The 10 Features Every Social Mobile Game Must Include

iPhone Game IconsIndustry experts at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco iterated that mobile is the next big platform for social games. If you’re a developer designing for this niche or a player trying to choose, there are certain features that every social game should have. (Consider that nearly half of the apps submitted to Apple for their upcoming iPad device are games.) While they’re not necessarily social games, the potential market exists.

Social gaming on a mobile platform is a somewhat different experience for players than, say, in a web browser, namely because games in the latter are typically integrated into a social network’s site interface. On a mobile device, that’s not necessarily true, especially for smartphones. Social features thus become even more important on a mobile platform, even if they have to be presented differently than in a web browser.

The following list of features is targeted specifically towards mobile social games and does overlap slightly with our earlier 7 Features that Should be in Every Social Game article. (Developers wanting a deeper, more technical explanation of some of these social gaming features should read Z2 Live’s platform overview and roadmap. Z2Live’s platform is aimed at Apple’s mobile devices — iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad — however, the concepts can be extrapolated for any mobile platform that supports the prerequisite device features.)

  1. Social login – Give players the ability to login to a mobile social game using their existing social network account, instead of having to remember yet another username and password. One example of this is Facebook Connect for mobile devices – While you do have to enter your Facebook email and password info, it’s a one-time effort. After that, you’re connected via your Facebook credentials, which immediately facilitates the next feature.
  2. Social media status updates – Some players want to be able to brag or share some game-related bit of info to their Facebook Wall, Twitter stream or some other social network.
  3. Share achievements on a leaderboard – Leaderboards allow players compare their game accomplishments against all players, not just their friends.
  4. Email sharing – This might be a boring channel to some, but if a friend isn’t on a social network, then email sharing is a great alternative. E.g., “Hey Grandma, I just got the high score in Mobile Word Twister!”
  5. Invites/ referrals – The more players a game has, the more successful it has the potential to be. Friend invites are thus important to the game and to players. These could be push notifications to a mobile device, text messages, or in-game messages. Persistence of invites increases the success level of referrals. E.g., “Grandma, get an iPhone, join Facebook and then we can play Mobile Word Twister together.”
  6. Friend challenges – If your mobile game is “social,” then it more likely than not is multi-player, or at least has that option, in which case the ability to challenge a player becomes important. E.g., “Grandma, Little Sheila challenges you to play Mobile Word Twister!”
  7. Challenger recommendations – If a player does not have any currently active friends, offer an option for recommending new friends from other currently active players. Friend recommendations could be based on features of many location-based friend-finding applications, such as Foursquare, Gatsby, and several others.
  8. Mobile friending – Offer the option to turn accepted challenges between non-friend players (see last feature) into a persistent connection. This helps new players grow their network and increases the chances that a new player with a small social network will return to play again, with the expectation that someone will likely be around to play.
  9. In-game chatting or calls – Offer text or voice chat options between players so that they can communicate, brag, strategize, etc. (Voice chat of course takes up more bandwidth than text chat, and might suffer from lag times, unless a cellular phone call can be initiated by the game. Phones that do not support this, or do not return control to a game after a call ends may be limited to text chat or push notifications.
  10. Friend blocking – It’s possible that at some point, one player may want to block another one from communications or challenges. This might be a temporary preference or a permanent one.

Are you a mobile social game player or developer? Did we miss any features that you think mobile social games should have but don’t? Let us know in the comments.