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Social Gaming Summit panel writeups June 23, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in social games, social gaming.

I moderated two panels at the Social Gaming Summit 2009 today. The first was about building social games at scale and featured the CEOs/COOs of the top three social game companies; Mark Pincus of Zynga, John Pleasants of Playdom and Sebastien de Halleux of Playfish.

Gamasutra has an excellent writeup of the panel. Inside Social Games also liveblogged the panel.

Second panel was about social games “in the wild” – i.e. off of social networks. Andrew Bussey of Challenge Games, Daniel James of 3Rings, Matt Mihaly of Sparkplay and Jim Greer of Kongregate were the panelists. I haven’t see a writeup yet, but some notable paraphrased quotes from the converation include:

– Many games on social networks not actually social. Players playing alone, together. Interaction not really with friends but with a “cardboard cutout of a friend”.

– Many MMOGs have much higher degree of true social interaction between players than Facebook games. “Playing” with your friends vs Making friends with the people you play with.

– Facebook games the “gateway drug” for the rest of the gaming industry, attracting players who would not consider themselves gamers. Destination game sites draw a harder core player

– “Manipulating users to spam their friends” is less powerful and effective than building a game experience that users will willingly tell their friends about

– All this being said, games companies built on social networks have seen phenomenal growth that far outstrips growth of game companies built on the open web.

I may have gotten some of these wrong, but I was moderating to it was hard to take good notes. If anyone has seen a good writeup please link in comments

Also Siqi Chen, CEO of Lightspeed portfolio company Serious Business, gave an excellent presentation on metrics for social games with David King of lil green patch that shared a lot of live data from their games and was very insightful.


1. Kenneth Hong - June 23, 2009

The key to your second panel discussion on Social Gaming in the Wild goes back to Justin Smith’s presentation where he defined Social Gaming as “Casual games designed to be played with your friends on online social platforms.”

As Justin described, “Social Games” encompass the new genre of online games that appeals to the mass of social network users who don’t necessarily consider themselves to be gamers.

To equate the great games by Challenge Games, 3Rings, Sparkplay and Kongregate with “social games” goes against this definition. For the most part they aren’t casual, they aren’t designed to be played with your friends (but rather to allow you to become friend with the people you play with), and aren’t on the social platforms.

The best mmog companies are making games typically targeted at hardcore gamers with deep back stories, multiple complex strategies, sustained social interaction within the game through trading, questing and guilds and outside of the game through forums and wiki’s.

Of course, these two world views are converging. Social gaming companies are developing games that address many of the deficiencies described by the panel: the use of friends as tokens, players playing alone, lack of true social interaction, and the corruption of social graphs.

At the same time, hardcore gaming companies working to integrate better with the social networks with things like hybrid apps, profile boxes, and facebook connect.

It will be fascinating to watch how the social gaming space will evolve with it’s casual & hardcore elements and on- & off- network components. As this happens, we’ll need a better taxonomy to describe how these games differ and overlap.

Thanks again to you, Charles, and David for a great conference!

2. Game Friends - September 9, 2009

FB games have only scratched the surface of its potential but the games on there are so bad I don’t see people really sticking with them longterm…but then again I get a million farmville/mafia wars requests a day. The key will be to leverage the proper networks that are focused on gamers, versus random communities and substandard games….the masses would be happy with solitare it seems…but if they are gamers they demand more.

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