As Facebook becomes crowded with successful titles, developers are looking for other ways to publish their games. Some are looking at alternative platforms. Still others are using the Facebook platform as a method to create a community. Supercell of Finland is one such developer.
GunShine, a semi-traditional MMOG we previewed in February, has no plans to run inside the Facebook canvas, yet it will use players’ feeds and friends list for virality. Eschewing the dogma of asking the player to post for help to complete a mission, Gunshine will instead ask the player to post only “brag” posts.
While this may sound appealing on a personal level, at first blush it appears as virtual suicide in game design. At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen, COO Janne Snellman, and Creative Director Mikko Kodisoja clarified their strategy and explained their plans for launching a successful MMOG using Facebook.
“We believe that if the game is good enough,“ commented Paananen, “it will sell itself through word of mouth. People will talk about it and that should increase our community. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas on how best to use Facebook to our advantage.”
Upon entry, a user will be able to see which of their Facebook friends are currently active in the game. A message can then be sent to that player, allowing for synchronous play. If no friends are available and the user chooses not to play with strangers, Facebook friends can be hired like henchman in an asynchronous atmosphere.
While this works to bring together groups or find friends already playing, it does little to encourage a user to post to the wall. After several false starts at finding the answer due to language differences, I found the question that would elicit the answer I was looking for.
“You are depending upon people talking about your game to get them to start playing it. Brag posts are how they will know it even exists. Why would I even want to brag?”
“Credibility,” they told me in unison.
Credibility is a player stat that can either be purchased for significant Diamonds (the in-game microcurrency) or increased by posting brag posts to a user’s wall. The key to Credibility is in what it gives you — additional content. If Supercell makes this content compelling enough, they may have struck just the right balance to have created a mechanism that is both viral and monetizable.
Another mechanic that has been anathema to traditional MMOG designers but Supercell seems willing to embrace whole-heartedly is having durability on purchaseable items. Those these items can be repaired creating a never-ending money sink, they do eventually wear out and require replacement. Puzzle Pirates has existed successfully on this model for five of its seven years but it is a mechanic other North American designers have been unwilling to attempt.
Durability not only places a dependence between players (those who repair and those who need it), but it allows for a dependable revenue model as gameplay and monetization become one and the same.
With GunShine still in the first two weeks of closed beta it is difficult to make a determination as to whether the players find it a compelling game. Beta is invite-only and much can change before launch. But Supercell seems to be willing to the risks necessary to be successful by using Facebook without being part of Facebook.