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With the luster of social games gone, what now?
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With the luster of social games gone, what now?

November 4, 2013 Article Start Page 1 of 7 Next

It all started with some fairly harmless logic: As a form of play, digital games should be shared with as many people as possible. They should live on the platforms where users already work and socialize, and should have something to add to interactions in those places. They should take every opportunity to reach entirely-new audiences, maybe even those who would never have thought games could be for them.

In the age of metrics, game designers suddenly came into an unprecedented opportunity to gather reams of information about users -- the users they had, as well as the users they wanted. It still sounds like harmless logic, the concept of an organic product that grows and responds to what players do there, designed and tuned for optimal engagement. Features that nobody likes can be adjusted or removed. Popular elements flourish.

It starts to seem less harmless when you realize games can be made to hook players into mundane cycles of reward-oriented clicking. And that designers can use information about engagement to ensure players spend money. Free-to-play social games promised light, friendly distractions from one's workday where spending money was only an optional enhancement, but the reality of social game design on Facebook favored gradually-escalating pinch points, the careful use of friction, a slow, insidious ramp-up where players became accustomed to ease and plentitude that the game gradually pulled away from them.

"If a player repeats something, it's fun," said Zynga's Mark Skaggs in 2010. At DICE that year, Jesse Schell now-infamously made a doomsday prophecy about players desiring rewards for every behavior, a consequence of a design trend that favored Skinner Box mechanics, where users receive gratification, then are forced to wait a requisite amount of time before doing it again.

By the time 2010's Game Developers Conference came around, the spiritual anxiety around social games was palpable. Ian Bogost released Cow Clicker, a satire of hollow social game mechanics that, to his consternation, became his most popular work.

In "Fear and loathing in FarmVille," Soren Johnson  delineated the tension: Veteran designers took center stage, excited about a new frontier for games, joining burgeoning social game companies like Zynga and Playdom. Meanwhile, a moral disgust for Zynga and its model for Facebook games radiated from the gaming world's corners.

It seems hard to believe that only two years later the roar of battle has all but died. Most of the designers who left their traditional paths to join social gaming firms --  Frank Lantz, Brian Reynolds, Raph Koster, Brenda Brathwaite, Soren Johnson -- are no longer in Facebook games, casualties of Zynga's shrinking business or other diminishing social opportunities, not long after publicly celebrating the opportunity to make a game their way, outside the traditional grinder of triple-A.

Whatever happened to Facebook as a game platform? Where are the storied designers who believed so much in Facebook now?  Even supposing it was the economic-treadmill model of design that was poorly-considered and not the idea of social gaming itself -- a moderate stance endorsed by many who thought there had to be something useful that game design could do with Facebook's nigh-billion eyeballs -- why has "social" itself gone from watchword to bad-word in so little time?

Article Start Page 1 of 7 Next

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Alex Nichiporchik
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"Facebook games" aka "spammy piece of shit" :D That about sums it up. Great write up, Leigh!

I remember the gold rush. We were in it. Our team was handling marketing campaigns for a Facebook app -- a real-time competitive games platform (think multiplayer Candy Crush). It was insane. Spend $X, get $X*1.3, reinvest. Overnight. I bet plenty of companies faced a similar issue with scalability, missing out on that ~1 month window of getting millions of users on Facebook.

For me it was getting clear it was a bubble when every other game did the same thing, and there were actual presentations about how to do template marketing for social games. When everyone does the same thing, and a lot of capital gets into the market, it's a matter of outspending the competition.

1. Get title live, have all your metrics in place
2. Launch, drive lots of traffic
3. Get your 3 month peak in revenue, hope you got your money back

A couple of juggernauts come in, spin off/buy social game studios - coupled with VC funded start-ups - into a market that quickly gets tired of same thing over and over again, and you got yourself a bubble.

A similar thing is now happening on other platforms with free to play games, especially on mobile. I wonder where will this goldrush capital head next?

David Paris
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Laugh. I copy pasted that exact same line while reading because it was the one that stood out.

Harry Fields
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People are still on FaceBook? :O I thought that ship had sailed. haha. I kid. But it's not long before they go the way of dinosaurs. It was a novel fad, but like all fads, the end will come for "Social networking". There may become a "social" presence backbone to everything in the future, but the days of these sites being a destination are truly numbered.

