Kristian Segerstrale, one of the founders of Playfish and now the EA Playfish business unit leader, explained that social games have evolved to "turn the camera" on the players, and that Playfish looked to Nintendo for inspiration on how to make games that focus on the players.
He began by discussing the existing market. There is $2Bn of revenue in social games, globally, and $2Bn in deals (funding etc), and this is going to grow. He began by discussing that the history of social games can help forecast the future. He discussed how their first game, the Biggest Brain was all about competition and how that social element was what caused its growth.
But that was the first 3 years, which has witnessed a ton of growth, evolution and excitement, but Kristian is positive that huge shifts are around the corner. We've been able to ride on the growth of Facebook, but Facebook now has remained stable. This will affect the games, the business models and distribution.
Kristian identifies that product has had several growth stages, which he explained as Birth, Growth and Meaning. He feels that while it was originally about new experiences and competition, then it was about the most social games possible, and now we're looking at Madden Superstars, a game that has fundamental meaning in its emotional experience. "Real, genuine meaning" is the next generation, as opposed to the "social that really just meant viral" of the past.
Kristian feels that 2011 is the year of great in-game advertising, and that brands are about to enter the game in a big way.
"I think increasingly, as game creators we're distributing games where people find the game first, and then choose which network to play it on." He then announced that FIFA Superstars has been ported to ChelseaFC.com, where players can play a skinned version of the game. This was an example of this new distribution that we'll see in the future, where players will engage the game, then see the social.elements and engage it as a social game.
This is an interesting announcement, and we should expect to see these social games crossing all their boundaries, and discussions with Gareth Davis from Facebook and other players have really shown that this is the goal of many small games companies: to get their games everywhere possible.
Kristian then saw something which hints at his EA experience. He's looking to bring these new social gamers into new experiences, possibly on console and PC. This is probably what Kristian and EA are working on as they move forward, and he hinted that franchises have only begun to integrate across the various gaming platforms.
As Kristian summed up "Era of winning and cloning is over." A veiled knock at the habit of many big companies to clone each other (see Cafe World copying Restaurant City or FarmVille copying Farm Town... not to name names). He also proposed that "social games" is a term with a 2 year life span. In 2 years, everything will be so social that they will just be 'games'.
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