In my recent article ’Gamification at work – interactive media grows up‘ for MediaTel, I argue that social games are the most advanced form of interactive media (and I detailed some of the gamification techniques to demonstrate) and that all interactive media will need to learn the techniques from games, in order to retain their users, as the audience as a whole moves from passive to active media consumption.
It’s probably worth unpacking that statement so here goes.
Firstly, are social games the most advanced form of interactive media?
Well, this is a story told by the numbers – Zynga, the king of social games, has a $20 billion valuation which shows that the markets at least think they are on to something. They are not alone, PlayFish got eaten by that old giant of the video games industry Electronic Arts for $300 million back in 2009 while even smaller players like Germany’s Wooga recently raised $24 million as venture capitalists jump to get exposure to the social games phenomenon.
A social game has much inside it that is new, at least from a video gaming perspective:
- First and foremost is the inclusion of your real friends woven into the fabric of the game. While always possible, this has only been made easy through the wider adoption of social networks.
- Secondly, and probably as a result of the first, social games go beyond the leaderboards of traditional video games to offer status and personalisation as well as providing new mediums for communication (such as Farmville gifts) and collaboration (working together in Mafia Wars)
- Finally social games, because they are built on top of web platforms like Facebook, are by their very nature online games (or ‘cloud games’ if you like) which primarily makes regular fresh content a major new force within the game fabric. While your experience of Grand Theft Auto might not change as the years go by, the game stays relatively static, a Moshi Monsters player will discover new content such as new monster Lady Goo Goo. New content allows game creators to keep track of trends, seasons and fashion (whether music or otherwise) and keep their games fresh on a daily basis.