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Why Facebook Games May Matter

June 30th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 10 Comments · Industry

When Brian Reynolds gets hired by the biggest social gaming company in America, either he’s selling out to the one part of the game business that is rapidly expanding or Social Games are about to get a lot more interesting.

Here’s hoping it’s the latter.

What the press release doesn’t say is that the new Zynga studio is made up almost entirely of Big Huge Games refugees.

I’m laying the groundwork for a feature story on where social gaming fits into the gaming world as we understand it, so drop me a line if you play a lot of these things. Do not invite me to play Mafia Wars.


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Jazmeister

    My mum plays Farm Town, which is like a harvest moon MMO, which is an idea I’ve been sighing over since my early teens playing the original. It’s not that great, but the “come back every day for a little bit” model *does* seem to be popular, right?

  • Brian

    I’ve been playing Mafia Wars, Bejeweled Blitz and Vikings, Pirates and Ninjas regularly on Facebook.

    Mafia Wars is probably my least favorite of the three, but yet I continue to return to it over and over every day. It’s a horrible grind, but recent improvements have made great strides in it’s playability. The gifting aspect especially, in that you can help your friends complete different collections. They’ve really improved it, and toned down it’s obnoxious spamming of your friends to join, but there is not much interaction beyond simple gifting and helping with jobs. I’ve not used their pay credit system for bonus items and such, but I’d imagine many people would.

    Bejeweled Blitz is a favorite. The weekly friend leaderboard, and new score tracking have made it really great for trash talking and a bit of competition between friends. Heck I get to compete against family members on the other side of the world. What’s not to like. It’s great for quick play, so that’s good.

  • Neil

    “Social Games” is a misnomer. Games on social networks tend to be a lot less social than real-time multiplayer games. I prefer the term “asynchronous multiplayer.” Door games, except on a website.

    I don’t like them. There is one I want to make, but what’s out there is boring to me.

    I’m guessing that Brian Reynolds’ primary motivation was getting a job, as jobs are scarce and senior design positions are scarcer. And Zynga was willing to pay more for the brand name designer than 38 Studios. I think it will be a one and done and then back to a less limited platform (and audience).

  • Paul

    How well did Nile Online work for Tilted Mill?

  • roboczar

    The NO playerbase is small and has a lot of turnover as far as I can tell. I would say it’s somewhere south of games like Tribal Wars, Travian and Ikariam.

    It’s not like it’s expensive to run, though. I’m sure they’ve made a modest profit on the affair.

  • Warren

    I enjoyed my foray into FB gameland a few months back. But the games themselves didn’t have legs.

    It’ll be very interesting to see what a Brian Reynolds comes up with in that space.

  • wildpokerman

    This is the next step in the death of the OS. Once browsers run games that are as engaging as OS games, graphics whores will move to the consoles and innovation will move to the browser.

    I think this leads to the death of the video card and the OS eventually.

  • Chris Nahr

    Stop drinking the Google kool-aid. Those browsers run on an OS which runs on a computer which must have a graphics card in order to make browser games compelling.

    Browser don’t have magical pixie dust that lets them show nice graphics without correspondingly powerful underlying hardware. If anything they need *better* hardware for similar results because of the inevitable inefficiencies of cross-platform translation layers.

    Browsers don’t have hardware drivers or memory managers or file systems, either. The OS certainly won’t “die” although it may be commoditized so that people will finally accept Linux on the desktop. Given how terrible web *applications* are (as opposed to web games with extremely simple input and no data storage to speak of) I don’t see that happening anytime soon, though.

  • John Hawkins

    I’ve been playing Mafia Wars to try and understand it and see what I can learn about game design from it.

    I find it highly annoying that every time I accomplish something in the game, it spams my friends. One of the problems with Facebook is how quickly low levels of spam can accumulate and swamp someone as their number of friends grows. Mafia Wars just makes it that much worse.

    I do like the general idea of a “social” game that lets you include friends in an off-line manner, but I’m not sure Zynga has the right formula yet. The Mafia Wars social interaction is pretty much gifting. Aside from that, it’s recruiting and spamming. I’m not a big fan of gifting with canned gifts (e.g. everyone has access to the same pool – I think apps where you can create unique gifts are much more interesting). Recruiting and spamming are not high on my fun list either.

    What would work better, I think, is social games that let different people develop their characters in differnt ways (preferably leveraging some aspect of their real-world personality) and the bigger achievements require multiple skill-sets in some cooperative effort. The old RPG “party” system. Mafia Wars seems to take some steps in that direction, but it’s just not there yet.

  • Ralph Lee

    LTTP here, but there goes my fantasy pairing of Brian Reynolds and Paradox’s Johan.