March 26, 2009
Do Social Games Represent Something Bigger?
At yesterday's VentureBeat GamesBeat Conference in San Francisco, there was a panel on Social Games: Why are they so popular and are they a passing fad or do they represent something bigger?
On the panel was Mark Pincus, Shervin Pishevar, Dennis Fong, Shawn Fanning and Kristian Segerstrale. Ohai's Susan Wu moderated.
"Is social gaming merely a marketing distribution channel?" asks Susan, meaning are social games a new type of gameplay as well as a new kind of distribution model?"
"We've been building games that live within a social platform, like Facebook," said Shervin Pishevar. "A lot of these games wouldn't have been possible without social networks. Facebook allows games to grow virally. In 12 months, the companies that are creating these social games inside social networks have grown to a run rate of $100m - can you really call that a passing fad?"
Raptr's Dennis Fong pipes in: "I think calling these types of games social games is wrong. Games have always been social. It's not really its own genre, its really just a gameplay that is built on top of a social network. What's largely contributing to this growth is that friends learn about these games because they're part of your Facebook network."
Mark Pincus disagrees. He thinks social gaming is a new medium and its these new social games that are going to be the winning hand. He says, "It will be really clear in a year and we won't even be having a debate. I believe that social gaming is more like what is happening with social networking - you're building your social capital with other people. You're not building social capital when you play Nintendo. What you're going to see with social games in the next year is people bringing in more friends and building their own social persona."
"Let's say for the purpose of this panel, says Susan, "that social games are multiplayer games that live on social platforms to which social graphs are made available to us so we can connect to other people."
Susan asks the panel, "you talk about needing Facebook, but do they need you?" Shervin responds, "we're building a new ecosystem - iPhone is taking a percentage of every sale, so when FaceBook has a payment platform, we want to sign up for that. If you look at Playfish, remember that it is bringing people back to Facebook to play their games."
"Why doesn't Google have a games tab?" asks Shervin. The notion is that the platforms today are limited for social game developers which inhibits growth.
Susan asks the panel: "what are you doing to make the games more viral and discoverable?"
Shawn Panning from EA Rapture says, "we're helping people find the games they want to play. It's an opportunity to allow people to use their social graph to find the kind of games they will want to play."
"How does war craft tap into the social graph in Facebook?" asks Dennis Fong. They are trying to help companies tap into these social graphs.
Susan expands: "how do we work together to expand the number of platforms available to us? Once we have more platforms, how do we make a decision where to invest? Where do we spend the money and resources?"
Mark Pincus pipes in: "I'd love for all of us to work more closely with those who are not providing a platform today, i.e, Microsoft, Apple, etc. There are things that are so cool for their users they could offer them. I wish they would spread "presence" information and that the notifications went with it. If all the plumbing happened and there was consistency in the plumbing, this industry would grow so much faster. I would love us to all be directly business partners with companies like Facebook in the way we deal with Apple today."
More coverage on other panels and photos over at VentureBeat.
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