How The Facebook Paradigm Is Changing Gaming


Social networks like Facebook have facilitated the rise of games with tens of millions of monthly players that are raking in cash hand-over-fist – games that most gamers have probably never heard of.

I have to admit that I’m not the type to really get into the whole Facebook gaming scene. I must have dozens of dozens of unread “Billy Bob Wants You To Play (X)” cluttering in my inbox that I just ignore. Still, the fact that I have so many invitations in the first place means that somebody is playing these games, even if it isn’t me.

In fact, that’s the point that John Earner, Vice President of Product Management at social games developer Playfish makes in a really nifty piece about social gaming over at Crispy Gamer: There are anywhere from a billion people to a billion-and-a-half people plugged into various social networks all across the world. If only 5% of that total is the type to play Facebook games, that’s still a whopping 50 million potential customers.

Speaking with Crispy Gamer’s James Fudge, Earner talks both the business and creative side of things, and it’s… not hard to see why they’re doing well for themselves, even in this craptacular economy. Or maybe this economy is actually a boost – while not everyone has a gaming PC or a console, if you have a computer able to access the Internet, you’ve got the hardware needed to play these Facebook games. It’s much easier to justify spending a few microtransactions of $3 apiece than it is to convince yourself to drop $60 on a brand-new game, for a lot of people.

Plus, costs are almost inherently lower than “mainstream” games – while the biggest-budget social games are certainly multi-million dollar affairs, they’re (on average) much cheaper to produce. Again, a boon in today’s economic climate.

More than that, it’s the scale that’s so staggering. We make a big deal out of WoW‘s 11 million subscribers, or Halo 3 selling 10 million – and 30 million people play these Facebook games every month, and we gamers don’t bat an eyebrow.

In some ways, it actually reminds me of the whole Social Link system of Persona 3 and Persona 4 – where building links and connections with people is part of the game (or, rather, the entire point of the game). Only these have fewer Japanese teenagers and less bizarre sexual metaphors.

The full piece is a pretty fascinating read, so if you’re interested in this world of gaming that seems so unfamiliar to the one we know and love, check it out over at the Big CG.

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