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.