With player numbers dropping and the recent revelation that 85 per cent stop playing after the first day, a shadow hangs over the once ridiculously profitable social gaming scene. Speaking today at App Conference in San Jose, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said that the decline of social gaming is overplayed; it's not dying, it's evolving.
All Things Digital reports that EA's head honcho was optimistic on the outlook for social gaming, saying "the companies that are now suffering will have another day."
It's not social gaming as a whole that's dying. It's the form of social gaming that so many more traditional gamers found so abhorrent -- begging friends for objects in order to build other virtual objects, making progression so difficult and time-consuming that spending real cash is almost the only option available. That aspect of social games is dying.
There are some lessons that all game makers can take away from the current challenges of social gaming. First and foremost, Riccitiello said, "consumers won't pay for crap".
Great gaming, he said, starts with truly good entertainment, not viral marketing involving spamming your friends to get a shovel.
Free-to-play browser-based and mobile games don't have to be incredibly frustrating, insultingly basic experiences. Look at Robot Rising from Tencent Boston. It's a rewarding traditional gaming experience, and it's social.
Riccitiello singled out a pair of "truly excellent" free-to-play games, my beloved Dragonvale and EA's own The Simpson's Tapped Out. Both are games that deliver compelling (sometimes diabolical) reasons to keep playing and sporadically paying, with friend interaction limited to little more than visiting your neighbours to say hi. That's where the new social gaming is starting from. It should be interesting to see where it goes from there.
Electronic Arts CEO: Consumers Won't Pay for Crap [All Things Digital]