Just finished up an article on Industry Gamers by James Brightman that claims to explain why Triple-A platform game creators so often fail when they develop social games.  He explains that it is because traditional developers and publishers are “failing to make a game that’s truly social…You’ve got to make a game that’s about socializing, make social the core of what you’re inventing, and then build the game around that.”  The article suffers from a classic argument flaw – the very base of his argument (that successful social games are based on socializing) is wrong.

Now, I agree that console developers haven’t quite figured out social – though I am looking forward to reading more about how Dragon Age’s Facebook game is doing, with the extra content that you can port to your console game; I think that is a brilliant idea.  But I would argue that actual social game developers are failing as much as console game developers to “make a game that’s about socializing.”   We’ve heard it time and again, but I’ll reiterate – Farmville, Sorority Life, and most of the Facebook games out there are NOT social.  You rarely make a new friend through them, reconnect with old friends, or even hold conversations with players.

So Mr. Reynolds of Zynga, please don’t go claiming that console developers are failing BECAUSE they’re not developing games around being social;  you guys really aren’t either.  They are failing because they are trying TOO hard to actually be social, without understanding that “social games” aren’t about social.  Social games are about simple gratification and customization.  They are about having friends to get ahead, not working with friends to get ahead.

Console developers need to realize that Facebook was originally built to display your personality and build your ego, and Facebook “Games” (thus far) are just an extension of this.  Developers in any space need to understand who the users are on the platform they are developing for; you wouldn’t build Farmville for XBox and sell it for $60 because that just isn’t the market.  Facebook’s users joined to find and connect friends (though not necessarily have in-depth discussions with them) and to show off.  Every choice they make on that platform reflects that, including the games they play.  Zynga’s pulled so far ahead because they built games to feed that need first and foremost – not Triple-A titles OR social games.

 

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