Have Social Games Peaked?

Have Social Games Peaked?

Here’s a question you have to ask yourself: Just how much FarmVille, Mafia Wars and Pet Society is enough? For some, a year’s worth of wasted afternoons, others a couple play sessions and still more a single reminder to tend your @&(!$ crops. Still, that’s the beauty of social games, designed less to push the conceptual or technical bar than keep people clicking. Our position on these titles? They’re great at helping expand the gaming audience by making video games faster, cheaper, more accessible and readily enjoyable by all. But not all are happy with the Facebook effect, or rise of giants like Zynga, Playdom and Playfish.

As we point out in CNN.com column Do FarmVille Spoofs Mean We’re Sick of Social Games?, a recent rise in interactive social game parodies such as Cow Clicker and growing murmurs of discontent surrounding the field may point towards an impending public backlash. Worse, many game developers themselves are troubled by the effect social gaming’s reign is having on the games industry, and art of game design. From these titles’ rampant dumbing down of play concepts to stark focus on profits, critics allege, social gaming is taking us down the wrong path. Even scarier still: It’s also making truckloads of cash in certain cases, meaning more companies are sure to follow its teachings.

Where do you sit on the issue: Fan of FrontierVille or fed up with watching people tend their virtual homesteads? Inquiring minds want to know.

About Scott Steinberg
Scott Steinberg is CEO of strategic consulting and product testing firm TechSavvy Global, and a noted keynote speaker and business expert. Hailed as a top tech expert and parenting guru by critics from USA Today to NPR, he’s also an on-air analyst for ABC, CBS and CNN.


  1. No, they haven’t peaked, but we’re almost certainly seeing a generational shift.

    Like any games, the first-gen “social” games have a limited lifespan — people will harvest crops (in whatever re-skinned form) for only so long. Moreover, early games that depending on spamming others as a substitute for sociability are finally on the wane.

    But this doesn’t mean that the desire millions of people have to play fun, low-commitment games is going away. Expect to see many more new games broadening the market (so we may not have a concentrated mega-hit like Farmville for awhile), and also games going deeper with their gameplay to provide better long-term value for the players.

    The market is demonstrably there, enough so that even the more risk-averse traditional publishers are getting in. But this isn’t a time for risk-averse plays; it’s a time for innovating beyond the well-worn game mechanics so prevalent now. I believe we’re going to see new kinds of social games — with better gameplay moving in new directions — over the coming months, and will see sustained market growth proportional to the innovation in the game designs.

  2. Social Gaming has the inherent problematic of the casual player. While managing impressive numbers in terms of users/day, many if not almost all of casual players lack any kind of emotional attachment to the game itself nor the developer.
    Thus, many of these players will jump from game to game, or log all at the same time to the same game. This imho disguises the truth behind the numbers.
    I wrote an interesting article on the state of social gaming pre-summer 2010 in the website webaboca.com, in spanish though.

  3. Aren’t spoofs a sign of success, not a backlash?
    “Vampires Suck” is a spoof of horror movies and the Twilight Saga – the things it spoofs succeed, and the spoof itself also succeeds. TV shows that spoof reality TV didn’t spell the downfall of reality TV also.

    I never saw anyone spoof the VirtuaBoy, or AR gaming.

    Social gaming is a genre that’s here to stay.

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