How Can Social Games Keep Top Players Engaged?

One of the interesting things about social network application development is that many developers attempt to solve their retention problems by adding game-like elements (points, achievements, leader boards). It’s a great way to start thinking, but most web app developers underestimate the challenge of designing balanced game dynamics that both suck new players in and keep the top players coming back for more.

As Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew notes,

Most MMOGs have built an end-game to keep their best players engaged after they have topped out on the standard game. This end-game often relies on different game dynamics to the original game. I have seen few social games build such an end-game yet, although this is actually much easier to do for a web based games since it doesn’t actually have to be built until you have end-stage players.

Jeremy points to an excellent post by Cameron Sorden at Massively who points out some suggestions that all game developers should consider for keeping top players engaged:

  • Player vs player combat
  • Raiding
  • Special achievements/advancements
  • Collecting special items
  • Anti-grief patrol (protecting newbies from more experienced ones)
  • Role-playing
  • Cultivating trade skills
  • Playing the market

Game designers invest months upon months doing this right in MMOs. Do you see any examples of games on Facebook doing this well?