Social gaming has taken a life of its own. Companies like PlayFish and Zynga are creating massively popular social games that are attracting and capturing the attention of millions of users.
But what makes these social games so popular and successful?
Why are people motivated to play, it’s just a game after all? If you try some of the social games available, many are built around the sense of achievement. Gaining levels, winning awards and being at the top of the leader board are examples of how social games are motivating users to play on a regular basis.
Many successful social games release new updates on a weekly basis. The updates are usually not major changes to the game experience, but are new items, designs or objectives that keep the game experience fresh and entertaining. Stale content becomes boring.
Social gaming is about the social experience. Many successful games seamlessly integrate friend/social interactions as part of the game experience. For example, you need your friend’s help to open a crate or you are encouraged to share items with your friends. These social interactions also help these games become popular because your actions in the game may be shared with friends who are not yet playing the game.
Most social games are free to play, but provide users with the option of paying for premium content. Premium content may allow users to get exclusive items or give them a boost over other players. This revenue model helps attract a larger audience because it’s free to play, but it also has a profitable revenue stream because players who enjoy the game for free, may be enticed to pay for game upgrades.
Think of ways to apply these elements in your online strategy.
I have to ask, what are 19,786,120 million people (as of Oct 2, 2009) doing playing Farmville on Facebook each day? What is the attraction? What makes a person want to spend minutes, perhaps hours of their day choosing the type of tomatoes to grow on their virtual farm?
Ask the people at California-based Zynga, the company which created the Farmville – currently the most popular game on Facebook with over 19 million daily users, and nearly 130 million monthly users across all Zynga social media games.
People want to unwind, people like games, and even more importantly, people like to play with their friends. Enter social media games.
Not only have they created simple games that people like, but, according to gamesbrief.com, Zynga has done two key things to keep players returning to their games.
1. Virality: Farmville is spreading like a gamer pandemic, the speed of which is surprising even its creators. Farmville encourages you to send gifts to your friends, gifts that are actually thinly disguised invitations to play. And those gifts are valuable – an expensive animal can make your farm better. If you receive a lovely fat cow as a gift from your friend, don’t you think it would be nice to gift them in return?
Your farm benefits from being surrounded by friendly neighbours – so asking your friends to till the land next to yours is going to take your farm to the next level. Once you have recruited your friends to Farmville, they will ask their friends and on it goes. Pretty soon we’ll see the first case of an employee getting fired for harvesting his corn when he should have been harvesting sales.
2. Stickiness: Where it gets sticky is how Farmville keeps players coming back. To have a successful farm, you need to return to the game frequently, or God forbid your crops will wither and die, and how would that look to your friends? So each morning you wake, do a quick check on your crops, gift a few friends and continue on. After work, with dinner simmering, you’re back on the farm seeing whether your friends have moved in next door, and if they haven’t, why not? The game is fun, but it gets even better once it’s shared with friends.