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Notes, video and commentary on the Social Gaming Summit June 16, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, casual games, game design, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg, social games, social gaming, user generated content, virtual goods, virtual worlds.

The Social Gaming Summit was quite a success on Friday. Over 400 attendees seemed to enjoy the sessions based on the high proportion of people in sessions (vs in the lobby) and the fact that even the last session, that ended at 6pm on Friday evening, was very well attended.

The attendee list was a good mix of game developers and publishers, with people coming from both the gaming side and the social media side. Most of the attendees with gaming backgrounds came from casual gaming, web based gaming or MMOG backgrounds. With the notable exception of EA, there were few representatives from the giants of the console space.

Although each of the topics covered different topics, it was clear that monetization was top-of-mind for all panelists as the discussion on most panels eventually turned to this issue.

I (Jeremy Liew) moderated the first session, on What Makes Games Fun, featuring game design thought leaders Amy Jo Kim, Nicole Lazarro and Ian Bogost, plus John Welch of Playfirst, the company behind one of the most popular casual game ever, Diner Dash.

The discussion was wide ranging and covered Nicole’s framework for generating emotion in games and the four types of fun and Amy Jo Kim’s five game mechanics.

There was excellent discussion about how fun, addictiveness and business models can either collide or work together, with in depth discussion of two games in particular, Pack Rat and Parking Wars.

Pack Rat was lauded as an example of a game that did a masterful job of creating addictiveness through game mechanics, and a game that had a natural digital goods/service business model baked into it. But some panelists questioned whether the “grind” without real “payoffs” at different levels could burn players out. In contrast, Diner Dash had real changes in game dynamic and strategy as players level up (e.g. when Flo gets the coffee maker at level 4, it changes the winning strategy) that made leveling up more meangingful and rewarding.

Parking Wars was pointed to as a highly social game with a genre matching to the mass market that let players “play slight variations of themselves” where they could explore slightly nefarious behavior in a safe environment. But “winning” in Parking Wars forced activity to the edges of the social network, instead of to the core, so the “points” game mechanic ended up working against the “fun”.

UPDATE: Virtual worlds has an excellent writeup of the What Makes Games Fun panel.

The second session was focused on Casual MMOs and Immersive Worlds, with Joey Seiler from Virtual World News moderating representatives NeoPets, Nexon, K2 Networks and Gaia.

One of the key questions was how to get free to play users to open their wallet. Gamasutra covered this panel in detail and noted:

Added Kim (Nexon): “A lot of people think they can make money off of casual games where people play a couple of hours a week. I don’t believe that. When people get engaged with the social experience then they’ll buy items. You need to understand the psychology.”

Reppen (Neopets) continued: “For us, it’s all about a sense of ownership that our audience has. There’s a real sense that it’s their game… The identity component to virtual worlds is so important, but there’s so many other things going on in the meta games around earning points, acquiring wealth, shopping and customizing and creating your own experiences… It’s part of a mix.”

In other words, even for casual MMOGs, you monetize the hardcore players who tie their identity into the game. Erik Bethke (GoPetsLive) said the same thing at this years GDC previously in explaining why he applies game dynamics to make virtual worlds more addictive.

UPDATE: Massively writes up the panel in Q&A style.

After lunch Andrew Chung from Lightspeed moderated a panel on Asynchronous Games on Social Networks with the CEOs of the companies behind many of the top games on Facebook, including Friends for Sale, Zombies, Vampires, Warbook, JetMan and (fluff)Friends.

Inside Social games
took live notes from the panel. One interesting counterpoint in response to the question, “How do you move people down the spectrum to make them more engaged and hard core?”:

Blake (Zombies, Vampires etc)- There is always going to be some subset of your userbase that’s never going to play more than their 30 minute lunch break, because that’s all the time they have. Don’t inundate users with too much experience at the beginning, gamers hate to read, I’ve never read a game manual in my life.

Siqi (Friends For Sale)- I think there’s a lot to learn from traditional MMO design, things like levels. If you get to the next level, you get this new shiny thing. It makes the game more complicated, but it works. Our hardest core users use more synchronous features.

Shervin (Warbook, Jetman, etc) – The first generation of social games were incredibly simplistic, and the platform was so viral, that it was a lot easier for apps to grow. But it behooves all of us to invest in content. I’m staying up late at night building social games 2.0, games with richer content, deeper stories, much better user experiences. It’s going to become harder for independent developers. I can’t talk about the games we’re working on, but you can look at Playfish. Their engagement levels are high and they’re growing faster than those that have come before.

