Plus ca Change, Social Edition

A few weeks ago, I posted how FarmVille is the most widely-played videogame ever. Interestingly, despite the fact that this makes it one of those “disruptive” changes to the entire videogaming genre that folks speak of in hushed, reverent whispers, it seems to share some of the same high-level issues and questions of most online games.

  • Balance – This has been documented on any number of “FarmVille guide” sites, so feel free to Google it, but there are optimum crops that you get fairly early and then don’t really need to consider anything else for advancement. Bottom-feeding is a completely viable, easy, and reliable strategy. Sound familiar?
  • Endgame – People get bored. Granted, people out in the “normal” world might not know to CALL it the endgame, but 40-somethings saying “I’m bored, what else is there to do or should I quit” are really saying “I can’t find an elder game goal.”
  • Did I mention Bottom Feeding? – In an expression unique to Facebook-type games (the “add me” or “Maison building in 3 minutes” type thread that destroys the validity of your social graph through false neighbors), even the unwashed masses are starting to get the hang of finding the easy road. (And yes, I also have a “no walking” farm.)
  • PvP Balance – No, I’m lying. I can’t convince anyone that they ought to sell “salt” as a microtransaction. It’s the EVE player in me.

A large portion of the established gaming community, of course, is still trying to refuse entrance for “those stupid farm” Facebook games. I think success can speak for itself, though:

Question: What is the minimum bar for success?

Mark [Pincus of Zynga]: 5M DAU

FarmVille aside, it looks like complexity IS beginning to seep into titles in the social gaming genre. Check out My Tribe by Big Fish Games for an example. It’s a game that feels on-par with 1990s-era “empire-builder” games such as Civilization. Time will tell if this is the sort of disruptive change WITHIN the social game sphere that will bring a sense of “legitimacy” to the established videogaming world. And meanwhile, Zynga is probably going to keep running their infinite money press and wearing money hats.

(Edit: Tuebit pointed out that I brought in some jargon in this article. Oops! That’s what happens when I rush an article out before morning coffee. DAU = “Daily Active Users,” and the whole “Social Graph validity” thing means that if you invite friends just for game benefits, suddenly your friends aren’t really friends, which makes platforms like Facebook sad.)

About Tachevert

A cofounder of and full-time geek, Tachevert writes about whatever strikes his fancy. Despite the inherent contradiction, he can often be found videogaming or attempting to run.
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