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In-Depth: Koster On The Evolution Of Social Game Genres

Following the launch of Metaplace's My Vineyard, founder Raph Koster tells Gamasutra social games will mirror core games' evolution, with "genre hybridizatio
Following the launch of Metaplace's My Vineyard for Facebook, founder and design veteran Koster says social games will follow a path similar to core games, with established genres undergoing thematic evolution. Koster spoke as part of Gamasutra's latest feature, Targeted Focus, Broad Audience?, which seeks to examine the increasing necessity for carefully targeted themes in casual and social games. His company recently released its farming game for Facebook, My Vineyard, which moves from the generalized theme of FarmVille into a much more carefully chosen niche. "In order to appeal to wine lovers, we paid attention to the actual process of wine-making rather than sticking slavishly to the established farming model," said Koster. "And because it's a social game, players can get together for wine-tasting parties and there's a fairly significant level of user creativity in that the vineyards can be decorated and built out." Metaplace's motto is "Next-Generation Social Games", and he sees this as a natural evolution of the market -- parallel to one core games went through long ago. "Once you had your first perfect first-person-shooter mechanic, it became apparent that you could apply it to different time periods in history, to science fiction themes, to fantasy themes, and so on. "That's the same thing that's going on here," he said. "If you compare farming to first-person shooters, you can now take farming and add social elements and decorating elements and multi-player elements," Koster added. "A bit of genre hybridization is going on and the games are getting a bit broader as that happens." The advantage in social games is attracting a slice of the audience who might not be attracted to a more general game: "users... may be interested in doing so because it lines up perfectly with one of their hobbies," according to Koster. The full feature, Targeted Focus, Broad Audience?, explores the phenomenon in greater depth. It also includes comments from Playdom's general manager of international operations, Lloyd Melnick, and Michael Thornton Wyman, CEO of Tucson, AZ-based developer Big Splash Games, developers of the Choclatier series and is live today on Gamasutra.

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