In other words, games need to be easy to learn, but hard to master.

Next up was Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat moderating a panel on User Generated Games in Social Networks and Virtual Worlds. The speakers were from IMVU, Dogster, Three Rings (Puzzle Pirates, Whirled and Bang Howdy) and Habbo.

Virtual Worlds News has coverage of the panel and noted that:

In IMVU, said Rosenzweig, creators “do what they do because it’s cool, but they like making credits” by selling the items in world. That can then be cashed out through IMVU, which leads to 90% of its revenue, taking a cut while transfering IMVU credits to real world dollars. That user attitude is true of Dogster and Catster as well–users don’t get a cut of the money generated by creating games around their items and boosting activity. They just enjoy creating and sharing.

In other words, social game players generate content for love, not for money. But if there is money there to be had, they don’t mind taking some of that too! Last month Chris Alden noted the same experience in the blog economy.

UPDATE: Worlds in Motion also has a writeup of this panel

After a short break for cookies, the attendees reconvened to hear Brandon Sheffield of Gamasutra moderate a panel about Building Communities and Social Interaction In and Around Games, featuring the leaders of Kongregate, Zynga and Addicting Games, along with noted social architect and game designer Amy Jo Kim.

The discussion centered on the desire that many users had to communicate with each other, and how games often served as an easy way to break the ice and provide topics that made it easy to start a conversation. I haven’t found any coverage of this panel online unfortunately.

The final session of the day was focused on Monetization and Business Models for Social Games. My partner Ravi Mhatre moderated the panelists, including the leaders of Mochi Media, Sparkplay Media, Stardoll and Acclaim. This was a fantastic panel. Virtual Worlds News has great coverage.

Although most of the discussion was focused on the four models of advertising, subscription, digital goods and retail, David Perry noted that there are by his count 29 business models for games.

On the mix between advertising and virtual goods, the panel mostly agreed that virtual goods was the primary revenue stream but that advertising was an important secondary stream:

“Microtransactions and advertising go perfectly togetehr,” said Miksche. “Microtransactions drive our business, but we will never have 100% of our users wanting to pay for that. Advertising is a good way to monetize that remaining X percent.”

There was some good discussion about the tension between game balance and letting players buy powerful items in the games. Several panelists noted that self expression was a key driver of virtual goods sales:

As for who’s paying, Perry (Acclaim) expected most microtransactions to come from hardcore MMORPG playerskitting out the avatars with fancy armor and such. Instead, it comes from Dance. The game is a simple dancing activity, but because users spend so much time looking at their avatars, the appearance and identity becomes even more important.

That works well for Stardoll, a fashion-themed site, especially with trends that match the real world…

“We’re One-Click Dressing,” said Miksche (Stardolls). “You come to the site and instantly start dressing. For our users, young girls, that’s very important–instant gratification.”

For those who couldn’t attend, UStream.tv hosts video from the social gaming summit.

Andrew Chen’s blog also has his takeaways from the social gaming summit.

I’ve pulled together all the coverage I could find, but if there were additional posts, please let me know in comments.

Three examples of truly social games March 25, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, game design, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, social games, social gaming.

Last week I asked what distinguishes a social game from a multiplayer game and suggested that for social games, social context has an impact on gameplay and enjoyment. Parking Wars is a great example of a truly social game on Facebook

When I asked readers for suggestions of social games, a few people suggested Friends For Sale. I agree that FFS is social; social context has a big impact on what players do. I’m not sure that it is a game though in that there is no “win” endstate, but that may be just quibbling with definitions.

The NY Times highlighted another great example of a social game last Friday when Brad Stone wrote a profile of GoCrossCampus:

This winter, the armies of Yale invaded Massachusetts and conquered Harvard. Cornell’s troops turned Dartmouth’s militia into a vassal force. Columbia allied itself with Yale and occupied Long Island, before getting routed by the Princeton-Cornell alliance.

The historic rivalries of the Ivy League have reached the Internet.

Eleven thousand Ivy League students and alumni have played out these scenarios as part of an online computer game called GoCrossCampus, or GXC. The game, a riff on classic territorial-conquest board games like Risk, may be the next Internet phenomenon to emerge from the computers of college students.

Techcrunch notes another company, Kirkland North, with a similar model.

