Why Facebook games don't look like Call of Duty

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Viva! Mall
This very article was going to be a preview of Konami's new Viva! Mall social game (pictured above). That was before it was revealed that the Facebook game did not support Mac OS yet. As a new Mac user, this writer is willing to put up with most traditional computer games being exclusive to Windows, but social games? Upon further inspection of the game's FAQ, you'll notice that Viva! Mall has system requirements. And lofty requirements at that for a game on Facebook. Social games don't look like your Call of Duty's or Final Fantasy's because the technology isn't there yet, but there are far more important reasons for this.

These are the system requirements for Konami's Viva! Mall, according to its FAQ:
Minimum specs for Viva! Mall are:
OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz or higher
RAM: 1 GB or higher
Video Card: GeForce 4 Ti 4200/Radeon 9000 or higher
DirectX: DirectX 9.0c or higher

Recommended specs are:
OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1 Ghz or higher
RAM: 2 GB or higher
Video Card: GeForce 7950GT/Radeon X1800 or higher
DirectX: DirectX 9.0c or higher

Viva! Mall is compatible with Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and higher, and Google Chrome Stable.
While there aren't hard numbers on this, we're willing to bet that the majority of social gamers--middle-aged mothers as many studies have shown--run Facebook games on computers that don't even come close to this. Hell, there is probably a huge portion of gamers that play FarmVille on netbooks. The processor in this MacBook Pro just sneaks over the recommended level for Viva! Mall. Regardless of how amazing your Facebook game is, social gamers do not care (and shouldn't have to) enough to check whether their computer is compatible.

Viva Mall Customization
It's tough enough for many Facebook gamers to keep up with updates to the Flash player much less see if their 3-year-old Dell PC has at least a "GeForce 4 Ti 4200/Radeon 9000 or higher." Nor do many of you care, and rightfully so. Konami is approaching the social game audience as if it's comprised of seasoned PC gamers. If most hardcore PC players resonate with John Blow, then they generally stay away from Facebook games.

Getting into a Facebook game is supposed to be simple. Most developers have it down to one click before you're into a new game and it loads (preferably) seconds later. But that doesn't mean the play hook has to be terribly simplistic--just look at games like Zuma Blitz. Loading Zuma Blitz takes mere seconds and the core mechanic is as elementary as it gets. But take a look at the amount of strategy and technique players employ to master it. Complex or deep play in Facebook games does not have to mean complex or deep technology.

Viva Mall graphics
What's even more baffling is that Konami expects the audience who digs mall simulators to be the same people that rock even remotely up-to-date PCs. (Not to mention that Viva! Mall isn't compatible with a growing operating system.) Why waste this beautiful tech on an audience that, frankly, doesn't give a hoot about it? I'm sure there is a dedicated niche out there just waiting for a truly awesome 3D game on Facebook. And if Konami requires these kind of computers just to run a damned mall, surely it could deliver to those players.

We're all patiently waiting for social games to evolve into deeper and more rewarding experiences, but this is most definitely not the road to take. Your thousands of players have to get into your revolutionary game before they decide whether they like it.

Click here to see how well Viva! Mall runs on your PC >

[Image Credits: Super Cheats, Latest Screens and Mena Gamer]

What do you think of Konami's approach to social games? Do you think there will ever be an audience for social games that include system requirements? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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