Can console-style sports games succeed in social form through Facebook? Although there aren’t many examples, we recently looked at a high-quality one called GridIron Live, that has a loyal but small user base. After that post, Singapore-based Game Ventures came to us with a new title, a cricket game called HowZat.
Cricket, of course, is a very popular game in the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and other English-speaking parts of the world. While the American audience might generally prefer baseball social games, we’re interested to see how the game does among Facebook users worldwide.
Game Ventures seeks to bring a more console-like sports experience to the table and marry it with social features; up until now, even the most console-styled social games have tended to focus on Mob Wars-style role playing mechanics.
HowZat is a fully live cricket title that allows players to actively play the game with the bowler hurling the ball at the batter, and placed non-player characters playing sweepers and the backward short leg…. ahhh…. You know what, to make this review accessible to our American readers, let’s just simply call these players batters, pitchers and fielders. One player pitches the ball while the other player bats. To play, each user hits a directional arrow to aim and another button coupled with proper timing to swing or pitch. It sort of works like batting and pitching in most console baseball games.
Which reminds us… for those not familiar, the term “howzat” means: “the cry of a fielding team when appealing, notable because an umpire is not obliged to give the batsman ‘out’ unless the question is asked.”
Pitching was pretty easy to get, but the timing for batting actually turned out to be quite difficult (just like real life, as anyone knows who grew up playing American baseball then tried their hand at cricket). Once you did get it, though, the game was actually pretty of fun. If hit solidly, the ball flies out into the field and will be fielded by the various… cricket positions… with a level of skill based on where you have attributed points.
This is where the game starts to get into the social elements. As players play HowZat and earn experience, they can distribute points to their team members. More points equals better players. Players are also granted the ability to customize their team quite a bit; adjusting player handedness, play style, name, and team colors. There are also areas to view all your earned achievements (and unearned) as well as your latest scores.
Currently the game is only on howzat.com, but uses Facebook Connect for the social features. Game Ventures says that a Facebook app is on the way, but did not wish to run into any scaling issues; this is the primary reason the site was built first. Nevertheless, chief executive Zaki Mahomed did tell us that current users have invited well over 100,000 new players in the last 10 or so days, through email alone.
Overall, the game is impressive, and we’re very interested to see how it does.