Both games rely heavily on social context (namely school, department, and residence loyalties) to provide a framework for alliances, gameplay and motivation. It appears that both have also been able to draw a significant proportion of the students on various campuses into games, spreading virally.

I really like the approach that all three companies have taken to building social games, both on social networks and on a standalone basis.

Interesting nuggests from Social Games Panel March 5, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, asynchronous gaming, business models, social games, social gaming, social media.

Yesterday I moderated a panel on social games at Graphing Social Patterns. The panelists were Mark Pincus (CEO of Zynga), Shervin Pishevar (CEO of Social Game Network), Michael Lazerow (CEO of Buddy Media) and John Hwang (CEO ofTrip Monger, whose primary app is Speed Racing). It was a wide ranging discussion.

First we discussed what differentiates a social game from other sorts of games, and in particular multiplayer games. The general consensus is that a game is social if the social context of the relationship between a player creates or enhances the gameplay. For example, if emotions like guilt, pride, reciprocity, gratitude or vengeance get evoked in the gameplay because of the combination of gameplay and player relationship, a game is social. These emotions of course greatly increase the level of engagement in a game. Scrabulous’ turn based game play (which can induce guilt for keeping a friend waiting for your move) and Warbook’s revenge attacks were both presented as examples.

We then discussed some of the specific game mechanics that have worked well for social games to keep high levels of engagement. These included asynchronous play and many of Amy Jo Kim’s game mechanics. Mark talked about the importance of dedicating resources to constantly tweaking and improving a game to keep engagement levels up since the environment changed so frequently. John Hwang talked about the need to focus on the “hits” in a hit driven business, rather than trying to make every game a hit.

The conversation turned to monetization. We noted that despite the early stage of the four companies, all of them were profitable. John Hwang said that an individual developer with a good game can make a great living off the ad networks. Mike Lazerow thought that “advergames” or sponsored custom games were going to become the standard ad unit for games. His company (Buddy Media) is trying to avoid the hit driven nature of the games business by building game skeletons that he can reskin for new sponsors. They have had great success, garnering a base of 24 blue chip brand advertisers so far, with each campaign averaging over $100k. Shervin said that SGN had been successful with both direct sales and with rich media ad networks, especially VideoEgg. Mark was most excited about the digital goods opportunities for Zynga. He noted that they had just launched their first game with digital goods baked into the game design, Ghost Racer, and with a base of just 30k daily active users, they were already seeing a run rate of over $20k/month in digital goods revenue. Shervin noted that while Warbook doesn’t have an explicit virtual goods model, Warbook gold had been showing up on Ebay and one player had made over $1,000 selling Warbook gold.

We next talked about how social games can grow. Viral growth has obviously been the key driver of growth up to this point for all the panelists. Shervin noted that they had seen a strong positive correlation between App Rating and rate of viral growth – high quality games spread faster. Mark talked about the importance of supporting a game with advertising, especially at launch. He said that many of the Zynga games had bought their early distribution so that they had a bigger base from which they could grow virally. However, as Facebook has clamped down on some of the viral channels, the panelists talked about other growth channels. SGN, Zynga and Buddy Media have all made acquisitions to help with their growth. SGN and Zynga both talked about the importance of having cross promotional and viral channels beyond the control of Facebook. They are interested in creating networks whereby apps can cross promote each other directly in canvas pages, and hence are not subject to changes that Facebook may make in the future. Both companies mentioned their respective game promotion networks as possible solutions to this problem.

If I missed elements of the discussion, readers please feel free to add them in comments. I wasn’t able to take notes since I was moderating, so this is relying on my imperfect memory! The video of the panel is also available here (scroll down a ways). UPDATE: Unfortunately the video seems to have been taken down.

Freemium service models – paying for convenience in games February 20, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, digital goods, freemium, mobile, subscription, virtual goods.

Last week I noted that free-to-play games will become increasingly dominant. I’ve also noted in the past several use cases for the digital goods business models that will be one of the primary monetization mechanisms for free-to-play games. Selling increased functionality can result in user dissatisfaction if players perceive that the only way that they can “win” is to buy more powerful in game functionality. This can be managed through the use of a dual currency system, as Matt Mihaly noted in a guest post.

One other monetization mechanism that free-to-play games can offer is services. Some games, especially real time strategy games, can be somewhat inconvenient to play because they require constant monitoring and occasionally require actions to be taken in game at a certain time. Gameplay can inconveniently interfere with other activities, like work and sleep.

