Chapter 2
What Is a Social Game?
Are Mobile Games Social?
ere’s a strong temptation to imagine that social games should be narrowly dened only to
include those games that have inltrated Facebook, mostly courtesy of Zynga and the like.
Certainly, many of those games initially set the gold standard for massive user acquisition
in online social gaming. And despite a cooling of the Facebook game sector, these games
are played by over a hundred million users per day, according to various metrics- tracking
websites. ey make a fortune in microtransaction revenues every day. So in writing the
rst edition of this book, we wrestled with the question, Should we stick to an analysis of
how to design Zynga- like games for Facebook and call it a day?
Even a few years ago, the answer was “no.” Such a study would have limited utility and
would cease to be topical the minute new social networks eclipsed Facebook, as undoubt-
edly will happen…eventually. Moreover, as many companies and investors are discovering
the hard way, it is extremely dicult to succeed as a “fast- follower” in a space that already
moves with a speed and agility that would make a falcon jealous, in an industry that seems
to reinvent the “core experiences” it oers to the user every nine months. An intimate dis-
section of FarmVille, Vampire Wars (already moribund), CityVille, Candy Crush, or even
Clash of Clans might remain current for the next year or two, but little more, and it would
be extremely dicult for the lessons learned in such a narrow study to help guide the
reader’s steps over the next decade. Moreover, as we noted in the rst edition of this book,
the powerful eects that social games can have also exist quite outside “traditional” social
networks. Many of the most successful mobile games have succeeded with designs that
take advantage of the network eects that exist in so connected a world. Mobile and tablet
games can be social games as well. So can console games.
Indeed, most or all of the really successful social game development companies out there
have pivoted toward mobile and tablet gaming in recent years. Virality on the Facebook
platform changed and can easily continue to change, ads got more expensive, and constant

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