Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
games in response to user preferences to a degree that was simply impossible
only a few decades ago. Of course, properly architected software and backend
systems are key to genuinely successful fine-tuning, and the platform must nec-
essarily support the kind of rapid iteration that allows developers to respond to
the data they gather; currently, this is something of a roadblock to a truly effec-
tive use of analytic data on many social networks, but that won't be the case
for long. Whatever else Zynga's legacy may end up being, they have certainly
taught the game development community the power of these sorts of iterative
We wrapped up the section on metrics by looking at the results of
Ravenwood Fair 's public analytic data, which provided valuable insight into
the early days of a successful social game created by one of gaming's storied
designers. From our Ravenwood Fair study, you learned how the metrics sur-
rounding user retention are used by the current crop of successful social games,
in order to evaluate their current level of success and the health of their future
development. The Ravenwood Fair study and the core concepts that made it
successful have broad applicability to various types of games in development
right now; moreover, these fundamentals are sure to continue to be valuable far
into the future of game development.
We waited until what may have seemed shockingly late to pose the key ques-
tion, “What is a social network?” But we did so to support a theory that there
are in fact several more burgeoning social networks than just Facebook. It is our
stance that mobile devices themselves—and the currently dominant iOS and
Android operating systems that make them accessible—are (mostly) untapped
and powerful social networks. We believe that modern connected console plat-
forms (like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network) are just about to explode with
a wealth of social features. And we believe that there are a number of upcom-
ing social networks that are interesting and may ultimately end up challenging
Facebook's dominance of the market. Much as Rome ruled the West, Atari once
ruled the games market. Then there was Nintendo. Now Facebook. Empires are
inherently transient; before Rome, there was Greece. Facebook and Zynga cur-
rently own the social games market, but no one can sit on a throne forever. As
Richard Garriott reminds us in his interview, the evolution of game development
technology is accelerating; there's always room for new ideas, new platforms,
and new markets. Evolution rarely slows down, but it often speeds up. Don't
get let yourself be trapped into thinking that today's social network is the only
one to consider. Don't believe that Flash-driven games will remain the standard
for web-based games; barbarians like Unity and HTML5 are already at the gate.
Strive to think broadly about what makes games and networks social now, and
what will make them such a decade from now.
After defining social networks, we learned a bit about PopCap's seminal
study on social gaming populations. Their message has often been reduced to
the slightly misleading notion that “Social gamers are all 35-year-old women.”
This is not the point of the study, even if it were true. The broader message
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