Step away from your farm, restaurant or jewels for a few minutes for a quick overview of the Social Gaming Summit through the top terms of the day:
Virality and the “viral loop” – Virality, or the ability of something to grow virally, is a critical factor in the success of a social game. In a few words, the viral loop refers to the cycle of growth created by friends inviting their friends to check something out, and those friends converting and then inviting more of their friends. Virality has the potential to create non-linear growth for a user base, and discounts the customer acquisition cost, so unsurprisingly it came up frequently throughout the event. There were some interesting discussions about the difference between virality designed to be a customer acquisition tool (“mechanical virality”), and virality that emerges from good old fashioned enjoyment of a game, and the resulting word-of-mouth support. In other words, it’s the difference between incentivizing users with in-game rewards for inviting friends to play, versus users loving a game and naturally wanting to encourage their friends to play with them. Are players acquired through mechanical virality valuable? There are many questions here, but it seems that everyone agrees that word of mouth virality lacks the playbook of mechanical virality and is much harder to achieve.
Facebook Connect – Though this is not a new offering, it remains a hot topic. Facebook Connect enables users to take their online identity with them all over the web, onto gaming consoles such as the Xbox 360, and to the iPhone. What does this mean for social game developers? It means that players can interact with games designed for Facebook (a great platform in terms of virality) across multiple platforms – extending and deepening the experience. It’s doubtful that everyone wants their real identity tied to all of their gaming identities, but that’s a discussion for another time…
Social graph – Your ever-expanding network of relationships with friends (and not-quite friends), your “social graph,” enables and defines the social gaming experience. The social graph makes social games fun and enables virality. And it goes both ways: social games can strengthen your social graph by creating new experiences beyond “poking” and staring at photos of your ex-roommate’s cousin’s dog.
Fun – Games should be fun, and more than any design considerations born from number crunching, it is fun that makes people – and their friends – want to play a game. PlayFish CEO Sebastien de Halleux noted that their key metric is whether or not the entire company can’t stop playing a game. This remark was referenced throughout the rest of the conference and served as a great reminder of what games should be all about (fun).