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Facebook and mobile gaming? Duh, #winning!
March 4th 2011, 19:38 CET by m0nty

Iwata gave the GDC keynote the other day, in which he bemoaned that game developers are not appreciated for their talents by customers paying top dollar for games that cost millions to make. It seems that Facebook games like Angry Birds have devalued the gaming experience for the masses in that they now expect the free-to-play model rather than actually having to pay for software. Then again, the new generation of game players are a lot more casual in their gaming habits than the hardcore, seeing as a large proportion of them skew old and female, part of a demographic who never would have played a game on a computer more complex than Solitaire before getting addicted to Crackville.

Despite "traditional" computer game industry veterans like Brian Reynolds at Zynga and Raph Koster at Playdom moving across to social gaming companies and having a solid amount of success, it seems that old style game designers are being pushed out of the development and iteration process by marketing mavens watching real-time analytics from users interacting with features, such that intuition is now being replaced by metrics.

The social games industry on Facebook went through a massive growth period which ended recently when  Facebook turned off or restricted a lot of the virality features that had led to J-curves of word-of-status-update to produce gigantic injections of user numbers, making the likes of Zynga and Playfish the juggernauts they are today. All of these companies are bleeding users fast nowadays, and those who are adding users are relying on less noticeable spamminess that is still allowed.

I am developing a social game myself, which is why I have immersed myself in this new world where the metrics are MAU, DAU, ARPU and sparkles-per-second. A couple of years ago, people were complaining about how PC games were being dumbed down to fit in the console model, but wait until you see the facebookification of your favourite games. This chart shows where all the growth is, and it's not in consoles, it's in social games. There's already a Facebook version of Saint's Row. This is the tip of the iceberg.

As part of my research into the subject, I have been playing a few Facebook games myself: Madden NFL Superstars, CBSSports.com Franchise Football, plus a bit of Galactic Trader just to see what it was like. What about you and your social gaming habits? I know a couple of you play Frontierville (*cough*Bobandjjz*cough*). Would you be okay with the concept of acheivements that you're all used to from consoles to be even further extended to the ____ville mechanics of collection and gifting? Is there any actual gameplay in social games or are they just Cow Clickers? How much multiplayer content is there really, when your main interaction with other players is to send each other gifts? This is a fast-moving industry, but there's still a question mark on whether it's moving downwards to sudden oblivion, or whether these clicking grannies will ever move to more hardcore games with synchronous gameplay.

I look forward to this topic being hijacked as soon as possible. Viva Libya!
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Home » Topic: Facebook and mobile gaming? Duh, #winning!

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#1 by m0nty
2011-03-04 19:39:48
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Down with Qaddafi!
#2 by Greg
2011-03-04 19:47:36
I paid for Angry Birds. Also, these games harken back to a time where smaller (easier to make) games were the norm. I guess Nintendo is fearful of becoming more irrelevant than they are.

#3 by m0nty
2011-03-04 19:51:41
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Yeah, but what did you pay, two or three bucks? And what's your investment per hour of gameplay, a handful of cents if that? Contrast that with a $40 AAA title lasting the regulation 40 hours, where you get a dollar per hour.
#4 by G-Man
2011-03-04 19:59:32
Meh. I feel entirely comfortable ignoring Facebook games the same way I feel comfortable ignoring cellphone games. The same things that were said about social games were said about cellphone games not too long ago. My prediction is that the platform will kill itself before long.
#5 by Milan Brezovsk√Ĺ
2011-03-04 20:00:53
http://uglycode.com
Well, the cellphone game market seemed to have a 46% growth.

Parhelic Triangle is coming. Eventually.
#6 by Greg
2011-03-04 20:06:57
m0nty, I don't think a $40 AAA game typically plays for 40 hours. 20 hours or less would seem like the norm to me. However, I've not done any research on this topic so I'm just PNOOMA.

The question back to you would be this: Does paying less per hour of play somehow make the game worse?

#7 by m0nty
2011-03-04 20:15:17
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Greg: Iwata's argument was that the industry is selling itself short if it allows the regular gamer to expect to pay less and less for each hour of gameplay. Developing Angry Birds took a lot less investment than developing, oh, say, Assassins Creed 2, for random example. People play Angry Birds a lot more than they play AC2, though. Is that what gaming is to become for the "masses": just an idle amusement for casual play in between other things, as opposed to sitting down for a session in front of a computer like it's an event in itself?

The jibnalogy I'd make is between computer games and movies. Movie theatre companies have invested more and more money into premium experiences, and moviegoing IRL in a real theatre is still an event that people pay premium prices for. Watching a movie on your iPad is all very well, but it's no substitute for the full film product. Computer games seem to be going to go down that path too with every major title costing in the tens of millions of dollars to produce, but are the masses going to keep paying a dollar or over per hour of enjoyment when they can do something else entirely, pull out an Android phone and get their fix in between other things?
#8 by Greg
2011-03-04 20:56:07
Maybe he doesn't understand the different audiences, then. The amount of people who want to play something like Assassin's Creed is far smaller than the amount of people who will play Angry Birds.

