Playfish is one of the most exciting companies you haven’t heard of. Founded just last year, the company has already opened studios in Europe, Asia, and (soon) North America, and is the developer of 3 of the top 10 games on Facebook today.
We spent some time with Kristian Segerstråle, CEO of Playfish, to learn more about his vision for the company, the emerging “social gaming” space, and how social networks compare to other gaming platforms.
What lessons have you learned so far?
Designing social games is totally different than designing video games for other platforms. On the surface they look quite similar, but actually you have to think about them quite differently. When you design a game on a standalone platform, you try to draw players in quickly and keep them motivated over time. You do things like visual and audio rewards and achievements, and give ways for people who are into it to keep going. But when you design for social platforms, you do those things in the beginning because you want to get players started in the game, but then you want to get the users to take a step out of the game and use it as a way to communicate with friends.
In addition, the sheer amount of user feedback you get allows you to, in a sense, outsource a part of your design. You have the luxury to update your game, you can listen to your users and give them what they want. It creates a great emotional relationship between a publisher and a player.
How do you see risks in developing for the Facebook platform?
If you compare the rules of publishing on Facebook to the rules of publishing on any other platform (like cell phones), you’re talking about orders of magnitudes of difference. On mobile platforms, you have to get approved, certified, sometimes there are age ratings, and typically you even pay a share of your income to the platform holder. Compared to that kind of environment, Facebook is an amazing place to publish games. It’s a great thing to see them take their role of managing the platform seriously. The more consumers want to hang out on social networks the better it is for us in the long run… if social networks don’t moderate the environment, consumers will.