A social backbone, with some big-data standards and the ever-lowering costs of IaaS could lead to interesting developments in *all* games, not just mobile or browser.

Samuel Green
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The top mobile games ARE social games. Yes, they're not on Facebook but they use the exact same mechanics as the classic Facebook games, and monetize even MORE. Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga, Puzzle & Dragons... all social games using social mechanics both for gameplay, virality and monetization.

Social gaming didn't die, Facebook died as a platform. That's my opinion of it all, anyway.

Christopher Furniss
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Puzzle & Dragons has no Facebook connectivity. It's social in its own way (which is only sort of social), without Facebook's graph.

Samuel Green
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Facebook connectivity hasn't been important for ages, Facebook killed app discovery. I mean all the features like mystery boxes, difficulty geared towards spenders, energy bars, inviting friends, time limited updates etc.

Jean Christophe CAMBOURNAC
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Most developers should build their own ecosystem (web or mobile), using facebook as an acquisition tool, not as a main target platform.

For me, making a "facebook game" is not the best bet for the next few years. But you can still make any kind of games with many social features (including what Facebook has to offer in term of virality).

Andrew Pellerano
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This article does a good job cataloging the emotions game designers went through at social game companies but really goes out of its way to blame the shortcomings of social games on intangible ghosts.

I disagree with the narrative the industry wants to tell about the social game era. It wants to tell the story of how good design sense was ignored -- which led an industry to spiral to its doom through its short term thinking and business-first design principles. That would validate the hive mind's intuition on social games. It's much more educational to consider that the existence and rise of social games was a counter-intuitive success. We should learn how to become better game designers from this story, not bury it under the rug and retell it in a way that supports our religion.

The decline of social games is due to a one-two punch of market forces. First you must accept that games grew on Facebook because user acquisition was Free. This allowed for business models to optimize viral send rates and maximize revenues with ARPDAUs measured in pennies. The first punch then, was Facebook inoculating its platform against the API uses that allows for free user acquisition. This immediately invalidated the growth model for games on the platform.

Now you're left wondering why companies with established userbases lost their users so quickly despite being able to cross-promote from one game to the next. That's because the second punch was the market transitioning to mobile and tablet devices as their primary outlet for their gaming energy. It's very hard to xpromo across platforms and the inability for the then-existing social game giants to do it is a lesson worth learning.

The danger to the currently prevailing narrative is that it oversimplifies and dismisses social games in a way that would cause someone to not study them. There's important things to discuss still. If Facebook can change their platform priorities overnight and help destroy a billion dollar industry what if that were to happen on the platforms we're using today - iOS and Android? What is our 30% tithe buying us in terms of partnership and protection? Should there be a dialog between platform holders and developers on what is considered healthy and caustic platform use, and should that information sway decision makers at game companies?

Tony Ventrice
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Andrew, It's understandable that you might blame Facebook for the downfall of social games, but the causes you cite were well known and predicted inside the industry. The designers saw the changing environment, lobbied for the innovation that would result in continued survival. The frustration comes from the fact that those who were in charge had no understanding of games; they didn't even understand the concept of getting stuck in a sinking local maxima. They thought lots of little incremental iterations were better than big, creative changes. The lesson is in thinking you can master something without understanding and respecting it.

Andrew Pellerano
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This is the kind of revisionism I'm trying to speak out against.

Designers were just as faulty as any of the "clueless" business men that "don't get games." They did not lobby for the innovation that would result in survival, they just lobbied for innovation in general rarely offering any specifics as to what this innovation could be. If there was a specific idea with merit it was tested, oh god how we tested, and failed at one of the many funnel points between concept and successful mass market facebook game. There's actually a rich history of game designers having creative freedom over facebook games and failing miserably. Incremental iteration won because there was no better alternative. The ship sank when the FB platform rules changed in a way that invalidated prior incremental successes.

The people in charge understood social games better than designers and were able to make a market where designers, if left to their own devices, would have never made a market. We should stop undervaluing their contribution to gaming because many console games this year shipped with social game mechanics popularized by facebook games and the next console generation will see even more innovative uses that iterate on their work.