Though, then again, his audience *is* the one that is more likely to play the mobile games. So again, it goes back to him being scared of losing his foothold in the industry.

#9 by m0nty
2011-03-04 21:12:49
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
What he's scared of is the money in the industry all flowing back to Apple as the hardware manufacturer with the iron grip on distribution. He crapped on about how Nintendo is about software, not hardware. "We're a game creator first and a manufacturer second. We want our consumers to appreciate the premium value of software," was the quote in the Eurogamer liveblog. Which is rubbish, because their business is hardware, and Apple and Google are kicking their arses from here to Finland moving the market towards smartphones, with the 3DS looking like a dog in comparison.
#10 by Matt Perkins
2011-03-04 21:18:56
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Meh. I feel entirely comfortable ignoring Facebook games the same way I feel comfortable ignoring cellphone games. The same things that were said about social games were said about cellphone games not too long ago. My prediction is that the platform will kill itself before long.

I do not think it will destroy itself, but it will find a steady market and hover there. People do not seem to get tired of bullshit games on FB, but those people are not really playing games so much as avoiding doing other stuff or killing time. They are not multiplayer, for the most part, and in most cases, not good games.

Take Angry Birds for example. That is not a new game design at all. It just purty graphics on a really old game concept most gamers already played a long time ago. But it is new to many people who never had access to games or did not feel comfortable being a gamer before. Sooner or later, this audience will top out or grow tired of the overly simple games. They will want more once they get a taste of things.

And once the whole population are gamers, then we will see outrageous games. 24/7 MMO type games.

"programmers talk from a very deep gnome cavern, full of gold mechanics" - wisdom from the ancients
#11 by m0nty
2011-03-04 21:30:22
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
That's the attitude I'm hearing from traditional game designers, Perkins, but there's no indication that the market actually is moving that way. That's where the industry is at right now: talking a big game about making more complex games with hardcore elements, but none of them has struck a chord with the masses with an actually really real shipped game. Raph Koster's preso was like that. "Look, here's all the shit we could be doing, why aren't we doing it? Why are we shovelling vanilla down people's throats? Surely they would like something more than just vanilla?"
#12 by gaggle
2011-03-04 21:45:41
Yeh, and they won't. Vanilla is pretty good when it's a light snack and not a dinner. Great topic btw, I can't believe this is PC.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#13 by Jibble
2011-03-04 21:57:29
It costs more money to make premium ice cream, and less people will buy a specialized flavor.

The reason that casual games are so popular right now is that people have wider access to them. Not only are they getting a huge boost from the work-avoidance crowd (can't play a 360 or even a DS in your cube without someone noticing), they're also getting a boost from people who are just whipping out their phones in situations where they'd otherwise just be standing there. Most of the situations are not ones in which your choice is between a Wii or a handheld device.

One also can't help but point out that Nintendo is still selling Nintendo DS/Lite/XL/i at a rate of about a million a month worldwide. The total number of those things sold outnumbers the total number of smartphone users by almost 3:1.

Gamers aren't going away, and Nintendo is basically just complaining that they can't get an even bigger slice of the pie. It's like Michael Bay complaining that he can't seem to get Wes Anderson fans to come out to his movies, and that it's going to hurt his bottom line.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#14 by m0nty
2011-03-04 22:09:59
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Jibsy, while I applaud your ass-first jump into jibnalogy there, smartphones are outselling Nintendo by massive amounts nowadays. As per that first link in the topic:

Reality: Nintendo may sell 10 or 20 million 3DS units this year... while Apple and Google sell 200 million smartphones or more. And perhaps 100 million tablets on top of that. And then there's Apple TV and Google TV...
#15 by Shadarr
2011-03-04 22:15:43
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
That's retarded.  Smartphones : 3DS :: PC : PS2

Installed base does not directly translate to game sales.

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#16 by Matt Perkins
2011-03-04 22:23:06
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
m0nty

Yeah, I think it will still take years, and each time we get a new technology push, and hence more people exposed to games they never have been before, we will see casual games push further in. At some point though, and it make take a generation or longer, everyone, or close to everyone will either be a gamer or accept gaming as part of life and then we will start to see games that have both a really low entry level in terms of complexity and polish and yet a large amount of depth.

I kind of see it like waves. Each wave of gaming and technology pushes further into the consicousness of people that may have never been exposed (or felt it was acceptable to play them) to games and when that wave recedes back out a bit, many of those that were not gamers before, are now. Those newly minted gamers will get tired of the lacking depth casual games and demand more.

