Dec

28

Going Midcore? The 5 Key Challenges to Crossing the Facebook Divide

Mark Stephens

Facebook has made no secret of the fact that it views 2014 as the year when harder core gaming hits its platform in a big way. Along with mobile, it is a key focus of the social network in the New Year. But hardcore gaming is traditionally associated with dedicated servers accessed from powerful PCs and gaming consoles; it doesn’t immediately lend itself to the world of free gaming on social media sites, using iPads or Android smartphones. What are the main challenges to creating games that can cross the divide? Here are five of the main ones….

mobile

Free Gameplay

Traditionally hardcore gaming has made money by charging to buy the game or subscribing to it. These models are used far less in social and mobile gaming, where the freemium model reigns supreme. This is an important difference that any hardcore gaming development company with eyes on getting games on Facebook will need to address; usually it will mean earning revenue from in-game purchases, in-game advertising, or charging to unlock levels/features.

Opening the Doors to the World

Social games need to be accessible to vast numbers of people or at least a large, committed core. Once people have read the rules, they need to be able to go off and play the game without too much ado. With shorter attention spans and free gaming abounding, a social gaming audience is less likely to persevere than a fee-paying, hardcore audience that has a vested interest in learning all the rules and really understanding the game. A social gamer may simply go elsewhere if things get too complicated or the game is not engaging enough. The skill for the developer is to balance simplicity of understanding with enough features, challenges, and intricacy to keep the player interested.

Getting the Timing Right

Social gamers are often playing their games with limited time – in lunch hours, or waiting for an appointment or on a bus journey; so they may need to phase in and out of the game, unable to finish long-term quests or missions in one sitting like a console gamer. It’s important for hardcore games to tone down the time commitments for any games that they want to market successfully on a social platform, while also making sure the real-time dynamic is kept, as that is partly what adds interest and keeps people coming back again and again to challenge.

Getting the Narrative Right

The idea with most social games, like with hardcore games, is to create a community; but with social games you have to cater for a wider audience with more diverse tastes, which creates narrative challenges for a game. Some players will be immersed in the game experience semi-permanently and they will need to be rewarded with new features being unlocked, and new layers of the game to discover; others will want to be able to dip in and out of the game, and then come back to see what’s happened while they’ve been away. So a narrative must be developed that acts as a backdrop for the game (the “story” behind the game if you like). The game must be textured enough and the game structure complex enough to satisfy different gaming demands that get people talking about your game. This is the best way to grow a community on social platforms.

mobile

Pushing the Social Side

The social side of a game is not something that just happens; it needs to be pushed and worked at. The drawing card for social games can be the joy of playing the game itself, but it can equally be the social side; take Facebook games like ZyngaPoker where the social interaction is so important to the actual game. Hardcore cnsole games have added more social function and collaborative gameplay in recent years, but on Facebook it needs to be a main driver of the game. Teams and clan games have the potential to create particularly strong bonds within a group: peer groups, long-distance friendships, lifelong relationships and real-life meetings have all resulted from collective and social game play. Facebook is the ideal platform to help you draw players in and create game loyalty.

The above challenges are quite apart from the technological challenges of actually scaling down a hardcore game and making it work on the more limited (though ever-more powerful and smart) devices like tablets and smartphones. All of these challenges are surmountable and you can expect to see more complex, harder core gaming coming to a Facebook page near you soon.