Travian is a good example of this. In Travian each action takes a certain amount of time, and there is no way to “queue up” orders (e.g. if you want to upgrade your mine after you’ve finished upgrading your farm field), or to “schedule” orders to be carried out at a certain time (e.g. if you want to time a raid on another village to be coordinated with another attack). Instead, Travian requires a player to be in the game at a specific time to give an order.

Offering a player the ability to queue up orders or schedule orders as a premium service is a non controversial way to monetize users. Players who do not want to play can be just as effective as players who are willing to pay (they just need to be able to get online at the right times to give their orders). Players who pay for the service are paying simply for convenience, not for additional in game power.

Managerzone‘s mobile premium service is another example of such a service. As I noted previously, the mobile service gives a player certain alerts and allows a player to take a number of actions in the game from their mobile phone, without having to log on to the website from a computer. This makes the game much more convenient to play, but again doesn’t disadvantage a player who choses not to pay for the mobile service since they can still do everything from the website. It looks like Blizzard may also be considering a mobile version of World of Warcraft.

I’d be interested to hear from readers of other examples of games monetizing premium services.

Games 2.0: Lessons from Travian February 14, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, social gaming, user generated content.

Travian is a popular in-browser asynchronous massively multiplayer game; you build a village in “Roman” times and set off to expand your empire, raid others and form alliances. It has many of the games 2.0 characteristics that I’ve been blogging about and has been growing nicely, as Alexa shows:

alexa graph for travian

As a passive web game:

it’s persistent. it’s massively multiplayer. it’s competitive. it’s social. it’s portable. it’s passive.

passive web games are setup to permeate your life. they become habitual. they are inherently attractive to gamers with little time — whether that time is taken up with work or other games. they fit unobtrusively into the corners of your life, taking as much or as little time as you want to invest.

… it’s a game you’ve never heard of, but, it gets 225 million page views a day

Most game reviews are glowing, noting the appeal to both casual gamers and obsessive gamers. One review though notes that at heart this game is about negotiation and diplomacy:

Politics is the name of the game, as while there’s room for intelligence to make a difference in combat, in the end, if someone has enough troops (and the resources required to build them) they can crush anyone. So friends are important, or at least fellow wolves

The reviewer complains that the scale of the player base ultimately becomes a problem for a diplomacy based (ie social) game. With 20,000 or more players, it far exceeds Dunbar’s number.

I can’t help but think whether building such a social game on top of an existing social map might improve gameplay even further.

Games 2.0: SMS offers an interesting channel for asynchronous MMOGs February 1, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg, mobile, social games, social gaming.

I think asynchronous games are an interesting emerging trend as casual games meet multiplayer games to create social gaming opportunities. Many social games are taking off in Facebook as its platform allows social games to grow virally among groups of friends. These are largely text and asynchronous by nature.

One of the challenges in the mobile world has always been getting distribution, whether distribution of an app or placement in a mobile carriers deck. Increasingly, however, apps like Twitter and Facebook are taking advantage of SMS as the mechanism for lightweight text-based interactions (sometimes with a primary interaction mode through the PC). SMS has near universal availability, no distribution challenges (beyond getting an SMS shortcode), and the highest use rate among mobile phone users after calling:

Cell phone uses beyond calls

Given many social games’ text based, asynchronous nature, it will be interesting to see whether they can extend their reach via SMS into the mobile arena in the same way. This obviously allows a greater opportunity for subscription and premium digital goods revenue as consumers are more accustomed to paying for phone services than they are for web services. It also allows simplifies billing. WAP is another option.

Managerzone is one game that offers phone based services so that eager players can constantly stay in touch with what is happening “in game”. See a list of some of their WAP and SMS services as taken from their website below:

There are a number of mobile services that you can use to stay in touch and improve your game here at ManagerZone. This is a perfect complement for anybody that cannot always be in front of the computer or would like to immediately receive information as it is available.


You can subscribe to these services via our packages or you can simply pay as you go via money that you put in your account (see my home and your account). We offer both WAP services and SMS services (text messaging) and with our text messaging you can choose to receive the message via SMS to your mobile phone or via email to your mobile phone or computer. You thus simply enter your mobile phone number or your email address for your mobile phone.

Wap spy

This service immediately improves your manager skills. Well, the fact that you can check up on your opponent simply makes it one notch easier to know what to expect. You can follow their tactics and get recommendations as to whom to watch out for. You also get the formation of your opponent and of course some insight about the goalies strengths and weaknesses.

