Although it was meant to be used for sharing pictures, statuses, opinions and chatting with your friends, Facebook was soon to be discovered as an ideal gaming platform. Its wide-spread community of people was ideal for the existence of browser-based MMO games. Soon after, the first Facebook gaming giants emerged. Among them, the biggest and most well-known is Zynga.
Zynga is a web-based game developer from San Francisco and it’s one of the biggest names in the business. As a proprietor of hugely popular titles, such as Mafia Wars, FarmVille, CafeWorld, CityVille, Zynga was reportedly valued at more than 5.5 billion dollars in 2010., while some reports in 2011. put it at a staggering 10 billion dollars!
All Zyngas’ games basically use the same model. It is a variation of the usual MMO game business model – “free to play, pay to win”. Real money can be used to provide a significant advantage to a player in comparison to other players who are not ready to pay for items, weapons, special packages and other objects that help you achieve gaming success. “Energy” is required to conduct in-game activities, as it is consumed as you engage in missions. It is slowly replenished over time, to the players’ current maximum capacity.
Cooperation is a vital aspect in all of Zyngas’ games. The more friends you have playing the game, the faster you grow and the stronger you get. Items, weapons, and other helpful objects are also used as a reward for inviting friends to join you in playing the game. There is also an option where you can send gifts to your friends (items and special bonuses) as well as do different things for them to help them get stronger. In some of the games, having a predetermined number of friends that play the game is required to advance further.
As another motivational aspect, Zynga incorporated an achievement system into their games. You obtain these achievements by achieving certain goals, like playing the game for a month, collecting a certain number of requested items, completing all quests in an area, inviting a certain number of friends to play the game and other such objectives.
Also, one of the new aspects is the RewardVille scheme. By playing Zynga games (Mafia Wars, FarmVille, Vampire Wars, Treasure Isle, Café World, Zynga Poker, CityVille, FrontierVille, YoVille and PetVille) you score zPoints, which help you raise your zLevel and earn zCoins. They can later be spent on special in-game items in Zynga RewardVille. zPoints are earned automatically by playing games , to a maximum of 80 points per game per day, or 300 points across the entire Zynga network of games. To redeem coins for items, you must first register on their homepage.
One of the biggest social network games developers is also a company named Playfish, now owned by Electronic Arts. According to some sources, Playfish games attract around 55 million users per month, with over 37 million coming solely from Facebook users. Their business model focuses around selling items in the game. Playfish released about 19 games since late 2007.
Their first hit was a game called “Who has the biggest brain?”, one of the first Facebook games that attracted a daily audience in the millions. It the game, you are taken through a series of little brain tests and quizzes that you have to solve as quickly as possible.
Their next big hit was a game called Pet Society, released on May 8th, 2008. It quickly became one of the most popular games on Facebook, with over 79.4 million people having pets in Pet Society (according to Playfish).
Playfish also released several more very popular games, including: Restaurant City (a game in which you open and operate a restaurant), Madden NFL Superstars (an NFL based manager game in which you create your own NFL team of current NFL players and play against computer generated teams, real teams or your friends) and several other high profile games.
Another development studio that also deserves to be mentioned is Metamoki. It was founded by Jennifer Garcia (previously of LOLapps) and Dave Maestri ( the creator of Mob Wars) in 2010. Being a new company, they haven’t produced that many games. In fact, there are just two games in their portfolio – Mob Wars and CityZen (which is in its beta testing phase). But Mob Wars is a very significant game.
Released in 2008., Mob Wars is a game that spawned numerous other Mafia related Facebook games, including Mafia Wars. Within several months from its release, Mob Wars had more than 3 million monthly players and it still has a strong community of players around it.
There are also other studios, but they are going to be the topic of future articles.