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?



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...



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.

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.



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…



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…