A brief conversation with my visiting friend Eli Sacks has lead to a review of the state of online gaming and what directions it may take in the future. We both have been long time PC gamers although in the past year my game time has moved to the console.
One of the breakthroughs we saw last year was browser based games exploding in popularity. A much wider audience has found the experience of socializing over games to be a great way to keep in touch with friends while having fun. To put the viral growth of social gaming into perspective check out these numbers. The most popular MMORPG World of Warcraft's in it's hayday had over 10 million people playing the game. Compare that to a "FarmVille has become the most popular game application on Facebook, with over 82.4 million active users and over 23.9 million Facebook application fans in May 2010" (source). While Warcraft charges a much higher premium ($15/month) app based browser games charge for virtual goods and have almost no barrier to entry. The appeal of fast viral success of social gaming is attracting skilled developers in droves
Where games can go from here
While something as extravagant as World of Warcraft is not available through a browser today a growing list of games have been successfully porter to browsers. We can expect improved social, browser based games as the market demand grows. Location based and augmented reality games will also have wide appeal to social gamers, as they bring games outiside of the PC and into other aspects of our lives. Finally crowd developed content for games is becoming a powerful vector for entertainment. Successful social games will take the most passionate players and enable them to rapidly contribute to richer game experiences.