So I claim it's not up to "them" to learn their lesson as to why they can't make successful video games. It's up to us, the people whose passion will keep us in the games industry for life, to figure out why a bunch of non-gamers were able to make the most relevant contribution to gaming in the past decade.

Eddie Siegel
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Really wise insights here Andrew. This is an inisghtful take on whats happened. Even outside the gaming industry -- many major hit apps (Spotify, SnapChat, Tinder, etc.) leverage the FB graph to great success and there still are quite a few top apps where FB crossplatform is still a main driver of their success (Candy Crush, DoubleDown, zynga poker).

Lewis Pulsipher
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Outstanding summary of what's happened.

The wrong direction of development for Facebook was obvious from the days when developers called them "social games" (instead of social network games). It was a time when the games were antisocial, solitary, games where you *used* your "friends" rather than played games with them. Somehow developers were blind to it, perhaps because of the name they used.

Game players in a mass-market such as Facebook might take a long time to figure out that they're being used rather than entertained, but many have now figured it out.

Truly social games can be made for Facebook, the question is how to make money doing it. I don't have the answer.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I was about to point out that these are not social games, they are anti-social social network games, but you beat me to it :) I am convinced that social is the way of the future, and am staking my career on it. Inserting anti-social design elements into your game does not make it social. Making a social game is very challenging and not something you can just throw together quickly, especially when there is little or nothing in the space to copy.

Matt Ployhar
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Great article & oh so true.

Pretty simple actually - "Herd Mentality" will pretty much back fire every time.

I have concerns about the same effect occurring on certain hardware platforms. There's always a new bright shiny object that sells a good story. Buyer beware.

Kujel s
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Might I ask what platforms you are refering to, I'm curious.

Matt Ployhar
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Unfortunately no... since I have to work with them directly. Sorry. I have an unfair advantage of hearing/seeing what people's bugs are on all the various hardware platforms...and can't really rat them all out without repercussion. I predict the next ~24-36 months being a pretty wild ride.

Kujel s
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Fair enough, I wouldn't expect you to put yourself in that position just to answer a simple question.

Phil Maxey
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Is there such a thing as a platform changing game? I don't think there has been for many years, and that's the problem, the platform holders with how they set things up basically mold the games that appear on their platforms (whether they want this or not).

We are all playing by the rules set down by Apple, Facebook, Google etc and when I say rules I mean monetization rules. F2P is now standard because it's the most profitable (weird pay up front examples aside) revenue model available to developers, the catch of course is that it can actually work against small developers but even small dev's need their games to be F2P to even get a seat the table so to speak.

The problem with the current markets which most games are released in is that they heavily favour game companies that are already at the "top", they absorb so much of the traffic in those markets (and generally across the web) that if you're not in or around the top of those charts you might as well just play the game you spent the last year making with yourself and your mates. You can change the old adage of "You need money to make money" to "You need success to have success." I'm not bemoaning the companies that managed to ride the wave before anyone else did, they had the foresight and application to make it happen, but unfortunately the whole thing is now sewn up so tight that unless the platform holders make major changes and free everything up even though game devs have some amazing tools to make games now, actually getting success from your game (regardless of quality) is probably harder than ever.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I don't know if it is right to say that your monetization options are constrained by platform holders. Just because everyone is doing the same thing does not mean you have to. Platform holders have been consulting with me to see what additional options could be used to monetize and in my current company I am implementing radical monetization changes that do not require the approval of platform owners.

Phil Maxey
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I totally agree and it's interesting you say that because I'm actually going to try a bit of a radical variation on the usual time delayed approach of most F2P games with my next project, but by allowing games to be downloaded for free the platform holders created a situation where ultimately all games will be, and then it becomes about discovery which is also controlled by the platform holders.

So even though some variation is achievable in F2P mechanics, the ones that lead to the greatest revenue earned might have already been discovered and will continue to be used unless the platform holders change things.