League standings

With a click you can see the updated standings in your league or other leages around the world and in your country. You can also directly from the standings click on a team to get more info about that team such as who the manager is and what kind of stadium they have. You can also easily challenge anybody via this page. All the things you do here is also updating the web and will be visible there the next time you log on via the web.

Youth and financial service

Would you like to increase the number of junior players your team has this week. Do you need to check up on your finances to make sure you have enough for that great player you want to bid on? Did your expenses come in as expected or do you need to make some changes? With this service you have total control of your finances all the time anywhere.
You can also check your financial situation up to 3 weeks back in time. Just like you can via the web.

Match statistics

In addition to the result you get to see all the details of the game. Who controlled the ball, who had the most free kicks and scoring chances. Do your own analysis straight from your mobile phone.
You can also read the full text review of the game from this page. There is nothing you want to know about the game that you don’t get from the wap function.

The functions above are just a few that you find in the WAP function. Other features include::

# Read all news
# Player watch
# Bidding on players
# Challenge and accepts friendlies
# Full training report
# Search for team and user info
# and much more……

What games work best on Facebook? January 15, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, facebook, game design, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, platforms, social networks.

Three good blog posts recently about games on Facebook.

Brian Green talks to a developer with two games, one casual and one hardcore, and based on that concludes that hardcore games do better:

I suspect the reason is because people still enjoy a good game, even if it has “hardcore” aspects like direct, zero-sum competition. Even though the party game was less confrontational, it probably didn’t include as many engaging elements as the first game. So, more people played and stuck with the game.

What he is really saying though seems to be that good games are better than bad games. Matt Mihaly checks the list of Facebook games with most daily users and finds that the top ten are all casual games, and notes that:

…good games on FB are as much about communication and/or self-expression as they are about gameplay.

I completely agree. As Matt notes in his post, there have been two paths to success for Facebook games. One has been to build lightweight “proto-games” that spread virally on the back of self expression or communicaiton. The other has been to build true games with complex and engaging game dynamics. These games do not grow as rapidly, but they do draw much higher daily engagement rates.

Nabeel Hyatt extends the analysis to compare multiplayer games to singleplayer games on Facebook.

Facebook games vs apps engagement

He finds that:

Multiplayer social games such as Warbook and Scrabulous average 11.4% active daily users, a good 30% higher than the average top Facebook app (8.01%). I’m sure if we could actually get engagement, attention, and retention metrics we’d see the same trend. This combined with the relatively high percentage of games represented in the top 25 applications (7 games) would suggest that there is simply a lack of quality, socially-focused games on Facebook.

I wholeheartedly agree with Matt and Nabeel. I think that over the next few months there will be a number of exciting social, multiplayer casual games with good gameplay dynamics built on Facebook and the other social networks as they open up. Teams comprising of experienced game designers and experienced social media/viral marketing experts will be best positioned to create these games. I am actively interested in hearing from such teams.

Games 2.0: The Facebook app Zombies is a huge MMOG December 21, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, facebook, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg.

As I mentioned in my last post, you can think of Zombies* and its Monster app brethren (Vampires, Werewolves and Slayers) as an asychronous massively multiplayer online game. It is essentially a PvP dueling game, not unlike duels.com, but much lighterweight. Many of the core elements of a game are already there; experience points, the ability to level up etc. In an interview with Virtual World News back in August, Zombie co-developer Blake Commagere said:

… the game play element is just a new form of interaction.

“Facebook serves different purposes for different people,” he said. “For some people, it’s a business contact site. They probably don’t want zombies on their pages, but a large number are looking for something to do. They’re looking for ways to interact. They use it to message their friends and organize parties. This is just one more way to interact with friends.”

In a random sampling of the users, Commagere found that the app draws slightly more women than men, mostly between 18 and 30. That’s a slightly younger and more female-biased demographic than Second Life or many of the other MMOGs.

In May the average visit time for a user to Facebook was just about 13 minutes, though they visit frequently. So Zombies works as a sort of casual MMO built on the social network. Commagere credits the app’s success to being simple, fun, and tied to a sense of community.

“You can build something for people on social networks,” he said, “but if you don’t leverage the social aspect, it’s just not as interesting. Then you’re ‘Oh, here I am with a widget on my page, all by myself.’ If you can see it on other people’s pages, that’s when users get into it. One of the things that’s compelling in the games we’re making is that you can see ‘Oh, here’s my friend John, and he’s got more points than me.'”

