Dec

14

What Do Facebook’s Games of the Year Tell Us About the Road Ahead for Gaming?

Mark Stephens

Facebook remains a pretty good barometer for where gaming is heading, generally, and especially when it comes to social games. So when the huge social network announces its top games for the year and the game genres that are growing in popularity, most developers and game lovers want to listen. What’s hot and what’s yesterday’s news? And what are we likely to see more of as we venture into the New Year?

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The Top Facebook Games of 2013

The inclusions in Facebook’s Top Games of 2013 are based on more than pure numbers; user ratings, implementation into the Facebook platform, growth, and the overall quality are considered.

The games are not ranked in any order, but there are some features of this year’s list that are worth pointing out: notably, the amount of games developed in Europe, the increasing popularity of games that can be played on web and mobile, and the trend towards harder-core gaming, as well as the increasing amount of casino-type games being played.

Before we look at some of the 23 games chosen, here is a snapshot of some of the main trends:

  • 10 are from European or Middle Eastern studios
  • 8 are cross-platform
  • 8 were developed by independent studios
  • 7 are mid or hardcore games
  • 5 are arcade games
  • 5 are casino or slots games

Facebook announced three categories – Best New games, Staff Favourites and Hall of Fame. The most interesting of these is the Best New Games category, which includes twelve new games across several different genres:

  • Bake Shop Drop by Broken Bulb Studios -a match-3 game
  • Farm Heroes Saga by King – a farm-themed match-3 game
  • Heart of Vegas by Product Madness / Aristocrat – a UK-based slots game
  • Hit It Rich Casino Slots by Zynga – slots simulation
  • Jelly Splash by Wooga – line-drawing match-3 game
  • Kitchen Scramble by Disney Interactive – cooking-themed time management simulation game
  • Monster Legends by Social Point – a battle game out of Spain
  • The Smurfs & Co.: Spellbound by Ubisoft – village-building game from France
  • Soldiers Inc. by Plarium – a real-time strategy game from Israel
  • Solitaire Tales by Qublix – a Canadian steampunk-themed solitaire game
  • Thunder Run: War of Clans by SpinPunch Games – a hardcore strategy game
  • Vikings Gone Wild by EveryDayiPlay – hardcore strategy game from Poland

Facebook chose Criminal Case by Pretty Simple as the overall top game for 2013. This is a very popular hidden-object game out of France.

The Gaming Genres of 2014

Reading a little between the lines and extrapolating from Facebook’s awards for 2013, it’s interesting to consider what might be just around the corner as gaming evolves again in 2014.

One thing that is forever-changing seems to be the most popular genres of games amongst its 260 million active gamers. Recently Dan Morris, the head of the North American Games Division at Facebook, said:

“Seeing the maturation of the Facebook as a platform is really exciting…These new games and genres really shake up what people imagine Facebook games to be.”

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Another observation has been a move to more complicated, mid-core games, closer to the traditional console type games, which Facebook seems to be edging towards competition with.

As exemplified by the 2013 list, we should expect to see growing numbers of the following genres in the next twelve months:

Social Casino Games – A diverse range of social game versions of casino activities, like roulette, poker, Black Jack and slots, where you play for in-game currency.
Match 3 Games – Games like Candy Crush, which has swept all Facebook records in 2013. This genre has been around for ages but is going nowhere yet.
Hidden Object Games – Games where players hunt for objects in a scene. These attract players from all age groups. It seems like we just like solving puzzles!
Hardcore Simulation Games – Most commonly played on the PC before, these are making the crossover increasingly into social and mobile games.
Hardcore Strategy Games – Again once the domain of PCs and consoles, we are seeing more serious real-time strategy games enter social platforms.

This is all excellent food for thought for gamers and developers as we head into the New Year. I wonder what surprises will crop up in the year ahead and what we will be talking about this time next year as the hot new genres set to dominate social gaming….