There is, quite frankly, a lot of rubbish written about the future of social gaming, especially at this time of year when everybody is looking ahead to the New Year. The VentureBeat website, however, recently featured an excellent interview with Rick Thompson, who has invested heavily in mobile gaming over the years. He is clearly somebody in the know and his insight into where mobile and social gaming is heading is refreshing. Some of his most interesting responses are summarised below…

Have you ever doubted the use of social gaming? I think we caught a glimpse of its healthy future last week in the UK when Conservative MP Nigel Mills was caught playing Candy Crush on his iPad when he should have been listening to a crucial committee meeting on pensions...

We have all heard the predictions that mobile gaming will continue to take the world by storm for the next few years. But there was a cautionary note earlier this week from PocketGamer – perhaps the rise of mobile gaming is not so inevitable or straightforward after all?

The hotel on Mayfair; the rack of letters without a vowel; a stack of armies on Kamchatka… all classic board game problems that have endured for many decades. And the rise of mobile and social gaming hasn’t changed anything in that respect. Most of the classic board games have quite comfortably made the transition to electronic versions – yes, even Twister! And if we needed any more evidence of the enduring popularity of board games we need look no further than London…

Nov

24

Is Facebook gaming declining? A question that has been asked since a couple of years ago when EA pulled many of its games, the Zynga decline was in full flow, and mobile gaming apps started taking over...

Nov

11

Most readers will have already chosen between iOS or Android and will have proudly bought the devices to back up their decision - so there’s not much point trying to convince anyone otherwise. But it’s useful to look at where the two mobile platforms are heading with regards to social gaming and what their respective strengths and weaknesses are…

Just completed a big level on your favourite game? Got your new high score? Defeated your deadly enemy? Or maybe you are stuck and need help on completing a game task or need rescuing from a sticky situation? These are the ‘breakthrough moments’ (BTMs) that are important to players, game developers and increasingly to game marketers. Why? Read on…

Tile-matching games are one of the most-played social games around. There is something about them that makes them oh-so-lovable. Is it the simplicity? The fine balance of challenge with ease-of-play? The huge number of levels? Is it the motion and the colour? The fact that they only take a few minutes to complete a level? Something makes these little devils so addictive. Just when you thought you might be getting over your addiction, along comes Monkeybin’s addition to the stable of fun-sized matching games …

Oct

16

Among the biggest winners of the social and mobile gaming revolution is the large band of funsters who love to test their brains with puzzles. There are so many ways to mangle your brain… and we’re proud to announce our latest addition to the puzzle gaming family.

Oct

8

From Archimedes to Apple

Mark Stephens

Later this month Monkeybin will release two brand new puzzle games, Hyspherical and Crossed, which are sure to have you gamers all in a spin. Both are dynamic games available initially on the App Store, but they also draw on a long history of puzzles, which have captivated funsters of all ages throughout time. We take a look at that rich history...

The purchase by Microsoft of the makers of Minecraft earlier this month for an eye-watering sum of $2.5 billion is another ‘strategic acquisition’ by one of the giants of the computing world. They are seemingly queuing up to get a bigger slice of the social media pie but how can a game be worth that sort of money and why is Microsoft prepared to pay it?

A few stories about advertising and social games have hit mainstream media in the past month, prompting a couple of questions about the relationship. Firstly, where are we at with how we advertise free-to-play (F2P) social games?; and when is the much-promised revenue from advertising going to materialise and make us poor game developers rich?

Japanese gaming has been at the forefront of the industry, pretty much ever since joysticks were invented. We all remember Taito’s Space Invaders which was cutting edge in the early 80s and household names like Sony, Sega, and Nintendo all made their names during the ‘golden age’ of video gaming from the mid-1980s and throughout the ‘90s. But how are the Japanese doing nowadays with video, social and mobile gaming? In the highly competitive, rapidly changing world of game development, do the Japanese have their noses in front?

Zynga, King, Wooga… all giants that have made a big splash in the world of gaming in recent years, changing the landscape and challenging the dominance of the traditional console and PC gaming giants. With Amazon’s recent ventures, could one of the Internet’s most famous and longest-lasting names in retail be about to make a play to become the next gaming giant?

Sep

3

Can you ever imagine being so good at a game that people will pay to watch you play it? That’s essentially what’s happening at Twitch, where the world’s elite gamers have given up their day jobs to live off the advertising revenue generated by millions of fellow gamers watching them do what they love...

Aug

23

Since Facebook users started playing poker and tending their virtual farms in their droves just five years ago in 2009, many a fortune has been made through social gaming. Most game developers are small independents grinding out a living doing what they love to help others do what they love. Occasionally though a company rises up and becomes a ‘monster’. In the world of social gaming, where millions of players can flock to games rapidly, these monsters can awaken almost overnight from anywhere across the globe. Below are ten good examples.

