The Raspberry Pi, a $35 PC, could usher in a social gaming explosion

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Raspberry Pi
Social games, the ultimate in accessible gaming that turned millions of soccer moms into gamers almost overnight, might experience another renaissance. That little circuit board you see up there supports full HD video when connected to an HDTV or high-definition computer monitor. And, according to The Verge, the device will be available to consumers in early 2012.

It's called the Raspberry Pi, and the online-enabled version (Ethernet) will cost a measly $35. Its innards (which we won't spend too much time on, promise) could, in theory, support Facebook games. That said, there are two driving reasons why we think the Raspberry Pi could result in the second social gaming explosion.

We Have The Technology

As some might already know, the majority of social games are created with and played using Adobe's Flash Player. While the Raspberry Pi operates in Linux (an oft-forgotten operating system with a dedicated niche fan base), this device will support browsers like Firefox and Chrome. Both of which support the Flash Player completely, and are ideal for playing Facebook games (your mileage may vary with the former).

Raspberry Pi Model

However, there is one snag: The Raspberry Pi uses a 700MHz ARM processor. A processor, the brains of any computer, that powerful could support Flash Player 10, but not the newest release, Flash Player 11. That requires something with plenty more punch. This doesn't present a problem right now, as most social games can run using Flash Player 10, it might as the industry matures into 2012. (Though, Bejeweled Blitz already calls for Flash Player 11--ouch.)

But, if the HTML5--a nascent web coding technology that can support even 3D gaming--hype train is to be believed, Adobe's Flash will eventually be left in the dust anyway. And since the processor within the Raspberry Pi is similar to those found in many smartphones, you can bet it will support HTML5. And based on what game developers are already creating with HTML5, we're willing to bet more ... traditional social games can be made using the technology. But this is only the half of it.

Not Free-to-Play, But...

At that price, the Raspberry Pi simply screams free-to-play gaming. We're pretty sure most folks that can afford an HDTV could fork up $35 for a capable social gaming machine and affordable Internet access. Consider this: As of over a year ago, 56 percent of homes in the U.S. already have an HDTV. That's way more than the one percent we're all complaining about.

None of this is to say that this price point is going to create more social gamers out of thin air. But, again, we're willing to bet on the first thing low-income families will do once they get their hands on one of these babies (and affordable Internet service): Facebook. And, seriously, who hasn't heard of FarmVille at this point? Just like that, another potential social gamer is born.

However, all of this possibility depends on something that's extremely important: marketing. The Raspberry Pi is currently being billed as an education machine, an affordable, effective way to put a computer in every classroom. But the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK, creators of this device, would miss a golden opportunity in neglecting to market its incredibly affordable machine to low-income households. And if Raspberry Pi gets into the hands of 99 percent, if you will, it very well could spark another social game explosion.

[Image and Video Credits: Raspberry Pi Foundation]

Do you think that, if done right, the Raspberry Pi could create a whole new crop of social gamers? Do you think that explosive growth in this industry is over? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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