Facebook users who have been harassed for years to join FarmVille, CityVille, or any number of social games available on the platform might be able to exact a bit of revenge in the near future. Tired of reading requests from your Aunt Etta to join Restaurant City? Try sending back an invitation to play Grand Theft Auto with you within the walls of Zuckerberg’s digital world.
It’s not possible at the moment of course, but it might be only a matter of time. Take-Two recently launched Civilization World in beta, a social take on a classic. As Take-Two COO Karl Slatoff explained to IndustryGamers, we’re likely to see traditional and social games share the same space before long. Not only is such a merger inevitable (and controversial), but it’ll also prove healthy for the games industry in general.
“I think you’re going to see a little bit more out of that title in terms of converging the two worlds,” Slatoff said. “I do think as the platforms get more sophisticated, there will be some convergence…[W]e are platform agnostic and we are focused on compelling, engaging triple-A experiences. So [we believe in the experience] where you sort of sit forward and you’re playing for hours and you’re really engaged in it, and we’re going to develop for every platform – even if it’s an online platform – that can support that kind of experience.”
Slatoff then stated that the social platform isn’t quite ready yet for a triple-A core gaming experience–but insinuated that Take-Two is up to the challenge of pioneering such an experience. “To us it’s about building bridges – building bridges to engage and expand our audience base for our existing triple-A franchises,” he said. “And if we can make a few bucks in the meantime, that’s fantastic.”
If Take-Two decided to bring some of its core franchises to Facebook, would there be an audience waiting to receive them? In a word, yes. Crime City, a social game that’s more than a bit inspired by Grand Theft Auto, boasts 7.5 million monthly players. Its creators, Funzio, recently secured $20 million from investors to help beef up its crew. Pokemon clone Monster Galaxy is another one of Facebook’s big hits, with 7.9 million monthly players.
There’s no question Facebook is a decent place to hang out for a core gaming experience, so long as you keep an open mind. With so many clones finding success, however, it’d be nice to see more top developers bring the real thing to the platform.
The traditional games community is split on its opinion of social games: There is scorn and suspicion, but many of us also turn to Facebook for a quick and free dose of gaming when we’re seated in front of a computer and pulling out a DS or a smartphone isn’t an ideal entertainment solution for whatever reason. Facebook games are an alternative to core games, but not a replacement.
That said, Facebook gaming should be about more than clone spam. Ideally, Take-Two would bring new game ideas to the platform–but an official Grand Theft Auto would discourage imitators and arguably raise the bar on social game development. It would also bring in the revenue Take-Two would need to experiment with more “original” games, both on Facebook and on consoles.
Social gaming isn’t for everyone by any means, but as far as large game developers are concerned, there’s no profit in shunning it. If social gaming is here to stay–and from this angle, it is–then veteran studios should be encouraged to improve the platform and “build bridges,” as Slatoff puts it, if they feel so inclined.