Aug

29

What’s Your Social Gaming Niche?

Mark Stephens

As a gamer you probably have a couple of types of games you enjoy more than others; developers also often specialise in one or two genres of games. With devices becoming more sophisticated and 3G becoming 4G, social and mobile gaming is expanding from its technologically-imposed limits and is starting to cross over into video game territory, making more categories of games available. One look at the AppStore, Google Play or Facebook and it’s obvious that there are many additions to the social gaming “pantheon” of puzzle, casino and word games. What are the main categories and niches available today, and how are they changing?

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Social RPGs

Role Player Games have been a mainstay of hardcore gaming for years – and there are many types available for all the main consoles. They originally took their inspiration from the likes of Dungeons and Dragons and usually involve taking the role of adventurers with specific skills that allow them to pass through a series of challenges and quests.

Players collect money to purchase items that help them and their team to pass the challenges, but usually have to watch energy supplies. Mafia Wars was one of the earliest social games to exploit this genre. As devices become more sophisticated we will probably see more advanced social RPGs making a splash.

Casino Games

Casino games are well suited to social media because they engage large amounts of people, can be played causally with little time commitment, feature easy-to-follow game play and, have relatively simple graphic requirements. Zynga’s Texas Hold ‘Em has been one of the top Facebook games for several years, with over 30 million monthly active users.

These games use fake money chips, as opposed to the real money used on many gaming sites available now. Other casino staples like Baccarat and Blackjack are also available through social gaming apps, as well as slots and Bingo.

Virtual Towns, Cities and Villages

You probably won’t need reminding about the popularity of these games. Someone’s probably tending their farm or city next to you right now. Loosely based on EA’s Sim City, most of these games involve taking ownership of, and looking after, something – a virtual farm, zoo, village or pet, for example; Zynga’s Farmville was, until recently, the most popular game on Facebook and there are many other types of these games in the top 25.

These games are generally simple to understand, challenging to a point and easy to interact with others on, with moderate system requirements to run them; they tend to form large communities of committed players – hence their suitability for social media.

Casual “Arcade” Games

The focus of most “Arcade” games is on fast and furious fun. These are very simple to play, repetitive and often quite addictive; games are usually short, meaning no major time commitment is required; they can often be played while waiting to do something else, making them ideal for a casual social gaming application.

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A perfect example is the most popular Facebook game presently, called Candy Crush Saga. You are probably also familiar with Tetris, Bejeweled and Angry Birds, which always feature in the top social game charts. Bright and colourful graphics make these games attractive and fun, but system requirements are low.

Simulation Games

Car and flight simulation games have made the transition from arcade games to PCs and consoles, to mobile devices and, as device sophistication increases, we can expect to see more of these traditionally popular types of games available.

Because of the higher barriers to entry in terms of device requirements, there is a lot of room for these games to be improved for social gaming. The potential is definitely there and big car-makers like Volkswagen and Nissan have even become involved in pushing these types of games, because of the marketing potential.

Word, Puzzle and Mind Games

Word games often attract a style of gamer that only plays these more cerebral games and doesn’t touch other, action-based games. Words with Friends is probably the one that everyone recognises – it has been charting high in the Top 10 Facebook games for many years. Most of these games revolve around a Scrabble or Hangman type game.

While they will always seemingly be popular with users, these types of games are somewhat difficult for developers to be original with, and they are also challenging to monetise.

I could include other genres, like sports games, girl games, strategy games, classic games, shooting games, and fighting games, but most of these fall under one of the six categories described above.

With mobile and social gaming giving rise to a new midcore gamer (in between the casual and the hardcore gamer) expect to see more gaming options appear on the scene as mobile technology advances further. There may even be an entirely new game niche developed – who knows?