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GDC08: Facebook and the social gaming revolution


We can hear what you're thinking. Facebook, a gaming platform? It's what we thought, too, when we attended the Facebook and the new web of Social Gaming panel at the Worlds in Motion summit yesterday afternoon. "Facebook" and "gaming" didn't seem to belong together in the same sentence. But as it turns out, Facebook and similar social networks aren't just for making friends anymore -- they're also a lucrative platform for viral web-based games. The numbers these games are hitting are similar to Second Life's and they're targeting a demographic the rest of the industry doesn't touch: not women, not teens, not ages 18 to 25, but people.

Social networks such as Facebook already have an immense audience -- the question is, once you have all of these people connected together through Facebook, what are they supposed to do? I'm sure you've already guessed the answer: game.

What do you do when you get together with your friends? Perhaps you eat dinner or see a movie or watch television -- or perhaps you catch a game of Rock Band or join up to run an instance or level up in your favorite MMO. Your standard social networking functions are one way to connect with your friends: games are just another.

If you've played one web-based game, this will probably be familiar to you. They're simple web-based games that are easy to catch on to and require a very low time commitment from participants. (Players of such games aren't looking for and don't expect World of Warcraft -- they just want a few minutes of entertainment at a time.) Facebook games need to be quick, ever-changing (evolving quickly with the needs of the audience), and tie into the social aspect of the networks they're running on.

So, dear readers, do you play games on Facebook (or your social networking app of choice)? Do you enjoy them? Or do you think these types of projects aren't really games at all?

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