Social web based games have emerged as a very popular entertainment segment with companies like Zynga, Playdom, and smaller startups such as our very own FunRock Media. Many believe that these new types of games is part of a new larger gaming market than the traditional “Core Gaming” market (with First Person shooter hit’s such as Halo, some say that core gaming will be 20% of the gaming market and the new and emerging social (and casual) games market will be 80% of the total gaming market (and increase the total gaming market five fold).
So why are these games so different? And why have the traditional gaming companies had such a hard time to get into this new gaming market, and allowing Zynga and others to become billion dollar companies?
I think because the whole model of creating games has shifted completely with these web based social games, the traditional core games are published, they are built with a large team, with creative, programmers and graphic designers. Typical budgets are in line with or above a movie budget.
Looking at the Movie industry, I think we can find a great parallell, the core games are created like a Movie, just as the big Movie team shoots everything, works a for a long time to get the best clips, and do a final cut, with great music, great sound, everything is to be perfect, because when you release the film you can change it…
Same goes with core gaming, once you published the game you can’t really change it, so you better make sure it’s bug free and a great game, or you won’t make your money back.
Compare the Movie making business to the modern TV-show making business, look at a show like friends (just at the top of my mind), when they made this, they had a big team of writers that wrote each episode just the week before it was shoot, and aired days after. They managed to keep building and growing the same concept for about 10 years, buy continually making the story relevant and interesting (with viewer feedback, current events, seasons etc).
Web based social games are much more like a TV-show than a Movie. It does not cost much money to get started and publish your first game, and get players. You start small and grow in iterations, sometimes those iterations happen every day, making the game evolve and your players see new things growing their gaming experience weekly or daily.
Then add the technology and network effect. The web based social games, done right, scale through viral interaction of your players to grow quickly, and you build technical feedback into the games to measure what people like, and interact with and what not.
The web based social games though require a staff of game designers and programmers (just like the TV-serie’s writers etc), that continually improve and grow the game. This adds cost, but yet they cost less then that “big hit” model of core games, as you are continually improving and interacting with your players, but you know you are spending resources on things that players enjoy, by actually measuring and feeding back.
Another way to put it, web based social games is the Google of games, and the Electronic Arts and old publishers are the old media companies…