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Social Games


Zynga: Tablets are becoming the ultimate game platform

Farmville dev praises your iPads and your Samsung Notethinkers
Mar 18
// Jim Sterling
Console fans will protest, PC fans will bellow in outrage, but Farmville developer Zynga believes tablet devices are on track to become the ultimate platform for gaming experiences. According to games president Steve Chi...
Zynga silliness photo
Zynga silliness

Zynga: Copying games is no big deal, don't worry about it

Who has time to be creative when you are providing a "service"?
Mar 12
// Tony Ponce
"Zynga is often accused of copying games, which is mostly true." Those were the words spoken by Dan Porter, General Manager of Zynga New York. It's no secret to anyone with the capacity for rational thought that the social ga...
BioWare SF photo
BioWare SF

BioWare San Francisco has reportedly been closed

'Too expensive' to make social games in Redwood Shores
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
BioWare San Francisco (formerly EA2D), the developer behind Facebook game Dragon Age: Legends and Mirror's Edge 2D, has been shut down according to information provided by internal sources to GamesRadar and IGN. The closure o...
Social games photo
Social games

Social game with a conscience Half the Sky launches today

Trying to smack injustice in the face
Mar 04
// Daniel Starkey
Within the past year or so, there's been a new crop of social games that, one might say, have a conscience. Their goal isn't so much taking your money as it is encouraging you to be an organ donor or convincing you to give mo...
Rockman Xover photo
Rockman Xover

Rockman Xover going to Android, accepting boss designs

I'm sorta impressed that this game is still a thing
Feb 21
// Tony Ponce
[Custom boss by Heat Man] According to various hands-on impressions, we certainly dodged a bullet when Capcom decided to hold off on localizing Rockman Xover. Nonetheless, the free-to-play social title continues unabated in i...
PS4 Social photo
PS4 Social

PlayStation 4 social features revealed

Beyond the living room
Feb 20
// Kyle MacGregor
As a part of the PlayStation 4 reveal Lead System Architect Mark Cerny discussed the social features of the new platform. With PS4 Sony endeavors to make sharing video as easy as easy as it is to showoff a screenshot is today...
LovePlus photo

Collect women and save Japan from giant pudding

Konami unveils latest project from the team at LovePlus Production
Feb 17
// Kyle MacGregor
Konami has unleashed the latest project from the team at Love Plus Production upon the world. Fu-Un! Nadeshiko Collection launched back on Thursday via Japanese social networking service GREE and it looks...
God of War photo
God of War

God of War: Ascension's single-player demo hits Feb 26

Participate in Facebook "experience" to get early access
Feb 15
// Conrad Zimmerman
Sony has revealed the release date for the single-player demo of God of War: Ascension, which we have been told will be proliferating through the tubes of the internet on February 26. Not soon enough for you? There's also way...
2013 D.I.C.E. Summit photo
2013 D.I.C.E. Summit

Jesse Schell: Marketing BS and good games won't be enough

D.I.C.E. keynote 'The Secret Mechanisms'
Feb 08
// Jordan Devore
Dale has been at the 2013 D.I.C.E. Summit all week and left express instructions to pass along Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell's keynote speech to you kind folks. Having now watching it myself, I have to agree -- it's an enter...
Rockman Xover PVP photo
Rockman Xover PVP

Rockman Xover brings PVP back to the Mega Man universe

We're still not getting it
Feb 06
// Chris Carter
Recently, we found out that there are "no plans" to bring Rockman Xover, Capcom's newest Mega Man mobile game, overseas. But that doesn't stop them from continuing to support it, and today, we have some interesting news that ...
Rockman Xover photo
Capcom actually made a smart decision
[Header by samusmmx] Oh, Rockman Xover. What a foul, foul beast you are. I know it's not kosher to slam a game without having played it yourself, but just from watching gameplay videos, I think we can all agree that Xover is ...

Rockman Xover photo
Rockman Xover

Rockman Xover keeps on chugging with Star Force content

No domestic release date still
Jan 24
// Chris Carter
You know what they say about cash-ins, right? If people buy them, they'll keep cashing in? Ok nobody says that, I just made it up. But that seems to be the case for the infamous Rockman Xover, because Capcom keeps supporting ...

