(Insert Game Here) With Friends

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Trends

Ask a friend to play Scrabble with you. Chances are they’ll reply “how about Words With Friends instead?” It’s crazy to think that just a few years ago you would have rummaged your closet for the old Scrabble board and tiles instead of reaching for your phone.

Social gaming have gained enormous popularity along with the growth of social media. During the peak of MySpace, Mafia Wars reigned supreme. When Facebook picked up momentum Farmville helped it skyrocket to success. Now as smartphones be come the must-have gadgets, the “With Friends” franchise continues to reap in the profits. 

At the head of the bustling social media train is Zynga, the most popular provider of social gaming. Over the duration of its short 5 year existence Zynga has been making gigantic ripples in the gaming industry. In a recent market evaluation, Zynga was valued at around 7 t0 8 billion dollars while one of the oldest and most successful traditional gaming companies, EA (Electronic Arts) sits at a mere 4.04 billion (Source: http://seekingalpha.com/article/890161-zynga-games-where-is-it-going).  On top of its overwhelming growth Zynga continues to absorb smaller companies, including OMGPOP the creators of Draw Something.

Taking a closer look, there are 3 types of social games:

Turn based- These include the whole line of “With Friends” games. Most of the time they are board or puzzle games in which players can send requests to play through Facebook or another social exchange medium. In these games, players take one turn at a time, and can play at their convenience. As a result, a game of chess or words with friends can last over days instead of one sitting. This aspect of turn based games is the keystone to its success. Most people lead lives too busy to sit down and play games so the flexibility of turn based games is crucial.

Card games- Online card games simulates casino like environments, bringing the social aspect of casinos to people’s computers through chat boxes and gift systems. Also, players play with virtual currency, making gambling less serious and more fun. Zynga poker has the largest online poker community, numbered at 38 million players (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zynga_Poker).

Continuous- Games like Farmville, Cityville, and Mafia Wars fall within this category. These games require the most attention, as the number of player actions are limited by time, causing players to constantly check the game to advance. Continuous games trigger the human tendency of competitiveness, making its players extremely motivated to improve their game stats.

Looking at the characteristics of these types of games, it’s clear that many traits emulate the use of social mediums. Turn based games uses the same concept of text messaging in that it doesn’t require constant participation. And continuous games resemble user activity on Facebook – the meticulous refreshing of newsfeeds to see the lastest stories.

Although social gaming has made great contributions to the gaming industry, its effects have not all been positive. In particular, the addictiveness has caused many issues. For example, with the case of Alexandra Tobias, the mother shook her 3 month old baby to death because his crying was distracting her from playing Farmville (Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FarmVille).

If anything, Zynga and the boom of social gaming have taught us that the best and most successful games don’t need the fanciest graphics or the most engaging gameplay. Make participation of the player convenient enough, add in the option to bombard your friends with game requests, and you’ve got a hit.

  1. Philip says:

    That’s interesting that Zynga has almost double the revenue of such a big game company as EA. Though it’s understandable, based on the tactics they use, like pay-to-win and making their games super accessible to the public. I feel like games by EA are much higher quality than Zynga (construction and gameplay); though I think that’s your point, that the accessibility and sociability of Zynga games is what has made them so successful.

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