But again, years.

"programmers talk from a very deep gnome cavern, full of gold mechanics" - wisdom from the ancients
#17 by Jibble
2011-03-04 22:35:10
Not to mention that selling 200 million smartphones is not the same thing as adding 200 million people to the install base. A large number of those sales will be upgrades for existing smartphone users. Even with Nielsen's lofty projection from last year that the install base would be 50% of mobile users later this year, the NEW users would be about 80 million from late 2009 to now. Obviously that's not a small number, but oddly enough it's the same number of people who have bought a Wii so far.

The idea that Angry Birds is going to unseat AAA games is ridiculous. People aren't eschewing their consoles for Facebook games. It's a completely different crowd of people that want something different for their gaming dollar.

I want to go to there.

Blog. 187 lbs.  7 to go.
#18 by G-Man
2011-03-04 22:48:08
Yeah, you can be married and still fuck hookers occasionally too.

Offtopic (although maybe not): This is an awesome visual analysis of the gameplay structure of Choose Your Own Adventure books. This might not be offtopic because apparently CYOA will be coming to iOS and ebook markets.
#19 by gaggle
2011-03-05 01:26:09
Nice

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#20 by Matt Perkins
2011-03-05 01:39:21
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
Is it bad that my eyes glazed over after about 2m of reading? That is a lot of stats, but I am not sure of the point...

"programmers talk from a very deep gnome cavern, full of gold mechanics" - wisdom from the ancients
#21 by G-Man
2011-03-05 01:59:47
Then click on the animations, gallery or play buttons dummy.
#22 by Shadarr
2011-03-05 02:05:30
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
I chose the back button.

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#23 by BobJustBob
2011-03-05 08:07:30
Apparently I am supposed to share my experiences with Frontierville. It wasn't fun, exactly, since there is no game there, but it was mildly compelling in a Progressquest kind of way. Click on stuff to get stuff to click on more stuff while watching numbers go up. But the forced socialization occurs extremely early; after just a couple of days of sporadic checking in, I had hit the limit of what I could do without getting six friends to play the game. So that's where I quit.

BUYBUYBUY
#24 by m0nty
2011-03-05 08:55:57
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Bob is the ultimate antisocial gamer.
#25 by m0nty
2011-03-05 10:04:44
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Meanwhile, back at GDC, Brenda Braithwaite weighs in.
#26 by m0nty
2011-03-05 10:15:29
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
And John Romero (Braithwaite's bit of rumpy-pumpy) does as well.
#27 by LPMiller
2011-03-05 17:44:38
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
We adults just use the term girlfriend, or significant other.

"Testiculos habet et bene pendentes" - "He has testicles, and they dangle nicely."

"LP, your big balls are a religion." - Jibble
#28 by m0nty
2011-03-05 17:47:57
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
If we can't make fun of Romero on PlanetCrap, what is left?
#29 by BobJustBob
2011-03-05 18:13:07
m0nty, the forced socialization is the evil part of social gaming. They force you to advertise their game for them by spamming it to all your friends to get them playing so you can progress. And then you're less likely to quit because your friends are all playing too. Don't be a tool of the man!

BUYBUYBUY
#30 by m0nty
2011-03-05 18:26:02
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
That is what it used to be like in "the good old days" Bob, i.e. 2010, before Facebook took the T-Bird away by hiding game-related status updates from those who aren't also playing a particular game, and other similar spam. Which is why the major social game publishers have been dropping audience numbers like Charlie Sheen drops tabs of acid.

For instance, Cityville dropped 300,000 users in a single day the other day. They still had 94.2 million left, though.
#31 by m0nty
2011-03-05 18:27:00
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
"and removing other similar spam vectors", I mean.
#32 by yotsuya
2011-03-05 18:35:51
The people that I talk to who play games like Angry Birds wouldn't otherwise play console games. Likewise, the hardcore gamers in my videogame club (all teens) don't talk about mobile gaming at all. As long as Nintendo and other developers make games that cater to the hardcore market, they'll be fine.

And I agree with G-Man on this- I think the Facebook game 'industry' will eventually go out with a whimper.

#33 by BobJustBob
2011-03-05 18:50:36
I play Angry Birds. It's fun and has 240 levels for a dollar. I have over two hundred games on my iPod but none of them are open world games with ragdoll physics, so they don't replace console games.

BUYBUYBUY
#34 by gaggle
2011-03-05 18:50:57
Can you elaborate on why you think it'll go out with a whimper? Will the millions of ("non-gamer") people who currently play go away?

