How Safe is Facebook’s Social Games Scene?

How Safe is Facebook’s Social Games Scene?

The games industry and press talks a lot about “social games,” but sometimes we just go right for the brand and call them “Facebook games.” Player requests from titles like Zynga’s Mafia Wars and “Ville” series are the joy (and/or bane) of Facebook users who just want to hop online for a moment and see pictures of their drunk friends doing something regrettably stupid. Said people could feasibly switch to another social platform, but at this point, Facebook is the most notable player in the game. In fact, dwindling traffic numbers from the once immensely popular MySpace has driven social game developers like Disney, RockYou and Zynga to pull some or all of their projects from the networking site. The games that remain are lighter fare, usually text-based adventures, and apps that encourage sharing/gifting.

Looking at MySpace’s dwindling health, it’s worth wondering if there will ever come a day when Zynga tells its massive fan base to resume playing FarmVille (or maybe UniverseVille, going by the company’s ideas checklist) on some other social network that has captured the hearts and minds of Planet Earth. Yes, Facebook is enormous now, but where will we be three years down the road? Or five? Or ten? There was a time when Compuserve, AOL, ICQ and Netscape seemingly owned the Internet. Now they’re fragments of Internet antiquity.

Nothing is ever certain except that death and taxes stuff, but from this point in time, it looks like Facebook and social gaming will be allied for a long time. There are three major reasons for this. First, Facebook has been around since 2004, and it’s only growing in popularity. It’s remained on fire for seven years. That’s something like a hundred years going by Internet time, as people online are fickle and tend to abandon the hottest new thing within a few years.

Second, the Internet-using demographic has changed substantially since the days of Netscape and Geocities. Computers were once an enigma, a gated kingdom where “nerds” communicated while parents looked on in helpless awe. Now, well, computers are still an enigma to the average user, but Facebook has made online communication a simple task for anyone who finds computers too difficult to understand (or has convinced themselves that computers are too difficult to understand). Experienced computer users may get fed up with the crowding and security issues on Facebook and say, “I’m going over to Bebo,” and maybe a few of their likewise-experienced friends will follow. But mom probably won’t, or dad, or grandma, grandpa, Uncle Jordan, Auntie Sheila, etc. etc. They’re comfortable. They know what they’re doing. They’re not budging.

Finally, Zynga entered a long-term relationship with Facebook in 2010. Zynga’s games will be showing up on Facebook for at least the next five years, and the two companies will sustain each other during that time.

In other words, if you use Facebook, the FarmVille neighbors you never knew you had will be paying visits for a long time to come. Better get used to them, or hope somebody invents a virtual guard dog to chase them off your profile’s lawn.

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About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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