Way back in 2007 I wrote here: “One of the biggest issues and trends in gaming is the way that gaming is drifting towards social networking and vice versa. So eventually they will meet in the middle and make up one big industry.” And so it has happened, the two have moved relentlessly together.
Rupert Murdoch is turning MySpace into a gaming platform. Alex St. John has joined hi5 as president in order to transform it into a social entertainment hub. Electronic Arts has bought social networking games firm Playfish, which makes games for Facebook and MySpace, for possibly $400m. Microsoft Xbox Live has not only steadily added social networking features, it now even hosts Facebook. Take Two CEO Ben Feder has said: “Social network games is an area that promises to deliver a true mass audience to the videogame world”. It goes on and on.
And it is inevitable, firstly because human nature has us as playful, social animals. Secondly because of the connectivity and interactivity of gaming. And thirdly because of the fundamental game mechanism of being rewarded for using skills or assets to solve a problem.
From a game industry perspective the obvious course of action is to maximise the social networking potential of every game and to ensure that your IP is earning its keep on the big social networking sites. Also you need to stay on the ball, this is an area where changes and progress are rapid.