Games.com's 2011 social gaming predictions: Mobile, 3D, MMOs and more
If you thought the slew of social games-gone-mobile like FarmVille for iPhone and Mafia Wars across iOS, Android Blackberry and webOS was a step forward in 2010, just wait for what's to come. While major developers like Zynga, Playfish and Playdom have all started to expand to mobile devices using their existing games like My Empire and Social City, 2011 will see many more original mobile social games--just look at games like Raise the Village. (Bonus prediction: Zynga's recent cross platform strategy using mobile browsers might take off elsewhere.)
Find the rest of our predictions for 2011 after the break.
It's inevitable, really. With games like Godswar Online and the upcoming EA Sports PGA Tour for Facebook, both of which in full 3D, it's almost certain that there will be more where that came from. The two technologies that will be most responsible for this are HTML5 and the Unity Engine. The former being the next step in how websites are created, HTML5 can do things that Flash can without the need for Flash at all. (Just take a look at what's possible with HTML5.) The Unity Engine, however, is much like Flash in that its software through which developers can create browser games. But in detailed, appealing 3D that can run smoothly in websites without extra downloads (i.e. Facebook). Not to mention that developers are getting much better with Flash (take CityVille, for instance).
As much as some of us here at The Games.com Blog love CityVille, there's no way it's going to last forever as the top Facebook game. Sure, FarmVille was on top for months, but it too fell from its ivory tower made of Zynga Game Cards. Admittedly, the game isn't doing anything that's seriously groundbreaking, which means a game that does city building better could have a chance at dethroning CityVille. But good luck competing with both the Zynga name and its pool of over 100 million potential players. It's sad to say that, if anything, it will probably be another Zynga game that topples CityVille.
Some social games have more players monthly than most countries have people living in them. As big wigs in the advertising world would say, "That's a lot of eyeballs." With huge companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola along with big-time rappers such as Dr. Dre getting into the game early, it's only natural that the rest of corporate America is itching to dig its pickax into the social gaming gold mine. That said, advertising in social games could become as second nature as, say, viral marketing has become in the world of YouTube (we've all seen the Old Spice Man).
If eight major purchases in the last eight months and its most recent weren't hint enough, then we'll say it now. More than likely, this is what Zynga is ultimately up to. Zynga CEO Mark Pincus even came forthright in saying that his vision for the future of gaming is a "dog-activated world." Now that we've squashed all doubt, one question remains: What does it mean? Well, it could mean a lot of things, but most importantly is that it could spell independence from Facebook for Zynga.
You've seen them already. Out there, just waiting to trick you, thinking what you just clicked on will be a remotely entertaining or enjoyable experience. Advergames. Instead of partnering with major developers, some companies pushing products are saying to themselves, "You know what, screw working with an experienced game developer. I'll make my own game. How hard can it be?" And what we get is a quasi-game, a series of Flash animations and a few clickable buttons designed for one purpose: to show us how cool Product X is and that we should totally buy it immediately.
There are now at least two full blown massively mutliplayer online games (MMO) currently on Facebook, Godswar Online and Milmo. While browser-based MMOs have existed for over a year if not longer, this will be the year when the lines between Facebook game and MMO blur. The two genres are too similar not to. Both are free to play, involve transactions for individual virtual goods or boosts and can now run right within Facebook. However, the Facebook game genre-bending likely won't stop there. With a full 3D golf game (see above) coming to Facebook, who is to say other types of games can't?
Call us pessimistic, but it's just how things work, people. Companies like Zynga are attracting over half of the social gaming market's audience. Numbers like that are tough to crack even for other juggernauts like PopCap who have all but ruled the casual gaming space with Bejeweled, Peggle and Zuma. Even Disney--you know, the guys who thought up Mickey Mouse?--are having trouble competing with them through Playdom. Zynga is likely going to be on top for a long, long time. The question of the day will remain, "Who is number two?" with companies like EA's Playfish, CrowdStar, PopCap and Playdom battling fiercely for second best.
Facebook Will Be Our Friend Again
As much as it looked like it was working against us in 2010, Facebook could turn a new leaf this year. In fact, it already has. Just in the second half of 2010, Facebook created an entire games engineering team dedicated to making Facebook better for us social gamers. Not to mention that even more recently the 600-million strong social network hired a social games partnerships director to keep developers like Zynga happy (pictured right). It's too bad that its already looking to grow beyond Facebook. Maybe the two can cut another deal?
What do you think of our predictions for 2011? What are your predictions for social games in the New Year? Share your ideas in the comments. Add Comment.