If you are part of one of the biggest social networks , eg. Facebook, Myspace, then you might have noticed a new wave of game showing up and a bunch of your friends playing them.
These new games offer twists on great game designs and are unique each in their own ways. Playfish has been one of the biggest influences out there , having most of their games on the top of the charts on Facebook. So why are these games catching the attention of millions?
For one, it's how they are designed. Their are two types of social networking games, those that are just games to have fun with friends and others that the point is to add friends to your app game. The latter usually has a big "INVITE FRIENDS" button on the main page imporing you to click on it.
Games like this are usually not as entertaining because they usually force you to get people to play so that your experience is more enjoyable telling you things like "invite one more person and you can buy the ROCKET LAUNCHER FROM HELL!!!! RAWR RAWR!" and it really ruins the fun because you end up saying your friends "look you don't need to even play, just join up and thats it."
This is deplorable... but it is a great marketing scam. These games are called Viral. The point is to spread and get people to eventually click the micro-transaction button so they can get fake money in the game. We'll that's actually how all social network games make their money but when that's the focus it waters down gameplay to null.
So the other option is to actually use the network as a testing ground to the infinite possible game designs. MAKE an actual game that people would play rather than some crappy, cookie-cutter spreadsheet game that has been the case for a while now.
The network is there and people are willing to play; it's like a Game Designer's dream! The risk is so small that games can be pumped out as fast as you can make them and the quality does not have to be AAA so to speak. People recognize that graphics are gonna be sub bar and try to make the best of what you have created.
Games can be experimental now that the risk is so low and designers can go nuts and just make far out designs where they could have otherwise on a bigger title. Publishers are out of the picture and it goes straight to the costumer. And if you need to survey your audience, just ask. You have a tool which allows millions of users to be at your questioning and that kind of service is invaluable.
I see a future of wacky far out games that will call attention to many users proving that games can reach out to all audiences. This new environment will nurture experimental growth for designers and hopefully we'll see some more original games.