Did you start your morning with PS Vita's Wake-up Club?

Never hit snooze again!
Jan 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Let's face it: waking up in the morning sucks, but Sony has a new game of sorts to make that harsh reality a little more tolerable. Wake-up Club is essentially an alarm clock with social game elements for your PlayS...

Zynga cuts costs by shutting down 11 games

Some would call it karma
Dec 31
// Chris Carter
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus has just announced that 11 games will be either axed entirely, or stop accepting newcomers to cut costs. It seems as if assets will be funneled into their more popular ventures, and new ones as well. Yep...

Jimquisition: Friends

Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Nov 26
// Jim Sterling
Friendships are precious things that allow us to get through this horrific maelstrom we bitterly call life. Without friends, we would be but animals, hurtling cluelessly from one compulsive murder to the next. Nobody is an i...

OpenFeint shuts down on December 14

GREE pulls the plug
Nov 19
// Dale North
While it probably won't change the day of any gamers out there, you should still know that GREE, OpenFeint's parent company, plans to shut down the OpenFeint mobile social connection service on December 14. Many of mobile gam...
Big layoffs at Zynga photo
Boston studio shut down, others face closure
There were a number of layoffs at Zynga today, as you might have heard from employees who were affected and quickly spread the word. An internal note from CEO Mark Pincus confirms much of what's been said about the significan...


Study finds that 85% quit social games after one day

I quit after 5 minutes!
Oct 18
// Dale North
I just learned the term churn from our recent article on social game makers and how they track players. The term came up again today in a Gamasutra article on a new report from social game analysis firm Playnomics. This firm ...

Rockman Xover fan-made demo, plus actual game details

Might as well sit back and see how this train wreck pans out
Oct 14
// Tony Ponce
Capcom insists on seeing this construct through to the end, so I might as well keep abreast of the latest news and developments. First up is this fan-made Rockman Xover Flash demo that recreates the TGS build Conrad played. I...