Lihim Sidhe
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What always confused me was the concept of 'dubious business practices' via a game that plays all its cards right to extract money from a player. If you take this principle just one step further I should be gathering my resources to sue Capcom because several years ago I could not stop playing Devil May Cry 3 instead of homework. It was MY choice to master jump cancelling over anatomy. It was MY choice to go for SSS ranks over studying. Capcom made a good game. How is that dubious?

I currently play Puzzles & Dragons. Man would I love to have a 100 Magic Stones. While I remain tempted it's become a me vs the game scenario where I want to see if I can outlast the sense of impatience the game has instilled in me. I don't have to though. If I buy a 100 Magic Stones its because the business of the game triumphed over my frugality. If I never spend a dime my frugality wins.

So my opinion is if a game designer makes a game that respects a player's privacy and does nothing objectively unlawful, who cares??? So X designer was clever enough to create a mechanic that separated 1,000,000 from a dollar each... what's the big deal about? That developer was smart and at the end of the day that developer has themselves and a family to take care of.

This was a great article that provided insight into the history of social games for the past five years. I just don't think game design, no matter how clever or insidious, can be faulted for being too engaging or too successful. At the end of the day everything we do is a choice. That ranges from making IAP to posting comments to Gamasutra instead of studying.

"Gamasutra should be ashamed of themselves. Their articles are just too good and keep me reading. I could be playing outside with a football instead of reading this incredible material!!!"

Muir Freeland
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I really like this comment, and I think that you're right that people are ultimately responsible for their own decisions. I don't entirely agree with it, though, and I think a big part of the reason is balance in game design. If a game relies on microtransactions, it's in its best to keep things unbalanced enough that I eventually buy something. If a game makes you pay a flat fee up-front, it's in its best interest to be carefully-balanced and entertaining. Calling microtransactions "evil" is probably sensationalist, but they certainly don't encourage fair game balance.

Samuel Green
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I completely agree with your post although I think it's worth pointing out that you tend to get two kinds of whales. Whales who have the money, love the game and think it's worth spending $20 on a Saturday night instead of going out for a fancy dinner or a party. Then you get others who probably don't have the money and can't control their urges to spend.

High-powered 90s Wall Street 'recreational' drug users vs the people who hit rock bottom and depend on their fix as their life spirals downwards. Obviously, I'm not trying to trivialize life-destroying drug abuse by comparing it to social game monetization... but it's a similar case of willpower and mentality (I don't believe it's addiction).

For me, I see nothing wrong with this at all. The players are grown adults (kids should be protected against limitless spending) and it's their choice... but like all desirable products in the world, self-control is an issue for some people and good designers can manipulate that.

Although, unless you're at Zynga and have the world's biggest metrics and data analysis service, I highly doubt most designers are delving deep into the human psyche to turn people into spending zombies. I worked for one of the big players and we didn't have the desire or the ability to be that insidious.

Michael Joseph
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Individuals are NOT ultimately responsible for their actions. That they are is probably the biggest, laziest, and most self serving, cop-out misconception in the world. This type of thinking is the refuge of hypocrites.

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

It's a popular Christian quotation often dismissed however, I think someday it will be proven convincingly that we are all responsible in part (big or small) for the state of our society, ergo each of us are responsible in part for the state of everyone else on the planet in today's global economy.

And make no mistake, in case you think I'm speaking about something unrelated to your opinion, every facet of "state" of an individual is very much the same thing as being "responsible for one's actions."

We very conveniently and self-servingly like to separate a person's "actions" from their "condition" when the reality is their actions are directly linked to their conditions.

The very fact that we can statistically PREDICT for example how people will "turn out" based on their parent's income level speaks volumes. How can anyone be "ultimately (we love to preface it with "ultimately" don't we?) responsible for their own actions" when the single biggest factor in determining how that person will fair in life is according to their parent's financial status? People's choices of actions are molded by their conditions and life experiences.

Too many liberals take for granted that the reason they themselves didn't wind up "choosing" to become hooked on drugs is due to their own self control. Self control or "willpower" is a skill. The development of that skill is closely linked to socioeconomic status.

Logically, if everyone was responsible for their own actions, the distribution of excellence would be independent of anything else. But it's obviously not. People don't just happen to make a string of choices that leads them to mediocrity or worse. It's fantastically absurd to think so in my opinion.

