Are You Making Your Social Games Wide or Deep?

Cloning games has been a standard practice in the industry ever since Munch-Man started nibbling at Pac-Man’s power pills. But in the world of social, where the simple game dynamics, and high level development tools lend themselves to rapid cloning, it’s not only easy to make copies of other people’s games, it’s also easier to make different versions of your own games. If you had a popular game about organized crime, for example, you might consider making variants of that game using Vampires, Pirates, Fashion, and Street Racing…

And it isn’t just in the virtual world that you can get away with re-theming. Pepsi Corp owns KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W, and Taco Bell, and there are big savings to be had by dishing up different flavors of fast-food along with your soda. But it isn’t the only way.

Take a look at McDonalds. They may have flirted with some other restaurants here and there, but they also recognize that there’s a clear advantage in dominating the landscape. And if people are looking want a salad, some ice cream, or a decent cup of coffee, then they’ll serve it all under one roof.

The problem is that when you send your audience off to a new experience there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get them to ever come back. Worse yet, there’s no guarantee that they’ll even get to your new experience at all, especially as the other guys clones may be a lot like yours.

Inside the X-Wars games especially, trying something new seems antithetical to the core social elements of the game. After demanding that the user spam their friends, grind for in-game reputation, and spend actual currency to get an in-game advantage it seems like pushing them into another game, especially when the theme isn’t really different enough to generate a new demographic—the way that a game about sororities might, for example.

The other option is to go deep, and add more and more times to you menu. Expanding the choices that exist under the same roof may not only keep your audience coming back for more, but could also make them increasingly comfortable with the idea of opening up their wallets.

Andrew Mayer is a Social Gaming and User Experience Consultant with over seventeen years of experience in the games industry.