Two years ago, I ranted about the need for more challenge and chance in social games. Since then, the entire gaming industry has drastically changed. If I sound like a broken record on that note, it’s because in a fast-paced, high-tech market, it’s always true (and thus worth reiteration).
It seems social media and video games really were are meant for each other.
We’ve come a long, long way.
Now, “social games” are hardly limited to social networking sites, even though Open Graph connects most of them to Facebook in the end. Playing social games often takes place elsewhere — on mobile devices (iOS, Android, Open Feint, Facebook Connect, you name it, it’s social), as well as non-social websites (portals and company-owned destinations), consoles (like XBLA on Xbox 360 and PSN on Playstation 3), or even in real life with rising popularity surrounding the “alternate-reality game” (ARG) genre. With all these new options…
Are developers neglecting new gameplay in the mothership?
Does Facebook’s interface not allow for more interactive and engaging experiences, or is the market simply too saturated and diverse for developers to bother?
With untold sums in microtransaction revenues and millions of MAU (monthly active users), social games on Facebook have clearly proven their status as more than the next digital fad, timesucker or distraction. However…
The honest truth is this – I rarely play true “social games” on Facebook anymore. This admission is tough. I’ve written about social games for 3+ years and worked in the industry for nearly 3 more. But I have reasons – several!
1) Too much spam, too little satisfaction – This is an inherent issue with the concept of social gameplay, and a huge barrier to enjoyment.
2) Too many clicks – All the Facebook UI changes may have subconsciously squelshed my desire to click on gift requests for an array of virtual crap I likely won’t use in games I likely won’t have time to play.
3) Too many tech issues – For Flash-based apps, Facebook games run awfully slow. I know from numerous Frisky Mongoose commenters that I’m not alone. It’s 2012 – I can play a full-fledged MMOG on my PC, but I can’t play an RTS farm game without technical glitches. What gives?
4) Too many options – Diversification, even among titles from individual developers, has led to decreased enjoyment (or time for) any one game.
5) Too many distractions – We’re surrounded by better viral videos and social apps… Sinking valuable internet time into any game is getting harder to do.
6) Too little time – Maybe I’m just too busy to enjoy these gameplay styles anymore, but who isn’t these days? If the proliferation of hilarious viral videos won’t get you, more responsibility at work will.
7) Too far behind – If you do have friends playing Facebook games (which is the only logical reason to play a social game, and the only way to succeed at one)… the problem is that you have little to no hope of catching up to their level if they’ve already gotten ahead of you in the ranks. That’s no fun.
8) Too many friends – If you’ve been using Facebook for as many years as I have, you’ve got a hefty amount of friends on your list by now. My job and social media addiction makes my FB friends list longer than usual, but regardless this makes it hard to identify people to play with, field incoming gift requests, or manage any social gameplay within the site.
If I seem nitpicky, it’s because I care. If I seem jaded, it’s because I want to know where all the fun went. There are exceptions, as with anything, but…
If social game developers want players on Facebook, something has got to give. In a world where mobile dominates web, social games are becoming an afterthought for mainstream gamers. If hardcore gamers already have their outlets on consoles, who is left in the Facebook gaming demographic?
As someone who has all but devoted her life to the gaming industry – social and casual games especially – I feel strongly about gameplay design, about the “mainstream movement”, the continued growth of this industry, revenues, entertainment value and perhaps more than anything – about the quality of the experiences we put out there. We = the industry as a whole.
Social game developers, designers, executives and marketers all share the same goal – make good games great. This list is not an attack – it’s a plea. Care to change my mind?