This is why we all have a moral responsibility towards one another. Game developers should take heed. We will never solve the problems of the world by preying on one another, by pretending that our individual successes are wholly our own, or by pretending that we are not at least partially responsible for the failures of others.

Muir Freeland
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This is terrifying. I think that accountability for your own actions is a key ingredient for "excellence."

Michael Joseph
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I'm sure it is terrifying to think otherwise when you believe that the "you" inside you is the key determinant to whatever excellence you've achieved. If one buys into the truth (as I see it at least) then the terrifying question is, will I live my life differently?

Muir Freeland
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This is very quickly devolving into a "does free will exist" discussion, and I don't want to go down that road because neither of us can definitively prove it one way or the other.

I think it's moot, though, because a lack of free will also absolves Zynga and their ilk from making their brand of F2P games. They had no choice.

Tasley Porter
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First of all, I don't think anyone anywhere would say that making a good game is dubious and trying to conflate this with criticism that some design practices *are* dubious is completely disingenuous at best, ignorant at worst (and we're all born ignorant, thus forums were born to help us help each other with that).

The argument is contradictory and easily falls under the "if it's profitable, it's legitimate" irrationalization. It is our attempt to reconcile our personal morals with the amorality of our capitalist system. And it's futile: in this industry you can make good money or you can make good games, and rarely can you do both -- it requires many sacrifices and much time, which a starving dev often doesn't have and thus comes the need to justify doing *anything* in the name of survival, being "clever". There's a fine line between the clever man and the trickster.

In designing games, developers are *trying* to manipulate player behaviors. That is the essential dynamic of games: compelling players to behave in such a way that they continue the game. This is why your argument on "dubious business practices" is contradictory.

You're also conflating what is lawful with what is right. What is lawful is not necessarily what is right and history is replete with examples of this. They are completely separate things and we know this. Saying "as long as it's not doing anything 'objectively unlawful'" isn't saying anything about whether it's right.

Just because you see the tantalizing effects of buying 100 Magic Stones as a challenge to overcome doesn't mean everyone should or does see it that way. It's also thoroughly irrelevant: the game is designed to compel and encourage you to buy them and that is the ONLY point that matters here. Is the developer responsible for this mechanic? Of course they are. It was intentional. This also doesn't remove responsibility from the player. In fact, the developer and the player become partners in the consequences that follow. They share responsibility, though I believe the creator has greater responsibility since the effect was deliberate.

"insert coin" mechanics are extremely questionable and ought to be discussed much more often. Developers have to make a tough decision and then face the facts about that decision: either they are selling a game or they are selling Magic Stones and those are fundamentally two very different things, with very different goals. They will probably make less money in the short term from simply selling the game, ala Guild Wars 2, but in the long term it's profitable AND they get to make a game on a clear conscience that requires no moral defense. Else they give their game away for free while trying to fleece players for as many dollars as they can convince them to part with.

Few think developers are evil people, maliciously plotting to rule the minds of players. But intent is also worthless; when your results don't speak your heart go back to the design and correct, iterate, reform, transform and so forth. Deal with the problem and move on, rather than passing the buck or debating intents or how much fault is owed to each party or how benignly "clever" the mechanisms are. Those are all beside the point.

I don't begrudge any of you the hard decisions you must make. But these "dubious business practices" really don't deserve a defense and we ought to consider the real reasons we think them dubious or not. The gloss that says making money any way you can is right shows just how much delusion we will indulge in to reconcile personal morals with amoral capitalism.

Ted Brown
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It's true that Facebook and "Social" gaming as we know it is dead. But I think it's important to remember that the "magic" was people finally able to share their experiences with others, not the experience itself! I'm still bullish on the potential of using Facebook as a platform to let players connect to others and evangelize games they love, regardless of the platform the actual game is played on.

I think their investment in a plugin for Unity, for example, underscores that.

John Trauger
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I just thought that FB game dried up because they could no longer impose their game spam on us unavoidably. The loop closed faster and faster between a new exploit opening up and annoyed FB users shutting it down.

Ever since I shuttered my Farmville account, I have looked on FB games as something to block. And now they're getting easier to ignore. These days I just block those who happen to get my attention.

