Social gamers casually plow their farm while hardcore gamers gaze at them, waiting to pounce on them with mythrill daggers. Luckily social gamers have all their facebook friends they can call for help. Andrew Busey of Challenge Games, Jim Greer of Kongregate, Andrew Sheppard of Watercooler and Susan Wu of Ohai gathered today to discuss the differences between hardcore and social games and their lessening distinction, especially due to technological advances.
The theme of the discussion was a focus on high quality, engaging games. Susan Wu of Ohai stated their strategy is focused on reaching 10-20 million users, knowing they will never reach the scale of something like Farmville. Panelists agreed that increasing engagement also leads to increased ARPU and conversions and that there is a tradeoff between size and ARPU. “The game that has the highest ARPU is also the most hostile to its users, ” attested Jim Greer. “There is a game in China where they delete your account if you don’t play for 2 weeks and the monthly ARPPU is close to $100.”
Each gaming company has its own strategy in game design. Their prominent game, City of Eternals, publicly declared earning $16.50 per average transaction with a high yet confidential ARPPU. With a strong isometric framework in place, Ohai will look to release more synchronous MMO games with different themes. Challenge Games, on the other hand, is focusing on bitesize games while Watercooler has forayed into the social gaming space with Kingdom of Camelot and is focusing on games with strong emotional cores and sports themes.
Although the question of which platforms to build for is still nascent, the panelists shared some worthy statistics. “People will play 4-6 times a day, 5-7 minutes on Facebook, whereas the avg. kind of pattern off Facebook is 30-45 minute sessions, 1-2 times a day, ” stated Susan Wu, adding, “off of Facebook, users are more likely to socialize with strangers.”
3D browser gaming and console gaming will always have their enthusiasts, but loyalties might shift and we expect people to play all kinds of games, depending on their setting and time of play. Panelists affirmed that gameplay on flash or java cannot be delivered the way it can on console, but we feel high niche and mass appeal games will be able to co-exist peacefully as this industry maneuvers through these interesting waters.