The Rise of Social Games
Socially-based games have been steadily gaining mainstream popularity with champions such as the Nintendo Wii and Zynga’s Farmville. The interesting aspect of the new paradigm is its accessibility to all age groups, particularly very young and very old players who would not traditionally be found in front of the computer screen.
Why the sudden shift in demographic?
The business of game development has shifted the balance of power away from mega studios producing shrink-wrapped titles. That isn’t to say large companies are irrelevant – huge mainstream titles will still require the financial backing appropriate to their size and scope – but the business model has changed to more dynamic titles (think downloadable content and expansions) which require ongoing development and support rather than single titles.
The new runners are smaller studios with teams capable of quickly bringing ideas to market and distributing to huge audiences through social networks like hi5 and Facebook. If any particular idea doesn’t work or turns audience away, tear it out of the product and keep releasing iterations. Anything that works, do more of.
Innovation can now happen at an accelerated rate where niche audiences are equally as accessible as more traditional “mainstream” masses. The great benefit this brings to the table is that there really is “something for everyone” – some may see this as extreme fragmentation, but it’s a natural outcome from basically eliminating the barrier to entry for game developers.