Thomas Happ
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I suspect social games will continue to be a thing, just not the all-consuming doom-blob that it seemed to be at first.

Muir Freeland
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I agree. There's room for lots of different types of business models, and lots of different types of games. No single one of them has to invalidate the others! On a long enough timeline, I'd like to think that game quality and value will win out, not payment method.

Jesse Tucker
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"The period of fertile experimentation was cut short, to my mind, and the winners ended up being those who innovated on business practices, not game designs."
This quote from Raph Koster particularly struck me. These Zynga-esque games seemed to take some very simple game systems and interlace them with monetization and propagation systems. I felt very little desire to make these games, as much of the work was based in figuring out how to squeeze money out of users rather than to create an enjoyable experience for them.

Jonathan Murphy
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Humans aren't made to enjoy the same exact thing forever. They failed the second that fact was ignored. Marketing, and meta data will always get steam rolled by a good game designer.

/corpsehump Farmville

Sean Chau
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I think what needs to happen, or is destined to happen, is the rise of the Indie developers who take risks and place priority on creative ideas.

What needs to die out are pretty much all current major publishers with one-track motives: buy out/milk the one to two great concepts that seem to emerge on a yearly basis, causing a ricochet of all lesser major publishers to follow suit, leaving a whole slew of games that are essentially the same game.

Yes, the fall of all current major video game publishers, for having a one-track mind.

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Huh. I don't know, I own a Nintendo 3DS, and I swear the Street Pass Mii Plaza feature is one of the most inventive, joyous, truly social gaming experiences I've had in a while. Meet people by actually going out into the world and walking past them, rack up virtual currency thanks to the built-in pedometer on the Nintendo DS, and actually play fun "REAL" games with the people you've met. And it's mobile. And it's not spammy. And I actually take my 3DS with me all the time, because I can't wait to play more with whoever I end up tagging.

True, Zynga and the like exploited the platform where all the eyes were at that time, but it's not like inventive social gaming design just never realized its potential.

Simon Dean
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Good article, great comments. An enjoyable read discussing some of the issues I went through in my own mind a few years ago before taking the contrarian view, cancelling a social game we were working on, bypassing the gold-rush to mobile, and favouring a pure PC/Mac/Linux game. Given the fate of social and the saturation of mobile, desktop has turned out to be a fantastic choice.

Ron Dippold
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Only 25 comments? I figured this would be at least 100. Everyone must be burned out from last week's outing.

sean lindskog
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Great article.

I stayed away from the social games scene, but watched it with some combination of curiosity, fascination and horror. At it's height, I had some thoughts of "Am I missing the boat on this?". But ultimately I would ask myself the question of "Will I be happy making these kinds of games?", and the answer was always a resounding "No."

Nooh Ha
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260m monthly players, $2.1bn in gross games revs in H1 and 18% YOY growth in its last quarter doesn't sound like a dead/dying market to me.

What I hate about the F2P/Facebook/social/microtransactions/casual games discussions on gamasutra is the intolerance by some of anything that does not fit into their own view of what a game is and how it should work. The games industry now caters to every demongraphic and geographic permutation and games tastes as a result inevitably vary enormously. The industry's increasingly open and accessible nature means that the market responds to and moves where players want it to not viceversa. Yes, you may detest every game on Facebook but FB gaming is now a mature market and 260m people would appear to disagree with you. If you think you can educate them with a "real" game, please feel free to give it a go. Let the market decide.

Andrew Sega
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Leigh Alexander is a fantastic writer, but in this particular instance, you're right. It's very far from being dead, especially since the market still GREW last quarter.

People focus on Candy Crush and similar breakout games in the mobile segment, but ignore the huge pile of bankrupt developers, skyrocketing user acquisition costs, difficulty of doing dynamic content / AB tests, and the lack of a strong social graph...

Harry Fields
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The biggest problem I see is how many people are getting a split of that 2.1bn revenue and how much of that is actually profit? Customer acquisition costs can be way too high unless you happen to strike oil and land as a featured app or otherwise get "free" press. Making a quality product isn't enough. There's a very large "luck" element to these types of games making it to profitability. And too many products fail to do so.

