Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
CHAPTER
TWO
What Is a Social
Game?
2.1 Meet Your Competition
There's a strong temptation to imagine that social games should be nar-
rowly defined to include only those games that have infiltrated Facebook,
mostly courtesy of Zynga. Certainly, many of those games set the gold stan-
dard for profitability in online social gaming. These games are played by
more than a hundred million users per day, according to various metrics-
tracking websites. They make a fortune in microtransaction revenues every
day. At the time of this writing, Zynga has announced their upcoming IPO
(an event that in all likelihood will have occurred by the time you read this)
and is busy buying up game studios in cities from Austin to Antwerp. So in
sitting down to write this topic, we wrestled with the question: should we
stick to an analysis of how to design Zynga-like games for Facebook and call
it a day?
No. Such a study would have limited utility and would cease to be topi-
cal the minute a new social network eclipsed Facebook, as will undoubtedly
happen … eventually. (Google+, perhaps?) Moreover, as many companies
and investors are discovering the hard way, it is extremely difficult to suc-
ceed as a “fast-follower” in a space that already moves with a speed and
agility that would make a falcon jealous, in an industry that seems to rein-
vent the “core experiences” it offers to the user every nine months. An
intimate dissection of Farmville , Vampire Wars (already moribund, if the sta-
tistics are to be believed), and CityVille might remain current for the next
year or two, but little more, and it would be extremely difficult for the les-
sons learned in such a narrow study to help guide the reader's steps over the
next decade.
Instead, let us define social games a bit more broadly, and hopefully in a
less arbitrary fashion, in an effort to glean broad principles that will apply to
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