Social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo command users by the hundreds of millions, making them a possible genesis point for a game industry revolution.
The latest Gamasutra feature analyzes the state of gaming on social networks
, their earning potential, what hooks players, and more.
How are social networking games defined for the purposes of this feature? The term describes a specific market segment, and yet it's quite broad-ranging:
Colloquially, games on social networking sites and/or on iPhone are called social games, but even this definition is up for debate. Some differing definitions or conditions include:
- Multiplayer games that utilize the social graph, i.e. a player's social connections, as part of the game. Examples: Parking Wars, PackRat
- Games in which the main gameplay involves socializing or social activities like chatting, trading, or flirting. Examples: YoVille, Pet Society
- Turn-based games that are played within a social context or with friends. Examples: Texas Hold'em Poker, Scrabble
- Competitive casual games that include friends-only leaderboards. Examples: Who Has the Biggest Brain?, Word Challenge
Part of the draw of games on social networks is that their asynchronous nature is highly inclusive. Friends on completely different schedules still have a sense of playing together, and essentially groups can participate just by showing up:
The average user belongs to more than one social networking site, but devotes the majority of time to only one. As such, users have different participatory rates, logging in to one social network every day, another every once in a while, and yet another, only if an e-mail beckons the user to come back.
These different participatory rates translate into different play patterns. Some players have limited time and need a game that can be played quickly whereas others are willing to spend hours on a game. In fact, depending on the day or the social networking site selected, the same user may exhibit different play patterns. Therefore, it's more useful to divide players by play patterns rather than by gender or age. A game with inclusive play satisfies players who want to play sporadically and/or continually.
You can now read the full feature
, examining this increasingly important vital market segment in-depth (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).