Arseniy Shved
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I have to disagree with you, Nooh.
I mean you are right, the market is not dead, and a "real" game will fail.

But when a designer has a task to "monitor top games and clone successfull ones"; when designing and implementing gameplay takes 5-7 less time than viral\monetization schemes; when companies actually copy-paste their own entire code, but insert different pictures and call it a new game; when players get rewards for everything but closing the game there is something deeply wrong with this very market.

And of course something a bit more "real" (btw I hate this term in this context) will fail, for the players are tought to like other type of games, where, for example, if something is not said in the tutoral simply does not exist. Tastes do not change in one day.

I'm not an expert or a prophet but I can see 4 outcomes:
1) games in social networks mature, and the players will do the same with said games? ehich is kinda optimistic
2) socail games ramain the same, players remain satisfyed, but why would I care?
3) Players will want something a tad more diferent, migrate to "real" games and we are all fucked
4) Most likely one - something entirely different wil happen =)

Steve Fulton
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Every 4 years or so a game cycle ends, customers move on the next big thing, and people who love to make games are stuck wondering "what happened?" Nothing really "happened" except that too many games employed the same ideas, experiences got stale and the customers grew tired of something that once felt original and new. Game developers then redevelop, refactor, and and re-engineer their game ideas, always holding on to the best lessons learned from the last cycle, and the cycle before that, and so on to make new and better experiences. Clash Of Clans would not exist without the lessons from Farmville. Farmville would not exist without the lessons learned by The Sims, The Sims would exist without the lessons learned from Roller Coaster Tycoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon would not exist without lessons learned from Sim City, Transport Tycoon, Civilization, Themepark, etc. Studying the past is very important, but what is just as important is the process of discovering the ideas and mechanics that made the last cycle successful, and then kneading those into what's next.

Daniel McMillan
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What now? Simple. Press on. When the New World was discovered it would be quite a few centuries before all of it could be explored and colonized. The human spirit endeavors to explore, persevere, and have fun. People will always play good social (multiplayer) games if they know about them and if someone they respect (and/or love) is playing one. The best is yet to come!

Harry Fields
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As long as studios keep on making AAA games for consoles/PC, they can keep experimenting or dabbling with any and all nascent markets, looking for their special bubble-sauce. But keep making the hi-fi experiences that make us all feel like kids again when we buy the newest blockbuster!

Duy Hoang Nguyen
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In my opinion, there're some reasons that explains the downfall of Facebook games :

1. Wrong initial approach and it (sadly) worked

The success of Facebook couldn't have been that glorious if there had been no games involved. People love playing game. And some company decided that instead of focusing on the "Fun and Addictive" gameplay, they have "Addictive" part done by abusing the Skinner Box technique.

And, it worked, the kind of gameplay which provided anti-social experience was a big hit. And the financial success was a proof that this kind of gameplay is a MUST for Facebook game.

2. People "rinse and repeat" that approach
The term "rinse and repeat" can be seen in Internet Marketing field, when people just copy the methods of former marketer and hope they could be rich as well.

However, the method could be outdated even before they try.

The same story here : The success of FarmVille, for example, made other developers to believe that they must follow the same blueprint. So the result was thousands of FarmVille-like games, or FarmVille-DNA games. And the customers feel tired of them.

3. The so-called "social" isn't that "social", and the gameplay is lame

I remember the first time playing FarmVille 2 because of an invitation, and my first thought was :

"What the *** is this "social" game ? ".

How can you call this a social game when there's nothing to do but to run around, plant some trees, wait to get water, and ask friends to help you ? And even if you have friends, the interaction is soooo fake, and lame,too. I couldn't find any fun playing this game.

But, my friends praised the game, even some game designers whom I talked to also praised that mechanics. They said that it a MUST for a successful game ( oh my ! )

Truth be told, I quit FarmVille 2 after 3 days and stick to MMORPGs. ( Real humans are better). I got a feeling that these FarmVille-like games focused on using psychological tricks to attract players, rather than providing meaningful gaming experience ( Friends keep telling me that I'm too "hardcore" and not "casual" enough to play FarmVille :) )