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