Many of us have been wondering how long it would be before more hardcore games appeared on Facebook. At both the Flash Gaming Summit and the Game Developers Conference I had a very interesting conversations with the Unity platform developers who showed me some new games and shared a few stats regarding the Unity 3D engine and its emergence on Facebook. Specifically, Uberstrike is one of the first “hardcore” games to be launched on Facebook using the Unity 3D engine. It is a first person shooter that offers synchronous multiplayer, stunning visuals and runs surprisingly smooth.
Based on rumors Uberstrike’s ARPU is through the roof, analysts are estimating it may be as high as $1. There is a hardcore audience on Facebook that is willing to play and pay big bucks for games with more engaging/hardcore experiences using the free to play model. You will never attract the masses of users who play games like Cityville, but you can easily get a small loyal following of engaged users who monetize extremely well. I’m not sure exactly what the server associated costs are for realtime multiplayer games such as Uberstrike, but my assumption is that there is still a descent margin if their ARPU is “way over” $1.
Unity has also recently announced the launch of their cloud-based web server. Unity is teaming up with a streaming technology firm GameString to build a cloud based server for Unity. This will allow developers to deliver extremely optimized user experience through browsers using the Unity engine. The way this works is by having a good portion of the rendering being performed on remote servers, and then streaming that content to the user. This means that games with higher quality visuals than that of Ubertrike will soon be possible on Facebook.
The Unity platform team has also informed me that install rate for the Unity Web Player is now at 75% with about 92% (of the 75%) of people actually installing the player once they press the install button.
What type of impact this will have on the social gaming landscape still remains to be seen, but we will likely see a lot more higher end social games as well as hardcore games slowly begin to emerge. The mass Facebook audience is not ready for this type of gameplay, and some people will argue that these hardcore games don’t fall into the category of “social gaming”, but in my opinion there is nothing more social and engaging than synchronous multiplayer.