Saturday, February 27, 2010

Facebook games for Grannies

In "2010 PopCap Social Gaming Research" report, the company found that fully two-thirds of social game players in the United States are 40 years of age or older, while the majority of players in the United Kingdom are under the age of 40. Young adults and teens in both countries are the least interested in playing games on sites like Facebook and MySpace: only 9% of U.K. casual gamers are 21 years of age or younger, and the proportion is 4% in the States. In their studies O'Reilly has also presented similar findings.

At the same time is is also a fact that practically all top gainers and the most popular Facebook applications have increasing user base amongst teenagers. Casual, easy social interaction with Facebook friends is at the core of the most popular Facebook applications. On the other hand the most biggest draws of developing an application for Facebook is the unprecedented access to the social networking site's massive user base. Applications that are set and forget can quickly fall into disuse. Also technical stability is a think that should be in place. If the application grows in popularity and use, technical issues should not cause problems.

These findings are interesting if you compare them to MMO / virtual world statistics. Majority of MMOs are targeted at teens. There is a fierce competition within that particular segment but lack of offering for older gamers. Yet this is not only Facebook or MMO challenge. Similarly many pc or console games are made by 20-40 year old men to 20-40 year old men. Nintendo Wii, Singstar and casual browser games have woken up the developers a bit but not until Farmville and other Facebook games started gaining huge popularity it has become clear that same games can easily work for both 16 and 36 year olds. It is more about mechanics and rewards than then theme or gameplay. Actually many Facebook games lack gameplay in a traditional sense.

If you look at the list of most popular Facebook application, you do not see traditional gameplay anywhere. One could draw a conclusion that people who haven't played pc or console games do not expect anything specific. Facebook games are not really competitive or co-op games. They don't have an end. And the games are not challenging at all but instead could offer short brain breaks or casual entertainment for idle moments. Surely Facebook users "play" with friends but the connection is merely a virtual one. I don't remember which of my friends are in My Mafia but it doesn't make any difference. Also it doesn't matter if you are at the level 100 and your friend is already at the level 600. It has no effect to the gameplay.

Current Facebook best sellers are never ending "poking games". I would like to see more short games on the list but then again if Bejeweled Blitz is not able to make to the high score, which game would? It is also clear that marketing will be more and more crucial for game developers. It does not help too much if your game is the best ever if no one knows about it. This might also advance new type of marketing methods.

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