We have a file on you: The tools & tricks of social games

Oct 13 // Allistair Pinsof used to be some site that you bought books at but then analytics happened. In the late 1990s, Brian Lent helped lead the Information Technology team that would create Amazon's recommendation system. The system that would rewrite how the expanding online store functioned. Instead of recommending random items for sale, stores now gain data from users' searches, purchases, behavior, and any other information available to analytical software. Recommendations covered 14 percent of Amazon's revenue when Lent still worked there; now, it's as high as 40 percent of the company's earnings. The rest of the Internet would follow and, now, so are videogames. Videogame developers and publishers are now reaching out to analysts like Lent, who currently works for Medio Systems. It is one of many third-party companies that offer analytical software which does the heavy number crunching for developers. Right now, Lent is giving a speech at GDC Online, a gathering of social and mobile game developers in Austin, Texas. His audience is a group of grey-haired businessmen curious to get some of this Facebook cash they have heard so much about through the success stories of Zynga, PopCap, and Chillingo. He is now covering stage three of how to make a successful social game: monetization. "This stage is really about optimizing the next best offer," Lent says. "If you have another thing to show the user, what is the best thing (analytically-speaking) they are most likely to purchase next?" "Metrics" is a word commonly used among social game developers that didn't exist in the industry until analysts like Lent arrived. You hear people say it a lot at a trade show like GDC Online. Sometimes in a knowing way, and sometimes with the excited gleam of dollar signs lighting up the eyes. In 2009, social games made $4 billion a year. According to Lent's research, the market will reach $30 billion in yearly revenue with downloads rising to 21.7 billion -- over five times what they were three years ago. The market is growing and it's attracting developers like Zynga that are well-versed in the visual design and analytical tricks that have made successful websites tick. Now, they are applying the same tactics to videogames. Once users are acquired, a social game must engage them. Since not all social games are fun enough to play on their own merit, developers hook players with a carrot on a stick. Analytical tools tell designers when an offer should be made to what player. For example, a whale may be planning to go back to reality and abandon their home in DragonVale. This is when a developers must "figure out how to cross-promote and move people." "Collect all the data you can!" exclaims Lent. "Location, time of day, offers shown that they didn’t respond to, offers shown that they did respond to, friends they invited into game ... all that data is extremely, extremely valuable. No matter how you work, make sure you are collecting all the data you can. That data is a gold mine." Once a user is placed into a "clustomer" (a cluster of customers -- yes, they really do use this term), analytical tools evaluate what should be offered and how the offer should be presented. For example, the software knows Melissa is a whale because the data tells the system that whales are likely to use iPhones, reach level 12 in the game, live in Germany, and purchase the golden sword. All of these traits fit Melissa, so she must be a whale. "Have your product guys look into the purchase path for the golden sword, since that unlocks the game experience and leads them to buy more things," Lent says. This analytical software has increased developers revenue by five times, according to Lent. Not only does the software tell developers the nature of a user, it can even decide whether something should be promoted as "best price," "hot price," "NEW!" or "50% off" even though these are the same exact offer. However, some aspects of targeting social players will always be in the designers' hands. Emmanuel Valdez has nearly twenty years of experience in designing videogames, and he comes to GDC Online to discuss how visual design can help drive sales in social games. Since most social games are free-to-play, they depend on real-money transactions in a marketplace. Depending on the game, these marketplace items may alter the way a player's avatar looks or how the game is played, often making it easier on the player. Then, the worst offender: there are energy systems that lock a person out from playing the game until they are let back in via a timer -- unless they pay up. "It's not the art; it's not the budget; it's the design that makes great games," states Valdez. Valdez pulls many time-tested design principles from across time and cultures and applies them to games. For example, colors can reinforce what a person should look at. Game designers often color a group of icons to imply they are of a similar nature, but Valdez presents an example where a social game greys out all buttons except the marketplace. This button, and only this button, is glorious, bright, and shiny. How can you not click on it? Why would anyone resist? "Design for free-to-play games changes how we see design because they are all about getting people to spend money, most of the time," continues Valdez. Have you ever noticed that many social games apply baby face features to game characters? They often have big round eyes, small noses, and heads larger than the rest of their bodies. Valdez says developer's do this because it makes players more sympathetic. Research shows that they are more likely to pay to level them up. Developers want you to fall in love with their characters and then pay for that love. Placement is another key design aspect of social games. Leading players' eyes to the marketplace and the most expensive items is a primary goal for many developers and it's a task that has to be dealt with subtlety. Valdez says that placing the most expensive items first in a store will make them more likely to be sold, since these items will linger in the mind of players after exiting. Another principle is the Gutenberg Diagram which shows that player's eyes are drawn from the top-left to the bottom-right of the screen, so of course you are going to place your store icon there! "A lot of people from Zynga come from the web and that industry has been doing this a lot longer than we have. These principle are second nature to them," Valdez explains. "That's where we need to get." But where is this place and what kind of place will it be? One where each user is studied by systems, manipulated by artists, and led with a carrot on a stick? Many European countries, such as England and Germany, forbid the kind of data collection these analysts provide for a good reason. That reason is that customers should be served a quality product, not serving developers' research and data mining. Nevertheless, companies like Medio Systems work within a loophole that strips individuals' data and places it into a group ("clustomers"). No one is that unique, after all. This keeps personal data one step removed and the data mining within legal bounds. Even great game developers analyze test groups, use design principles to guide players, and give players incentive to keep playing. The difference is that developers like Activision Blizzard make a game first and tune it around these tools and tricks, not the other way around. The more I learn about how social games are made and the people that work on them, the more I am fascinated by this new industry and the more I want to stay the hell away from it as a gamer. I'm not a whale. If Zynga has a file on me, I kindly ask for it back.
Social games datamining? photo
This is what social game developers say about you, behind your back
Meet Melissa. She's a forty-year-old mom who has recently become hooked on DragonVale, a free-to-play iOS game. She is what social game analysts call a whale. No, this isn't a comment on her physical stature or deep, raspy...


TGS: Yep, the Rockman Xover trailer is really something

Sep 19
// Tony Ponce
I don't have to repeat myself, do I? You already know how I feel about Rockman Xover, so let's skip that dance and move on to analyzing the trailer above. Hmmm... a minute-long trailer with all of four seconds of in-game foo...