With the huge global popularity of social gaming it was only a matter of time before it made the crossover into the world of employment and business. The development of games for specific purposes for specific companies is not yet widespread, but some notable brands have started to use it for recruitment purposes.

Facebook started in 2004 and celebrated its tenth anniversary earlier this year. Back then games were largely bought to play on the PC, PS2, Xbox, Game Cube or Gameboy Advance; leading games were the likes of Grand Theft Auto, Halo 2, Pokemon and Need for Speed. Although gaming was undoubtedly massive, it was still a niche; it hadn’t been brought to the masses. Fast forward ten years and it’s a very different story: games with 100 million active players and a total number of worldwide game players running into billions. Facebook has played a key role in shaping this landscape – here’s a brief history and look at what’s ahead.

Do you think that kid sitting next to you is simply playing a game? Wiling away a few moments in idle fun, shooting zombies, matching candy, making birds angry? Well, possibly. But he could also be learning some valuable skills during the process. There is a lot going on in our minds and subliminally when we play social games – below we look at seven of the major skills we can develop.

Jul

19

The Gamification of Life

Mark Stephens

It’s not just app developers, game distributors, social media platforms and mobile device makers who have pricked up their ears and opened their eyes at the social gaming revolution. All sorts of areas of life – both personal and professional - are starting to become interested in gaming as a way to communicate, teach, train and engage. ‘Gamification’ - it’s the new buzz word!

I don’t need to quote the latest industry figures to demonstrate the huge popularity of social and mobile gaming; just take a look around. But why is this form of gaming so popular and why has it become an integral part of the lives of so many people on the planet? Some of the reasons are obvious, but others not so…

Jun

29

What’s going on in the App Store? With many developers and gamers still seeing the App Store as their guiding beacon, it’s sometimes useful to kick back and see what’s happening over there. What’s changing and what are the main trends? Is gaming sizzling hot or fizzling out? We'll call it an ‘app-date’ if you like; an ‘update’ if you don’t like!

A couple of years is a long time in gaming, especially social gaming. There was more evidence of that earlier this month as one of the console gaming giants, Sony, announced that a raft of free-to-play social games would be made available for to its console owners. This seemingly goes against what it was saying only two years ago…

Wikipedia says ‘social gaming commonly refers to playing games as a way of social interaction, as opposed to playing games in solitude.’ Tens of thousands of games now fall under this category (there were almost 200,000 games on the iStore at the end of 2013) but the irony is that many of these games ARE played in solitude.

Bells and whistles are fine: all the bright colours, jazzy jingles and dancing bears that attract players to games, convincing them to download and play a few times. But what convinces them to keep coming back? What gives a game that elusive, semi-addictive quality that compels players to log in every single day?

Whichever way you cut your bacon and eggs at breakfast, they go together perfectly. The same applies to social gaming...well sort of: whichever way you cut a game, it needs a big helping of 'challenge' next to it on the plate. Get that element of the game right and developers are on to something very tasty….

There – that got your attention! But it’s not just a wild attempt to grab your arm and to get you reading. A recent US survey found that one in five mobile social game players would rather give up sex than their games for a week, and this has been making headlines on gaming sites around the world. But that’s not all they find in the survey – there are some even more worrying discoveries!

The annoying kid on the train who has the volume on his iPad way too high, as he slingshots some angry birds towards innocent pigs; the incessant refrains of ‘sweet’ or ‘tasty’ when the colleague sitting next to you in the lunch room gets a combo in Candy Crush Saga. Sound is clearly a part of social gaming, but how important is it to the gaming experience? Where would we be without the little jingles, the voiceovers, or the old skool rocking soundtrack?

Don’t you just love the game feedback and rating system on Android and Apple’s gaming platforms? Like with many such customer rating systems, game app developers can become obsessed trying to appease the masses for those five-star ratings, only to be completely ruined by a few unhappy campers!

In previous posts I have talked about how the image of gaming has changed in recent years. No longer is it considered the domain of idle teenagers with nothing better to do, largely because their mums and dads are just as likely to be playing too. There was more evidence this week that gaming is good for you! Two separate reports looked at the effects of playing video games on one’s brain and how social gaming was affecting charitable contributions. The notion of gaming for good, it seems, is gathering pace.

