N.O.V.A. Elite’s User Figures Blast Into Orbit Thanks to Impressive Graphics and Competitive Gameplay

N.O.V.A. Elite, or Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance: Elite to give it its full name, is a Facebook first-person shooter game from Gameloft, a developer known for “porting” console game concepts onto mobile game platforms. Though we haven’t seen any resounding successes from other Facebook FPS games, Gameloft could succeed through cross-platform promotion, as N.O.V.A.’s iOS incarnation performed well enough to warrant a sequel.

Since its launch in late April, N.O.V.A.’s user figures have been climbing steadily, according to our traffic tracking service AppData. Its MAU currently sits at 251,000 and appears to be rising, while DAU has stabilized around the 35,000 mark.

N.O.V.A. is a competitive first-person shooter that casts players in the role of a technologically-advanced space marine and tasks them with scoring as many points as possible against the other players or team over the course of a five minute match. Points are scored simply by killing other players. There are currently two variants on the game — Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, which see scores being calculated on a “free-for-all” or team basis respectively.

The game stands out as one of the few new FPS Facebook games available. We compare it to older title Paradise Paintball (which was renamed UberStrike since we last wrote about it), which seemed to struggle with finding an audience at first, but has show steady growth in the last 12 months. Like UberStrike, N.O.V.A. relies on real-time synchronous play, meaning a large audience is crucial to the game’s success. N.O.V.A.’s social features are currently limited to a “party” system, which allows friends to play together, and the ability to compare statistics with Facebook friends.

The other notable thing about N.O.V.A. is that it has unusually high system requirements for a Facebook game. This is due to the fact that its graphics are 3D and the nature of the game requires that it moves quickly and smoothly. As such, the developers recommend a computer with at least a 1.8 GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a 256MB graphics card and 1GB of free hard drive space. These system requirements may well exclude some players with older machines or those with more modest specifications (such as netbooks) from being able to enjoy the game — but when it comes to gaming demographics, the type of person who would likely be interested in playing a game like N.O.V.A. will probably already own a computer capable of running it.

This is where we express concern about N.O.V.A.’s future on Facebook. If the audience for whom its intended needs to have a higher end machine to run the game, why don’t they go play other PC or browser-based FPS games instead? The only thing Facebook can offer the genre that FPS games couldn’t necessarily get anywhere else is the social network, and at present, the game doesn’t seem to be making use of that. At best, we could see Facebook offering Gameloft a safe space in which to run microtransaction-based games, as the developer doesn’t have an infrastructure for direct payments from users.

N.O.V.A. is monetized via Facebook Credits, which can be spent between matches in the in-game store to purchase items. These range from additional maps to play on to gameplay enhancements such as radar screens which assist in tracking opponents. There are also cosmetic upgrades available for players to customize their character. Some items are available with the game’s virtual currency, others require Facebook Credits to unlock.

At time of press, we weren’t able to reach N.O.V.A.’s developer Gameloft for comment on future expansion plans for the game, but it’s fair to assume that more maps and game modes will be added as time goes on — the iPhone version of N.O.V.A. 2, for example, includes “Capture the Flag,” “FreezeTag” and “InstaGib” game variants as well as the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch already present in the Facebook incarnation. It would also make sense for them to add more in the way of items for players to purchase — although there is a wide selection available now, dedicated players who have unlocked everything will be keen to see new rewards introduced, otherwise it’s possible they’ll lose interest in the game.

You can follow N.O.V.A.’s progress on AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.