It’s a little shocking to see how quickly Social Platform Games seem to be trying to travel up the gameplay ladder to inherit all the problems and pitfalls of the casual and core markets. It’s not that improving depth and quality aren’t important, but it’s also easy to forget that there are some unique qualities that can be provided by games on a social platform that drive success.
Traditional games are primarily focused on the experience of play. It’s the old “gameplay is everything” model, and while that’s still important, the equation has changed a bit. What a social player is most concerned about is status. After all, telling other people about how you’re doing is what Facebook does best, whether it’s what you’re watching, reading, thinking, or playing. In the end your “wall” is a billboard that gives you a chance to let other people know what you’re up to. It wasn’t all that long ago that only Presidents and movie stars got the kind of attention we’re all getting now.
And if you look at the early social platform successes, you can see that while the gameplay isn’t all that compelling your status is clearly something they all have in common. X-Wars games like Mob Wars are constantly telling you where you’re at, what you need, and what’s next. Scrabulous was also a strong a status game. It constantly let players know when it was their turn, and immediately gave them a “lay of the land” when they saw the game board. For users of these applications “where am I at?” can be almost as important as “what’s next?”
With players coming to your games looking for five minutes of fun you need a place for them to start and end that experience, and a strong status screen is always going to be the place to call home.
Andrew Mayer is a Social Gaming and User Experience Consultant with over seventeen years of experience in the games industry.