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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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James Brightman

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James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.

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