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Zynga: Social games are still not truly social

The company's CCO believes there's plenty ahead for Zynga to tackle

Social games have taken the industry by storm in the past few years, and Zynga's been in the driver's seat. Interestingly, the term "social game" may be a misnomer of sorts, as Zynga's chief creative officer of external studios, Bob Bates, believes that today's social titles aren't so social.

In a new interview with GamesIndustry International, the veteran designer commented, "We're still in the infancy of understanding what's possible and what it really means for a game to be social. Right now we're viral, but true social, where you feel like you're actually playing with your friends, not 'I'm playing here, he's playing there' is still ahead."

He continued, "The sense of actually playing together, that's a real challenge, and I'd like to be in a position where I can attack that challenge. I don't feel like I know enough yet to pull that off; I'm still learning the space. Finding ways to do those kinds of things would be very, very cool."

It's true that the majority of social titles are largely asynchronous experiences, where players take turns making moves in games like Words With Friends or Draw Something, but synchronous or online multiplayer gameplay certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility for the social space. There are companies out there right now, like Idle Games, who are pushing for real-time gameplay in the social space.

"Fundamentally I don't believe you can have a social game without at least offering up the ability to play in real-time with others," Jeffrey Hyman, CCO of Idle Games said recently.

The challenge will be balancing synchronous and asynchronous so that a game can still be successful on social networks or smartphones. Often, asynchronous just works better for players.

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Latest comments (2)

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 4 years ago
Who cares if they're truly social or not?

I don't need a game in order to be social. In fact, a game shoving itself in my face can get in the way of me being social.

If I want to do social gaming, I have my friends over for boardgames and tabletop roleplaying games. We do it all the time. Have a good meal and some drinks during the evening, too.

I play electronic games for immersion and team-based social gameplay, thanks. But I don't need them to invade my life.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
Poor Zynga. They can't say anything that certain people will ever agree with.
It is like being successful, giving customers what they want and making money out of it is somehow a sin.

Zynga have a lot of immensely clever people and have changed gaming as a business. Now everyone realises that metrics aren't just interesting numbers. They tell you what your customers are doing in the real world so you can continually adapt to look after them better.
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