Games.com — The Blog


Cafe World had been sitting comfortably at around 20 million monthly users for the entire month of July. So it was a bit of a surprise when Facebook’s public statistics (as reported by AppData) showed the game’s user base shooting up 75% over a period of three days, to a high of over 35 million monthly players at the end of the month. The change wasn’t limited to Cafe World either — dozens of games saw stratospheric increases in the same period.

Facebook eventually confirmed to Inside Social Games that the sudden increases were due to a bug in their reporting. But this temporary problem highlights the risk of trusting Facebook to report on the success of its own games without independent verification.

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The past few weeks have seen a distinct ramp up in rumors surrounding a new Google social network in the works — with social gaming being a big part of those rumored plans. Even though we have no details on what such a service would look like, we’re pretty excited about the potential of what a company like Google could do to revolutionize social gaming as we know it. Here are five features we’d like to see Google look into if and when they finally enter the social gaming arena.

Recommendations: One of the best things about Google’s search algorithm is that it almost always seems to magically know exactly what you want, no matter how cryptic the search phrase. Imagine if you had these same sort of magical recommendations to guide you to interesting social games. Google’s experience finding patterns in reams of data could help their social network lead players to the games they’re most likely to like.

And rest assured, Google would have reams of data to work with; from the play habits of you and your friends to your physical location to your search history and even the contents of your Gmail and Google Docs accounts. Sure it’s a little creepy to think about all the data Google collects about an average user, but if they’re going to be mining that data anyway, they may as well pay you back with some interesting game recommendations, right?

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“You get a cow. You can click on it. In six hours, you can click it again. Clicking earns you clicks.”

Such is the basic description of Cow Clicker, a new Facebook game that definitely delivers what its title promises — the ability to click on a cow. Yes, there are a few other social game trappings thrown in there — you can invite neighbors whose cow clicks count towards your total, and you can purchase prettier cows with in-game “mooney” — but there’s really little besides the titular cow clicking to this simple parody game.

Cow Clicker Creator and Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost describes Cow Clicker as “Facebook games distilled to their essence” and in a way he’s right. Read that description from the first paragraph again. Replace “a cow” with “crops,” and “clicks” at the end with “coins” and you have a bare bones description of the basic gameplay in Facebook mega-hit Farmville. The same process can be applied to describe countless other popular social games. Cow Clicker even lets you spend mooney to skip the six-hour wait for more click opportunities, mimicking the way many other social games let you spend in-game money to avoid having to wait for rewards.

But Bogost’s simple parody utterly misses the point of social gaming in some major ways. Sure, in strict gameplay terms, there’s little to differentiate Cow Clicker from countless popular social games. But for million of players, the appeal of social games isn’t in the gameplay, but in the opportunity for world building and role-playing.

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Advergames on Facebook are nothing new — there are Facebook games marketing everything from cars to the distrubingly wholesome power of milk, and practically everything in between. But so far there hasn’t been a Facebook advergame that markets the field of marketing itself. Until now!

PoweRBrands is a creation of Reckitt Benckiser — the parent company of brands like Clearasil, Lysol and Woolite — that invites you to “use your innovative sales skills and marketing ideas to outperform your rivals, and work your way up to be President of the company.” Along the way, you’re told you’ll learn to “think and act like an RB person” and “learn something about global FMCG along the way” (that’s “fast-moving consumer goods” for those of you who aren’t already marketing professionals)

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The recent hard times for the social gaming market have been harder on some games than others. Last week, social-gaming mega-publisher Zynga decided to shut down two well-established parts of its catalog. First, the servers for Roller Coaster Kingdom (RCK) were shut off, then Ponzi Inc., a promising game Zynga got as part of a Challenge Games acquisition less than a month ago, went dark for good.

So, what can we learn from the abrupt termination of these two games? Well, one lesson seems to be that the standards for success in social gaming are going to keep increasing — at least for the big publishers. Despite their declining popularity, both Ponzi Inc. and Roller Coaster Kingdom had a relatively decent number of monthly active users when they were closed — 221,000 players for Ponzi and 1.2 million players for RCK. That might not seem like much compared against Farmville’s industry-leading 62 million monthly players, but it probably doesn’t seem like chump change to many struggling social game makers just getting their start.

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Zynga’s newly released iPhone version of FarmVille is a passable if flawed miniaturization of its popular PC cousin. But the move to Apple’s popular mobile phone brings with it the opportunity to add some rather unique new gameplay to the familiar farming experience. Here are just a few ideas for how Zynga can take full advantage of the iPhone hardware to make a better (or at least a fresher) overall game.

Geo-location: Visiting your virtual neighbors in FarmVille is all well and good, but sometimes you want to see what’s going on with your actual neighbors. With the iPhone’s built-in GPS (and IP-based geo-location for iPod users), this should be easy enough to implement. Simply let players opt-in to share their locations, then let them visit other farms are being shared in a set radius (anywhere from a few feet to a few hundred miles should be available). In addition to helping people discover new FarmVille freaks in their area, this feature could also let businesses and attractions set up virtual farms that are only accessible by visiting their real-world locations.

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No longer just a rumor, no longer just an announcement at a press conference, Farmville on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad/iToaster is now a reality, at least on the New Zealand App Store.

And here’s the proof: a quick video showing off the basics of the iFarmville interface. Look for more detailed impressions of the newly mobile Facebook game here soon.


Atari has added a social gaming twist to the latest revival of its venerable Missile Command franchise. The newest version of the game, released yesterday on social gaming hub OMGPOP, expands the city-defending, missile-destroying concept of the original with power-ups, achievements and, most importantly, an online multiplayer component.

Much like the original game, you have to shoot down incoming missiles raining down from the top of the screen with defensive missiles of your own, leading your shots to create chain reactions of circular explosive coronas in the sky. In the new version, however, your defensive turret is only one of up to eight shooting at the incoming threat, a first for the series.

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“The Hero League needs your help stopping The Silver Valkyrie from destroying Star City! Choose your super hero name and join the battle!”

So begins Hero World, the newest Facebook game from Rockyou, the publisher also responsible for dark horse hit Zoo World.

At its core, the game resembles nothing so much as a superhero-themed version of Mafia Wars, where you click buttons to perform missions, draining your energy to earn money and power points. These can, in turn, be exchanged for new equipment to make your hero more powerful (and better looking), new hideouts (to generate yet more money), new vehicles (to access new areas and missions), more powerful abilities and attacks, and more.

(full article)