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#35 by Greg
2011-03-05 18:51:40
Yot, you might've missed the console known as the Wii, which wasn't exactly marketed towards hardcore gamers. They felt happy with Sony and Microsoft competing for them, while they went after the casual gamer. Now the mobile devices are also going after the casual gamer, with cheaper prices for their games. Nintendo is in a pickle.

Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but I think the original speech had everything to do with keeping *Nintendo* alive, and not the game industry as a whole.

#36 by yotsuya
2011-03-05 19:13:33
Greg-

I agree with your 'keeping Nintendo alive' statement. I was just kind of musing on the Facebook side of gaming, which is in the title.

Gags-

The non-gamers who currently play them will get bored and move on to the next big thing.

#37 by G-Man
2011-03-05 19:15:24
I thought Romero had an imported Romanian bride. That didn't work out?
#38 by gaggle
2011-03-05 20:44:31
Yot, but won't they simply move on to other games? Maybe it won't be Facebook at some point, is that your point?

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#39 by LPMiller
2011-03-06 00:20:07
lpmiller@gotapex.com http://www.gotapex.com
I don't think Nintendo will have any problems keeping alive, if only because they are really good at reinventing the wheel in a way that appeals to people. Casual gaming kept them alive during the N64 and Gamecube era, because of the various gameboy models.

Casual gaming on the iphone or android is fun and all, but  it still doesn't beat having a control scheme that doesn't use your screen. I see phone gaming and console/portable gaming as just slightly different, sometimes competing, sometimes complimentary markets. Also, having a smart phone and using it to game are not the same thing. If you are buying the DS or the PSP, you already have an intent to game.

"Testiculos habet et bene pendentes" - "He has testicles, and they dangle nicely."

"LP, your big balls are a religion." - Jibble
#40 by Caryn
2011-03-06 07:52:21
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
I am the only one on the planet who played a couple of levels of Angry Birds Lite and didn't find it compelling enough to buy the full game. I feel like I must be broken somehow.

#41 by Shadarr
2011-03-06 08:06:43
shadarr@gmail.com http://digital-luddite.com
#39 by LPMiller

If you are buying the DS or the PSP, you already have an intent to game.

Truth.  And also, Intent to Game will be the title of my debut album.

"I hope you one day decide to smarten the fuck up so I can stand to look at your posts." - gaggle
#42 by gaggle
2011-03-06 11:29:26
Naw me neither Caryn, I didn't find Angry Birds compelling. To me the physics was meh, visually it was just stiff sprites, and while the flinging and bombing mechanic was fun there were too few birds to launch before failing a level.

I totally dug Cut The Rope though. And I'm super happy so many people enjoy Birds, mainstream gaming is good!

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#43 by m0nty
2011-03-06 11:54:25
http://tinfinger.blogspot.com
Translation: gaggle sucks at Artillery.
#44 by Greg
2011-03-06 16:21:26
Honestly, I wouldn't have bought Angry Birds if it weren't for my 5 year old and 3 year old nieces. They get so amped up when someone is playing the game, it's hilarious.

#45 by Matt Perkins
2011-03-06 21:00:38
wizardque@yahoo.com http://whatwouldmattdo.com/
That is the whole point. What are currently labeled as social gaming, is actually just time sinks. They are made that way on purpose. They distill down the WoW pellet often theory, give it as little dev effort as possible, and go with it. Most people in my circles that play those games do it to avoid other things (at work, waiting around for something, etc). These are not games so much as things to do while you want to be doing other things.


That said, this is just the beginning. More and more actual games are being made on the iphone and facebook and so on. The games that will destroy us all are the games that finally bridge the gap between social gamers and actual gamers. Some crazy MMO type that everyone gets involved in because it so easy and yet still has a real game underneath.

"programmers talk from a very deep gnome cavern, full of gold mechanics" - wisdom from the ancients
#46 by G-Man
2011-03-06 21:46:32
Like dating?
#47 by gaggle
2011-03-06 22:09:23
I'm not sure there's a way to make "facebookers" and "gamers" play together. These are people who doesn't want to play games, but killing half an hour is okay. That's not to say that creating such an "in-between" game wouldn't be worthwhile to pursue, but I think you'd find a new[/] group of users, a group of proto-gamers who are currently untapped. E.g. those that do not engage heavily in the -ville games but could be lured into different experiences. It won't be an audience of hundred of millions like currently seen in the ultra-casual market buuut maybe tens of millions of users could do for this?

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#48 by gaggle
2011-03-06 22:42:07
Speaking of #winning, who is the most interesting person or topic you follow? Don't say fifteen different names!, pick one.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, rubbish is dumped and so are you." - FML
#49 by yotsuya
2011-03-07 02:00:40
Roger Ebert.

#50 by Greg
2011-03-07 02:07:04
Carmack.

Thankfully you didn't ask who I follow who spams the most. Because that'd be m0nty by a mile.

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