1. It Has Become a Big Social Business, Open to More Developers
There are now many thousands of independent developers around the world making social games to play on Facebook and the other social networks, as well as on mobile. It’s no longer just the big boys dominating the industry; indeed, some of the traditional heavyweights have had to change their business models because of Facebook’s influence – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo included.
Facebook has helped turn many unknown developers into household names already – Zynga and King being prime examples. People flocked to the social network, making it attractive for developers who saw a chance to reach huge amounts of players, and active policies by Facebook to encourage game development helped it take a leading role in making gaming more “social”.
The prominence of Facebook now and in the foreseeable future is highlighted in a recent report entitled Facebook vs. Non-Facebook Social Network Gaming Ecosystem and Market Analysis 2013 – 2018 which predicts:
“By 2018, the Facebook gaming market is expected to reach $ 5.6 B USD globally on a 554 M gaming customer base whereas Non-Facebook social networking gaming market is anticipated to represent a global $ 9.6 B USD market based on 692 M gamers”
2. It has Changed the Way Games Make Money
Console and PC games were generally charged upfront – you purchased the game in a box, installed it and got playing; Facebook by no means invented free-to play-games, but it helped to popularise the “freemium” concept. This is where players get their copy of the game for free but are encouraged to spend money within the game for virtual currency, power-ups, help with conquering levels, or unlocking new features.
Games like Candy Crush Saga, Dragon Day, Diamond Dash, Hay Da_y and Farmville_ exemplify this approach and make big money from large volumes of micro-transactions.
The freemium model has also made in-game advertising more prevalent, as another potential revenue stream for game developers.
Of course, being free-to-play presents a challenge for developers to get gamer “buy-in” and engagement early on; otherwise the player may download the game, play it once and never return.
3. Shorter and More Mobile Gaming Sessions
Nowadays gamers can start playing a game at home on the PC, move to the phone when they head out of the house and maybe use a tablet a little later to pick up where they left off in the same game.
The explosion of mobile devices which happened shortly after Facebook became popular has led to more mobile gaming opportunities; the two phenomena seem to go hand-in-hand. Consequently gaming sessions have become shorter and the concept of the serious gamer being locked away for hours on end playing console games has changed somewhat because of these developments.
Gaming is now far more attractive to a casual audience of gamers who cannot commit to hours on end, but do enjoy tending their farm for a few minutes or conquering the next level of Bubble Witch Saga.
4. Asynchronous Multiplayer Gaming
The concept of turn-based games, where you challenge another player who doesn’t have to be online at the same time as you (and may indeed be sleeping over the other side of the world) was not new, but again Facebook popularised and “normalised” it.
Some of these games may take hours or days to complete – such as Scrabble and Words with Friends. In many ways it is the ultimate in giving freedom and control to the player, who can choose when to take his or her turn rather than racing against a clock. Even some console games are starting to build this element into their game mechanics.
5. Gaming is More of a Lady Thing Now
Rightly or wrongly most console games were designed by, designed for, marketed to and played by males.
That has all changed with social gaming and Facebook can take some of the credit for that. Studies have shown that the average casual gamer is a working mother in her 40s. The likes of Farmville, Bejeweled and Cafe World have attracted large amounts of female players – and not just the teenagers.
The perception of gaming has changed greatly since 2009; also the time and financial barriers to playing have been lowered, making it more acceptable and more possible for busy working mothers to log in and get playing.
Of course the rapidly-changing gaming world never stands still and Facebook has changed direction recently with more of a focus on becoming a game facilitator through mobile platforms. On its tenth birthday, all the signs are that the social network will continue to play a major role in shaping social gaming over the next decade.