If you ever doubt the power of the ’social’ element of social gaming we need only glance towards some of the phone and console makers to see what happens when you are slow to react; there are plenty of examples about how the social element can rapidly work for or against you. Ultimately, if you are not paying close attention to the ever-changing concept of ‘social’ then you can quickly get left behind…

I admit that we have allowed ourselves a few smirks since Zynga went public and then proceeded to self-destruct. But one good consequence of its decision to go public for the rest of us is that investors want to know the details about how the money is made (or lost in the case of many Zynga games). That means the rest of us learn more about monetisation. Zynga is only interested in making money, but it remains a fascinating creature. And with the information all being public, we are able to freely pick over its bones as the flies start to swarm around the remains!

Do you Yahoo? Nope? Thought not. But a lot of people do – especially in the US, which accounts for almost a third of its traffic and a big proportion of its claimed 800 million users. In fact Yahoo remains one of the Top Ten sites in the world and one of the Big Three search engines along with Google and Bing. The network recently took the plunge and launched a social game development platform in a bid to attract some of the talent that has been creating games for the online social media giants like Facebook and on the mobile platforms like Android and Apple iOS. Is it too late…or better late than never?

Although online gambling sites have come under the hammer of regulators around the world, social gaming has, until recently, had a less bumpy journey. However, the lines between gaming and gambling have become increasingly blurred with ‘social gaming’ often being used interchangeably to refer to hardcore poker sites as well as innocent farming or quiz games. This is reflected in a recent move by the UK that could open the floodgates for tighter regulations in other countries. Could they be coming to a mobile phone or tablet near you soon?

A decade ago Mark Zuckerberg was a nineteen year-old a long way from a personal fortune of almost $30 billion. Working in his dormitory at Harvard University he released "Thefacebook" on February 4, 2004. Within three years of that, he was already a billionaire, and most of us know (and have participated in) the rest of the story. Facebook has certainly changed the way we do many things and, since 2009, it has had a profound influence on gaming. What are some of the most important gaming changers in the past decade?

An “Android First” mentality means developing for Android ahead of other platforms – and this approach has worked well for some. One such developer is US-based Kiwi Games – maker of titles like Shipwrecked:Lost Island, Westbound, and Hidden Object: Mystery Estate. Its strategy of focusing on Android has enabled it to boast multiple games in Google Play's Top 100 Grossing list, with many millions of downloads....

UK game developer King remains one of the hottest properties in social gaming, with the success of Candy Crush Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Pet Rescue Saga and Bubble Witch Saga, propelling it to the top. Facebook still lists the first three of those games in its Top 5, with Candy Crush way out in front of any other game, with a frankly ridiculous 140 million monthly active users! Imitation is a form of flattery that Zynga turned into a form of theft...but if you were to try to imitate Candy Crush Saga, how would you go about it? What features would you need in the look, feel and mechanics of the game, without it actually being a copy?

Does one or two less extra clicks make a big difference to you? It does to many gamers. When you are on your iPad, iPhone or PC how do you login to that game you are itching to play? Chances are that you don’t go to the app itself but you can login via one of the social networks you are already on. Convenience is big in gaming – and anything that makes it easier to login, play the game or win is immediately grabbed – as recent game login statistics show.

Intellectual property is big news in the tech space - just ask Apple and Samsung how many billions of dollars? When it comes to gaming some notable companies have walked roughshod over others in recent years and claimed the moral high-ground afterwards. Yes we’re looking at you Zynga! There is never a dull moment here and new wars are brewing with one of the biggest names in social gaming headlining the news recently: King.

Well, actually the name change hasn’t happened yet. But it may be a matter of time, if Facebook’s director of games partnerships knows what he’s talking about – and we assume he does. The targeting of tablets for Facebook gaming is not something we should be surprised about, as smartphone usage starts to reach almost saturation point in some areas of the world while tablet uptake continues apace; Facebook understandably views this as a major area for growth, which fits in with their strategy of targeting mobile and mid-core gamers in 2014.

Jan

21

MindFeud becomes BoardRush & Friends

Haakon Langaas Lageng

Now that BoardRush & Friends has been launched, one can’t help and compare it with MindFeud. The game rules and concept are still the same but there are also several noteworthy differences regarding the gameplay parts.

The subject of monetisation is never far from the lips of social game developers. Back in the days when money was made from the original purchase price of the game it was relatively simple. Nowadays though, freemium games rule the roost, and the ever-developing trends of how to make a dollar are interesting to follow. As a social gamer, what can you expect this year from developers’ attempts to monetise their games?

Jan

4

The world of gaming has introduced several new words into the dictionary – one of the latest being ‘gamification’. This is the process by which typical gaming features like point scoring and competition are applied to typically non-gaming contexts, often associated with a particular product or service. The point of this is generally to enhance engagement and increase interest levels, learning, and/or enjoyment. Most commonly it is being used in marketing to increase customer engagement.