Arguably, the Monsters app are only proto games right now. They certainly derive more of their popularity from their social aspects than from their game design today. Biting someone or attacking their monster is a lightweight way of saying “I’m thinking about you” without having to actually compose a message. It also opens up the opportunity for reciprocity, one of Cialdini’s six weapons of influence). But collectively they have over 18m app installs and 700 daily actives. That is an impressive number for any MMO. As gameplay improves (and it will) you can expect to see daily active rates go up. Scrabulous has shown that with a good game dynamic, a game on Facebook can get up to 30% daily actives which suggests a lot of potential upside.

Watch this space!

* Zombies and the other Monsters apps are part of the Rock You family of Facebook Apps. Rockyou is a Lightspeed portfolio company.

Games 2.0: Social gaming on Facebook December 20, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, facebook, games, games 2.0, gaming, social gaming, social networks.

As I spend more time investigating games 2.0 and asynchronous gaming, I keep getting drawn into the area of asynchronous mutliplayer casual gaming, perhaps with friends. One of the emerging leaders in this space is Social Gaming Network, part of webs.com.

Earlier this month the Mercury News put up a good overview of what the Social Gaming Network is doing.

While the rest of us have been socializing on Facebook, Webs.com has been building a very interesting business. It has been creating free games on Facebook that have garnered a huge number of page views. WarBook, a role-playing game with no animated graphics, and other Webs.com games have generated a billion page views since the first game launched 90 days ago in August. The games are generating ad revenue with just about every view…

“We launched it and it’s exploding,” said Pishevar. “WarBook is getting 15 million page views a day.”…

… Street Race is a new SGN game that has no graphics. You simply sign up, get $1,000 in play money, buy a car, then race. In the race, you click on another user. Then nothing happens. Nothing. The next screen that comes up tells you if you won or lost, how much money you earned or lost, and the skill points you earned. As your skill points grow, you win more races and get more money to spend souping up your car. The social part comes in where you can get more money by inviting 20 friends to join…

It’s simple and easy. That’s why the game has gotten more than a million page views on its first day. You can play a round in about one second…

“We’re leveraging the social graph,” Pishevar said. “It’s gaming on tap. You use it as you need it. We are building the first social gaming network on top of the Facebook social operating system.”

The top three games on the Social Gaming Network are Warbook (a RTS game of empire building in a fantasy world), Streetrace (managing a racing car) and Fight Club (a PvP dueling game that they acquired), but they also have some single player games Blocky and Supersnake.

Others are also building out networks of social games on Facebook, including Mark Pincus‘s Presidio Media (Texas Hold’em, Scramble, Attack!, Blackjack, Diveman, Triumph, and probably others – I stopped after the 4th page of Gaming apps in the directory) and Scrabulous.

Even single player games like Jetman, with good “high score challenge” integration, can get millions of installs, despite having an almost archaic game play mechanism.

If you think about social networks as platforms for distribution, with existing social maps making distribution that much easier, then it becomes clear why these companies are so aggressively going after the platforms.

The payments program that Facebook is beta testing will be a huge boon for these social gaming sites. In addition to the advertising opportunities, it will greatly improve their ability to build an additional revenue stream from digital goods (both for self expression and for “power ups” within games).

For another post, why Zombies and the rest of the Monsters apps (part of the Rockyou* family of apps) can be considered one of the most popular online games in the world.

* Rockyou is a Lightspeed portfolio company

Games 2.0: Ian Bogost on Asynchronous Games December 13, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, casual games, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming.
1 comment so far

As I dug more into asnychronous gaming, I found this great paper by Ian Bogost titled Asynchronous Multiplay: Futures for Casual Multiplayer Experience, which he presented at a conference in 2004.

Bogost notes the following four characteristics of asynchronous games:

1. Asynchronous play supports multiple players playing in sequence, not in tandem.
2. Asynchronous play requires some kind of persistent state which all players affect, and which in turn affects all players.
3. Breaks between players are the organizing principle of asnychronous play.
4. Asynchronous play need not be the defining characteristic of the game.

It is a thoughtful history and analysis of multiplayer asynchronous games and has proved to be remarkably prescient in its predictions for casual online MMOGs. The historical perspective in particular is quite useful. Worth reading the whole thing.