The Future of Farmville: What will social games look like in 2015?
Social game publisher, LOLapps, responsible for creating a handful of games including Yakuza Lords, Diva Life and video game tie-in app Dante's Inferno, says that not only is this relatively new form of entertainment not a fad, but -- in five years -- it'll be a serious competitor to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
LOLapps looked into their crystal balls and conjured five ways social gaming will change in next five years -- some obvious, e.g. social gaming will have better production values, and some less so. Read all five of them, with some extra analysis, below.
1. Facebook games will emerge as a strong competitor to Xbox and PlayStation in the battle to expand user base and share of wallet and find the best game developers.
- Social gaming companies have talent console game makers want – Electronic Arts' acquisition of Playfish is an indicator of things to come.
- Nine out of the 10 top developers and apps on Facebook are in gaming – game dynamic experts, UI design pros and droves of talented developers are considering social gaming as a new outlet.
- Social games are quicker, easier and less expensive to build than console games – developers will jump at the chance to stay agile and develop multiple titles with the potential for fast revenue.
2. Government will regulate virtual currency and attempt to attach its value to real currency.
- In late 2009, South Korean courts ruled that virtual currency should be hit with the 10 percent VAT tax and, this month, that virtual money can be exchanged for real currency (source: Korean Times).
- China recently ruled to tax virtual goods and currency (source: CNET).
- As more money is made, more government regulation will be imposed and those invested in any platform that allows you to take money out will demand market stability through a touch point into real-world currency fluctuations.
3. The tables will turn again with some well-capitalized social gaming companies acquiring cash-strapped traditional console and MMO players.
- The logical progression of the industry is vertical integration – players looking to capture a larger portion of a user's wallet and time will take this approach. With the ability to test out themes and design appeals to users, gaming companies will use social platforms to gather data about whether or not an immersive console game will sell. In essence, reducing the financial risk associated with the hit based model of traditional games.
4. Social games will continue to improve in production quality.
- Browsers like Chrome allow for more robust and engaging applications. Bandwidth speeds and widespread access will allow for social games to continually move up the quality chain. New platforms, like Unity, continue to push what's possible within the browser. All the while, social games will become more complex and harder to clone, bringing more diversity to the space.
- Consumer adoption of the best games will create a tastemaker's culture online – driving away bad games quickly. The long tail of social games will continue to flourish as the cost of distribution on a social network is far cheaper – Good games will surface quickly via viral channels.
- Expectations will rise and it will be harder for small development teams to compete with established companies. A few games/developers will dominate the majority of users but there will be a vibrant long tail of niche developers that continue to attract rabid fans.
- Failed attempts to market a brand or product via social games will not stop marketers looking to take advantage of this new format – and many will miss the mark due based on lack of understanding of the Facebook ecosystem and gamer desires.
- People will experience overload on low-quality, poorly executed corporate-branded social games.
5. The Facebook ecosystem will come into its own – people won't just play social games because they are on Facebook, they will stay on Facebook to play games – and as part of this, social gaming companies will try to foray successful titles into traditional entertainment offerings.
- Social games already alter the way people use Facebook – they stick around longer, use more of their online time on Facebook and log in more regularly.
- Facebook Connect will become even more pervasive.
- Vertical integration between social and console game offerings will allow players to capture a larger chunk of the profit.
Do you agree with LOLapps' predictions? Or do you have others of your own?