Tag: tower bloxx

Mobile Social Gaming?!

I’ll be giving a presentation at Casual Connect Europe in a few weeks and have hence been looking a little at the concept of social gaming. In particular with the iPhone success story, this concept has received its fare share of the limelight recently – and rightly so: the unique distinguishing factor of a mobile phone is that it is always with its owner and that it’s always on, making it the perfect tool for connecting with people (well, this is what they were invented for in the first place), and the iPhone does that well not only with voice or SMS…

The “social” aspect of mobile gaming has mostly focussed on this connectivity and this is also what has been haunting it, at least in most parts of the world because of the horrendous fragmentation on the carrier and handset side. To make a fully integrated connected mobile game, one needs to integrate with a vast number of carriers (in the US, the situation is a little different – integration in only the 3 or 4 biggest carriers – Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint/Nextel and maybe T-Mobile, and you’re in business big time; there is e.g. WPT Texas Hold’Em that scored tremendous commercial success, including full web-to-mobile-to-web play), and they cannot seem to resolve on a common standard; nearly every carrier runs its own little system…

However, do games really have to be fully connected multi-player with in-game chat, buddy lists, alerts, etc, etc, in order to be “social” games? I do not think so. They “merely” have to become a social object, and set in an environment to leverage the social aspect of this (there’s more from Jyri Engestrom on object-centered sociality). This does not work for every game in every case but there are plenty of examples out there both in mobile and online: Playfish (founded by mobile games veteran Kristian Segerstrale) runs a number of games on Facebook that are stand-alone single-player games but integrated into Facebook in a way that pushed them all the way up the rankings. Digital Chocolate runs a very successful franchise with TowerBloxx on mobile and online – again a single-player game with hooks into existing social networks (the latter providing the environment that facilitates them becoming a social object). Orange Israel recently created a raft of online destinations around Totomi: a micro-site, a Facebook Group is all you need to create a community around a game.
So whilst I am and will remain a big fan of connected games (phones are to connect with people!), some simple data streams out (high-scores, etc) AND links into existing social networks are actually likely to activate a lot of the potential in there. 
I will be continuing to ponder this, and I would be most grateful for any input!

Convergence in games

It’s been the buzz for some time but no one had, with few exceptions, been seeing too much of it but now it seems to start taking off: cross-platform convergence of games. It is a bit of a holy grail: the network operators (or carriers) are not always the most creative and daring bunch when it comes to trying things out and they take a very healthy cut of the revenues from a tough, fragmented and still relatively small market. No wonder then that a lot of people are praying for alternative solutions. But, alas, it never really worked: every games publisher will tell you that, other than for music, wallpapers, etc, the direct-to-consumer model never really worked for games; the operators dominate the space as the, by far, most important distribution channels.

This could be, one thinks, overcome when more users would actually get themselves familiar with the games in a less constrained environment, the web being an immediate answer. Many have tried, many have failed (even the superstars of mobile games, Gameloft, stopped their in-house offering). But, hey, maybe it was just the wrong approach. Trip Hawkins‘ brainchild Digital Chocolate showed with their approach to their award-winning game TowerBloxx how it can also be done: they created a Facebook app and an online Flash version of the game that have been roaring successes: allegdely, the Flash game saw more than 10 million plays to date and the Facebook app has had 430,000 lifetime users. For a property that sprung from mobile, these are very respectable numbers indeed. And whilst I have no idea if it actually helped selling more games (300,000 clicked the “buy now” button but, for some odd reason, they don’t know how many actually bought it), it will have played its part to keeping the game in the front of people’s minds – and that’s half the work done, isn’t it?

Other players are onto it, too: online gaming giant Oberon Media bought mobile publisher I-Play last year in order to offer a more comprehensive line-up across media boundaries. Real is doing similar things. It is probably only a question of time before EA connects its pogo.com online destination with its mobile titles. I also know of quite a few smaller developers that start to very actively incorporate the multi-platform into their game design and development considerations. Very encouraging, that is!

And it makes so much sense of course: handsets get more and more powerful, the garden walles gardens start to come down with flat-rate data plans for mobiles becoming more and more the rule: all in all, a perfect runway for the ascent of convergent media consumption.

Now let’s add (mobile) Flash to the equation, and things could become very interesting indeed… (and, yes, I know, we may not yet have the install base but it’s getting there…)

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