Are social games the future?
Cutesy non-violent games are taking advantage of the Facebook market.
The average social gamer is a 43-year-old woman. And social games—played on networks such as Facebook—are expected to generate about $1bn this year. Traditional console gamers might eventually be in the minority.
Facebook might not sound like a particularly significant gaming market, but it has more than 400 million active users. If it were a country, that would make it the third largest in the world, ahead of the United States. So, it’s no surprise that the world’s largest entertainment industry wants to move in.
Reflecting the older, more female demographic, top Facebook games are mostly non-violent collecting or simulation games. A couple of years ago the big Facebook gaming craze was Packrat—a card-collecting, set-completing game. Now, it is Farmville, in which players plant virtual crops before harvesting and using the profit to improve their farm. Frankly, these games are dull. They tend to be unchallenging, not particularly innovative, and characterised by cutesy graphics. But I’m probably not their target market.
More interesting, is the recent launch of what’s billed as “Facebook’s first soap opera”. The intriguing Spirit of Adventure tells a story reminiscent of The English Patient—a woman discovers the diaries of a second-world-war airman. With trinkets to win for completing puzzles, it’s gently enjoyable, and the fact that it centres around story rather than the gameplay is interesting.
Increasingly, growth will come from groups who haven’t previously thought of themselves as gamers: more diversity doesn’t necessarily mean all the games will be great, but I’m excited to see what classics this genre throws up next.—Guardian News and Media 2010