Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why play FarmVille (and other social games?)

Social games, such as the phenomenally popular Farmville, might mystify some, but a new white paper attempts to explain just why so many people get involved.

The white paper, entitled What is the Appeal of Social Games? was written by Ciaran O'Connor and should be read with a grain of salt, as it is sponsored by clubv3, itself a publisher of social network games.

Nonetheless, it has some valuable insights into the industry, and what makes a successful social game. Critically, social games should have a low perceived effort, and of critical importance to any online game - it should be easy to do.

The casual gamer - a category in which most social game players would be, should be more concerned with the 'doing' than the 'getting.' This is not to say that rewards are not important, mind. A low and accessible degree of rewards gives a sense of achievement to the game, and introduces a culture of 'bragging rights' within the social network.

The report also suggests social network game developers pay particular mind to the substantial female audience that engages with those games, and the subtle differences in the way they play games. When it comes to rewards, for instance, male players will evaluate gifts based on practical applications, whereas female players will see it as an avenue to self-expression. Both perspectives should be catered for in a social game.

The report concludes that the social network game is successful on its ability to sell to human emotions.

It's only a seven-page report, and for anyone interested it can be read here.

I certainly agree that a big part of the appeal behind a social game FarmVille is in the gift-giving and in encouraging other people to join in on the fun. Collecting stuff seems to be at the core of any good social game, and by making that stuff appealing enough for someone to shell out real money to access it faster is the key to turning social gaming into a successful business model.

The report mentions the importance of animation and visuals and how it's important to get those right - not necessarily by shooting for the same kind of "good" visuals we would expect from a PlayStation 3 game, but offering an aesthetically pleasing experience where the rewards are justified on a purely visual level, if nothing else.

Which, again, makes perfect sense if you want people to shell out real money for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment