through which they
could “connect” with their friends. These devices let users make calls and text,
sure, but they also accessed email, connected to the Internet, and allowed the
user to purchase “apps” that, due to their low (or no) price and abundance of
options, helped the user tailor their smart phone to their unique needs. More
like tiny handheld PCs, these devices delivered thousands of games, dressed
up like “apps,” which could be played on the phones themselves. More impor-
tant, they swelled the number of users who interacted with Facebook and the
number of hours those users spent on Facebook, driving the site to host more
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