Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Confusing platforms with games

Imagine somebody who only ever played games on consoles starting up a PC for the very first time, playing the most widely played PC games, that is Solitaire and Mine Sweeper, and declaring that "PC games suck". Unlikely? Well, this is pretty much what happened to Facebook. Ask anybody what they think about "Facebook games", and they will most likely give you a negative opinion based on games like Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Farmville is about as representative of Facebook games as Solitaire is of PC games. Millions of people play these games, because they are accessible to everyone. But that doesn't mean this is the best the PC or Facebook can do. Facebook is a game platform, like a PC or a console is a game platform, with certain technical limitations and built-in advantages (like social networking). And one has to look to other games to see what this platform can do.

Yesterday Sid Meier's Civ World went into open beta. Now Civ World is an order of magnitude or two less complex than Civilization V. But it sure is a far cry from Farmville. There is an actual game there, semi-massively multiplayer, with a beginning and an end, and a win condition. You can play Civ World against hundreds of people, and end up winning against them.

And that isn't the only example of more complex Facebook games. For example for role-playing there is Dragon Age Legends. Again obviously not quite comparable with the Dragon Age games on the PC, but far more complex than the average Zynga game. I've also played some nice strategy games on Facebook, again somewhere in complexity between Farmville and Hearts of Iron.

Facebook games do have an inherent problem in that the more complex games tend to be less well-known. That not only affects perception of Facebook games in general, but also reduces the chance of your Facebook friends actually playing the same games as you are. For a platform whose main selling point is the social networking capabilities, avid gamers see themselves confronted with an awkward choice between simple games where they can hang out with all their acquaintances, and complex games which only a few of their gamer friends also play them.

Nevertheless Facebook games shouldn't be underestimated in their potential. Nor as a selling point for a social network. I'm on Google+ too, but as I can neither play any games there, nor automatically share my blog posts, I end up using Facebook and Buzz more than Google+.
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