Rockman Xover will be at TGS, protagonist has stupid name

Capcom is sooooo good to us
Sep 06
// Tony Ponce
Since Capcom has decided that a Western release of Rockman Xover is crucial, I feel duty-bound to deliver the latest details so that you may prepare yourself against thine enemy. As mentioned previously, Xover is a social RPG...

Zynga apes Pokemon with suspiciously similar Montopia

Gotta copy 'em all!
Aug 30
// Jim Sterling
Oh Zynga, will you ever learn? Despite being embroiled in a lawsuit against fellow evildoer Electronic Arts, those wacky rouges at Zynga are hard at work with another "inspired" game -- Montopia.  Montopia casts you in ...

No More Heroes gets a free-to-play social mobile game

World Ranker comes to Android and iOS
Aug 30
// Jim Sterling
No More Heroes returns to your life as a free-to-play social mobile game. Something tells me that the unique blend of F2P, social gaming, and the mobile market isn't having NMH lovers jumping for joy. In fact it seems perfect...

EA vs. Zynga: EA claims it's a game industry defender!

Aug 21
// Jim Sterling
Electronic Arts' delusions of grandeur have reached new heights this week, as the company continues to milk its lawsuit against Zynga for cheap applause and gamer cred. Its latest claim? The lawsuit positions Electronic Arts ...

Rockman Xover is your new Mega Man game... for iOS

Aug 16 // Tony Ponce
That's just great. Relegate the once lofty Mega Man empire to the mobile realm for its 25-year celebration. I don't give two shits about how "valid" the iPhone is as a gaming device; the truth is that many companies still treat the platform as a dumping ground, Capcom included. From the available screens, it looks to be running on the same engine, sporting the same art style, as the infuriating Mega Man X iOS port. Considering what a disappointing turd that was, I have zero hopes for Xover. And check it -- notice the autoplay button? It's gonna be one of those RPGs, in which you can let the computer to do the grunt work while you touch yourself to farm porn videos or something. Are you kidding me? This is our 25th anniversary game? There better be something else in the pipeline, because this doesn't cut the mustard. I swear to baby Jesus, it's like Capcom wants people to hate Mega Man. Rockman Xover is looking at an autumn release in Japan, yet I'm certain it'll make it Stateside soon afterwards. Obviously, this is what we've all been waiting for. Here you go, fellas! No grand series revival or compilation discs, a la Kirby's Dream Collection or even the Classic and X collections on the PS2, GC, and Xbox! Nope! Have some iPhone garbage and say it tastes like Grey Poupon! Fucking ass. Rockman Xover Announced, Social RPG for iOS [Protodude's Rockman Corner]

Guys, I owe you an apology. The other day, I wrote about a fan-driven Mega Man Legends concept album, and I begged you all to stay on topic and not go off on a tangent about how you felt Capcom wronged you. I apologize becaus...


Japanese social games funded by Yakuza, says expert

Jul 12
// Allistair Pinsof
Yakuza, Japan's mafia, has a long history with games: card games, Pachinko machines, and now social gaming. Some of Japan's current social games, including one about Yakuza, are funded by Japan's mafia, according to Tokyo Vic...

Square Enix: Long console generation a 'big mistake'

Jul 10
// Jim Sterling
Square Enix's worldwide technology director, Julien Merceron, has accused Sony and Microsoft of making a "big mistake" by prolonging this console generation, claiming that iOS and browser games have flourished as a direc...

Twitter or Facebook won't be supported in Wii U Miiverse

Jun 21
// Chris Carter
When asked about the Wii U's possible integration of Facebook and Twitter, Nintendo of Europe's Laurent Fischer was pretty upfront in denying the capability: "I have three devices permanently doing that already, what is our b...

E3: More details on EA's SimCity Social

Jun 04
// Victoria Medina
As reported earlier, EA has brought out the white glove on Zynga with SimCity Social for Facebook. This isn't just a rehash of any well-known farming games, though. Players will get to watch their cities evolve based on ...

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