Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
for your users, they'll leave you for a shinier, better-designed game. They've
got much less investment in your social game than they do in a boxed prod-
uct that they had to go buy. So embrace the power that comes with the speed
and flexibility of developing social games. Delight in your ability to get products
out for hundreds of thousands instead of tens of millions of dollars, treasure
your ability to gather metrics from users to an unprecedented degree, and most
of all, appreciate the creative freedom that comes with quick and frequent
iteration. But beware, because there's no safety net here; if you make mistakes
with your game design and don't notice and fix them very quickly, you'll be left
with an empty shell of a game that makes no money.
What are some of the advantages to developing social games? Let's
Smaller development teams and shorter development
cycles are great
Unless you've worked on a three hundred man development team for one of
the really big studios, building an Assassin's Creed , a Need for Speed , or some
other huge multi-platform project, you can't properly appreciate the complexi-
ties and pressures that accumulate at that sort of scale. The ability to create
a game with a few dozen people, and to regain in the process that bygone
sense of nimble, garage-band esprit de corps that attracted so many of us to
the business in the first place, is seductive. Working on huge teams can make
it very easy to feel like an insignificant cog in a vast machine and can often
bear little resemblance to the dreams of creative freedom that attract so many
to the games industry. Then, on those happy occasions when you find you've
got a monster hit, you don't have to split the revenue so many hundreds of
ways. Additionally, a game that needs to run, be playable, and hopefully still
be profitable—all within a six-month or year development timeline—is a won-
derful breath of fresh air for developers who have worked for two or three
years (or often more) on projects (projects that often never actually cross
the finish line). It's true that costs in the social space are mounting again;
we're quickly moving past the era of the $50,000 social game. Right now, a
medium-quality entry into the social space tends to cost a few hundred thou-
sand dollars to build. First-generation Zynga games like Farmville are reported
to have cost between $500,000 and $1 million to develop. The bar has simply
been raised since the first round of social games hit the marketplace, and to
compete with the newest offerings, the design, graphics, and engineering that
go into the product require a larger number of specialists than in years past.
But compared to the $50 million price tags on many AAA retail products, or
hundred-million-dollar (or more) investment required to build an MMO to
compete with World of Warcraft , development budgets for social games are
still cheap.
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