Quick History of Social Games
Farmville (think virtual chiapet) and Foursquare (optin stalking) are both examples of games which exist within or interact heavily with social media.
Online games, and Massive Multiplayer Roleplaying Games realized the value of intermingling games with social relationships over a decade ago. The new breed of games are very simple graphically and systematically to their predecessors. But they are gaining a much larger audience, much more rapidly (over 56 million players for Farmville alone as of Oct 24, likely much larger now).
The Old MMO Titan
The highest revenue social game, World of Warcraft was grossing near 100million per month at its height. Many of the older MMOs (WoW included) could literally consume hundreds of days of a person's time if they wanted to play with friends. As beautiful as some of the fantastic settings are in games, little to no sustained value is brought from the game to the real world. It can be challenging to even bring new friendships past the walled garden of MMOs. There's a need for lighter social games.
Smart Phone Social Games are a Huge New Market
There are hundreds of small game companies with thousands more sprouting up. While many developers are taking advantage of the API for Facebook or Twitter, there are even more game designers working on games and other cool apps for smartphones (the ubiquitous mini computer).
The new breed of smart phone and social games are targeting a different and much larger user base. Anyone can quickly grow a farm in Farmville without spending enormous amounts of time online gaming, and play with their friends. Foursquare is helping friends meet up more regularly. Instead of calling all your friends every time you go out for coffee, you check in (or auto check in) and Foursquare sends your location to your friends.
This enormous market opportunity isn't being missed by Mark Pincus of
Zynga, or competitors SGN & EA/Playfish. I would be willing to bet that Zynga has much more than their very successful online poker game in the works for the iPhone.
Export Value $$
One of my concerns for the social mobile gaming market is how well we can export these concepts globally. Cultural gaming knowledge is the most valued asset in knowing what games will be huge hits in overseas markets. Facebook has made great progress in expanding into international markets. Will companies like Zynga, and SGN branch out to embrace the burgeoning market of the global social gaming web?