Regardless of how this next generation plays out, the lifecycle of social games can be one of the most intense seen in videogames, outside of the ghetto-like realms of the multitude of disposable Flash gaming websites to be found in the open web. And so, if deeper strategy RPGs fail to gain sufficient foothold, it won’t be long before another wave of content moves up to attempt to proliferate.
The innovations underpinning such waves will remain consistent, driven by leveraging of the immense matrix of relationships that social networks proffer; social graphs have always been an important aspect of gaming, more with each new hardware generation, culminating at a peak of connectivity with platforms such as Xbox Live. Casual gaming portals, too, have long seen social mechanisms as a powerful addition to their platform. Social networks disrupted this progression by turning the relationship on its head, introducing gaming to the most dynamic social structures in existence, rather than the other way around.
Looking further ahead points to another incoming trend for content, of which social games will likely be the spearhead: multi-network distribution platforms. For the past year, Facebook has been the 8001b gorilla that many eyes across the world have focused on, to the extent that many initially multi-network operators (such as Playfish, Zynga and Disney Playdom) have trained the bulk of their attentions upon it. This is reversing.
Zynga, for example, is now looking to Apple’s devices, Yahoo’s gaming network and Japanese mobile social networks to fuel expansion. Taking content and operating it across a horizontal collection of platforms — rather than focussing on just one vertical outlet — is going to become increasingly important, much like how traditional thirdparty publishers have placed increasing accent on multiformat releases for their biggest franchises.
Major networks such as Facebook will still be seen as vital channels, but they will just be one component of operations as technology emerges to make social games increasingly agile propositions. In essence, social gaming will have gone full circle, having left behind dedicated gaming portals in order to evolve and hone its ability to address mass audiences within the confines of such platforms as Facebook, before once again attempting to court much larger swathes of the global online population at once. ~