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Should social games be taken seriously by the game industry?

updated 01:25 pm EDT, Sat June 19, 2010

Editorial tackles web gaming

With E3 just finished, it's time for the market to start evaluating game companies. But as EA, Ubisoft, Activision, and others continue to get all the headlines, social-gaming companies don't get the kind of respect their bigger competitors do. This may have to change with larger platform supporters, including non-traditional Apple, as they may be ignoring an untapped market.

Zynga, the world's most prominent social-gaming company is one such company that should be taken seriously. The firm is the home to FarmVille, Mafia Wars, PetVille and the newly released FrontierVille. According to the company, it has over 230 million active users playing its many games each month. That's far more than EA and other top developers can muster.

And yet, it gets no respect. Recently, Zynga took the stage at WWDC during Steve Jobs' keynote. At the event, the company announced that its wildly popular FarmVille is making its way to the iPhone. And as users play the game, they will be able to make in-app purchases to build up their farms. Even better, the game will sync with FarmVille on Facebook, making it easy for users to continue their progress on their mobile phones.

Whether or not FarmVille will be the success that its online alternative was remains to be seen. But there's little debating that social games are the future. With more and more users actively visiting Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, having games to play with friends seems like an obvious inclusion. And considering they're now making their way to mobile phones, they're starting to gain the kind of ground that previously, only major releases from prominent developers have achieved.

And all the while, not a single social game has made a significant showing at E3, the video game industry's biggest conference. That's a shame. Social gaming is on the rise. Companies like Zynga have more customers than any prominent console developer. And yet, at the single event where social gaming should matter, it doesn't matter at all.

Exactly what it will take to bring social games into the mainstream in the industry is anyone's guess. Consoles are flashy. Handhelds are interesting. But simple games running on a social network? Yeah, not so much.

The simplicity of social games are holding them back. But that simplicity also contributes heavily to their success. So, while they might not get the kind of attention that more traditional games do, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: social games could very well drive industry sales going forward. And maybe then they will get the attention they deserve.

By Don Reisinger

by MacNN Staff



  1. herojig

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Great point, although these gamers won't ever read

    My wife never really "gamed" before but is totally hooked on farmville, along with a kazillion other of her friends. These folks are not geeks, and also will never see this article. But it's a good point that should be made, although to what end, not sure. This topic reminds me of the "The iPad is not a real computer" war. Cheers,

  1. chirpy22

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Should social games be taken seriously by the game


  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It really doesn't matter

    The gaming industry is focused on old-school consoles and PC/Mac. Running sequel after sequel of their franchise hit games. They're milking their existing customer base of "hard core gamers" for all they can.

    You don't need an Xbox or PS3 or Wii to play social games. All you need is your existing smartphone, and the games themselves only cost what, $1.99? Therefore the old-school gaming industry is just hoping you'll ignore them. They've invested billions in hardware and software development, and they're locked into the past.

    Oh wait. I forgot to mention that handheld games, like the PSP Go, are doomed. Apple will eventually kill them all off. The iPod touch and iPhone will take over handheld gaming, and Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Sega will end up just writing games for iOS.

  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Not as long as the only controls on the iPhone (and I own one) are tilt and virtual buttons. Compare FF1 on the iPhone to the PSP; no comparison. The iPhone has lower framerate and poorer controls.

    While the iOS might make a nice software platform, the hardware just doesn't allow for any serious gaming.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969



    These social games work because they're tied into Facebook. It's Facebook that's bringing the customers, and then they get hooked on the game. I don't know if these games will get discovered without a social network to bring the customers.

    Would Farmville be as popular if it was a game on a site by itself? (not on Facebook) I doubt it.

  1. facebook_Young

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2010


    comment title

    I think the author misses the point. Social games arent really games in the sense of "games". For instance, compare farmvill or social city with simcity 3000 or even simfarm. Or mafia wars with Final Fantasy, and treasure isle with Myst. They dont even come close traditional games are so much more fun than whats available on Facebook. Social games are really social tools where people have different method of playing with each other. It goes along the line of superpoke games or throwing virtual pie games. Theyre not really games. They are methods of social communication.

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