The 7 Elements Of Social Game Success

According to four panelists at the FGS 2010 Flash Gaming Summit in San Francisco, if you’re designing and developing a social game, there are a few critical elements to be considered if you want it to be a success. The panel, entitled “4 Keys to Successful Social Games that All Game Developers Should  Know,” was moderated by Sana Choudary of Traffichoney.

The panelists were:

  1. Dan Fiden, Playfish.
  2. David Stewart, Playdom.
  3. Gavin Barrett, Crowdstar.
  4. Mark Skaggs, Zynga.

The following list is an aggregation of what all four panelists gave as their four elements, in keeping with the title of the panel, . While there was some overlap in what each panelist said, they each had some fairly unique viewpoints.

  1. Appealing, fun. Games have to be fun and appealing both for new, casual users as well as regular users. If they’re not fun, they’re not going to monetize. ‘Appealing’ doesn’t necessarily mean having great artwork.
  2. Addictive. It’s one thing to bring new users in, another to retain them. Games have to be addictive to make users come back again and again.
  3. Engaging, emergent complexity. Games do not necessarily have to be complex to attract users, but complexity has to be there – be it in additional levels or challenges – to keep them engaged and happy.
  4. Mass marketabilty. A game has to appeal to enough people, else it cannot be a success.
  5. Monetizable. If you can’t make money long-term, a game is not going to be a success for you. Study metrics such as DAU, WAU and MAU (Daily, Weekly and Monthly Active Users), engagement duration per session and whatever else helps you analyze the monetization potential. Study other games for benchmarks on playabilty and quality.
  6. Rewarding. Social games should be rewarding emotionally and socially.
  7. Social. Games need to be “social,” which seems obvious but is a very important element. David Stewart said that the secret sauce is when you mix in Facebook or other social networks. Mark Skaggs added that games have to allow users to create new, or nurture existing, relationships.

Are you a social game developer? Have any tips for for a successful social game? Feel free to share in the comments.

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