Trendspotting: Why hidden object games are hot on Facebook

hidden chronicles on facebook
hidden chronicles on facebook

It's funny to think that one of the most popular games for adult women (ages 35 and up) is a derivative of the classic game I Spy. The game requires at least two players and the first would select an object within viewing range and then give the other player a hint about the object, i.e. 'I spy something red" or 'I spy something fuzzy." Then the other player guesses the object.

That concept was eventually turned into what is known as a hidden object game (or HOG), a digital puzzle game where players must find a list of objects hidden in various scenes. These games generally contain lush orchestral scores along with picturesque scenes of violin shops or a Victorian drawing room. Ya know, stuff moms tend to enjoy. Modern HOGs also contain a storyline, generally something that involves solving a mystery by finding clues by solving the hidden object puzzles and piecing them together for the dramatic unveil at the end of the game. (In literature speak, these are classified as "cosy mysteries.")

Considering the popularity of Facebook games among women in this same demographic, it was bewildering to watch Facebook games gain millions of players in 2009, with ne'er a hidden object game to be found. And now, it's like a giant light bulb turned on, and now Facebook's suddenly swimming in free hidden object games.

gardens of time facebook
gardens of time facebook

In the past six months, four major hidden object games have been released on Facebook -- Gardens of Time from Playdom, Hidden Chronicles from Zynga, Mystery Manor from Game Insight and, more recently, World Mysteries from Vostu.

Lazard Senior Analyst Atul Bagga says the hidden object explosion is the result of good, old-fashioned synergy. "The category lends itself to Facebook style game pretty well," Bagga says, "We have already seen great success with Mystery Manor, Gardens of Time, and now Zynga's Hidden Chronicle. Generally, these games monetize pretty well as the target segment, soccer moms, is used to paying for games."

All of these HOGs have passed the million player mark -- which some define as a measure of "success" -- with Hidden Chronicles taking the lead due to the Zynga promotion machine (right now the FarmVille maker is pimping its HOG in all of its other A-list Facebook games). Gardens of Time, which was once one of the top 10 Facebook games, seems to be on a downward trend -- and seems to be experimenting on ways to keep raking in the moolah, such as launching a subscription supported version of the game.

So, at last, hidden object games have claimed their rightful place on Facebook. Now the challenge will be to keep players engaged through innovative social features, play experiences and, of course, regular updates.

What do you think about the new hidden object games on Facebook? Are they here to stay? Sound off in the comments below. Add comment.

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