Namco, Konami Enter Social Gaming With Pacman, Frogger

Namco and Konami are entering the social game sphere by introducing social elements into some of their biggest titles; Pacman and Frogger, respectively. Konami is using Facebook Connect to enable Frogger players to challenge their Facebook friends and Namco is introducing their UniteSDK engine which empowers players to play across devices. Namco plans to release Pacman later this month.

Frogger is Konami’s first integrated Facebook Connect title, and is the latest in a series of steps related to casual gaming in general. When the iPhone application store was revealed, Konami quickly published Dance Dance revolution and a version of Metal Gear Solid 4 for the platform, and both did extremely well (although the Metal Gear game certainly left MGS fans disappointed). However, the games did not have any social elements, and the fact that Konami has brought a full versioned version of Frogger to Facebook is probably a test: if the game performs successfully, then we can expect to see other games from Konami. To be successful, the game would have to attract a large number of users that play and engage in the challenges. Their monetization for the application comes from video ads shown after every game, and the constant upsell to the iPhone version of the game.

Namco’s upcoming Pacman release involves the new UniteSDK game engine. The engine allows games built on it to run across multiple devices, from PC to mobile, so that players can sign in no matter what platform they are on and get their same saved preferences. This platform also includes social elements like chat, leaderboards and Facebook Connect. The FB Connect allows players to update their status with their latest achievements within the game, but it sounds like their plans are going to expand: “Namco Networks is on the verge of building a community,” says Kirby Fong, executive producer for Namco Network’s web and online game community. The plans are to release a Pac-Man and Ms. PacMan game on UniteSDK coming out this month.

Namco has been trying to access the Facebook market in various ways for the past year. The Namco mobile division attempted to port their mobile games to Facebook using the MPlayit platform last year, but the resulting “Namco Arcade” has only 1,000 MAU, and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of gameplay and graphics. This is a perfect example of how Facebook games need to be customized for Facebook: you can’t simply port your mobile games to the social network. They then partnered with J2Play (now owned by Electronic Arts) to bring the games to Facebook in a different way: by leveraging J2Play’s social games network to emphasize PC downloadable versions of the games.