Mashable March 2011
Prita Uppal is the founder and CEO of YooMee Games, a social competition platform that brings tournaments and cash prizes to skill-based games across websites, social networks and mobile apps.
More than 18,000 interactive gaming industry pros came to San Francisco for the Game Developers’ Conference this week, an annual event that draws programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision-makers and anyone else involved in the development of interactive games.
At GDC in past years, hardcore gamers have been reluctant to accept social games into the fold, but this year there’s no denying it. Social games are the fastest growing segment of the gaming market with revenues projected to exceed $1 billion in 2011, and they are here to stay. There’s more to social games than harvesting crops, and the future looks full of innovation and opportunity for developers and players alike.
Here’s a look at four of the biggest social gaming trends discussed at GDC 2011.
1. In-Browser Experience
The time for higher-quality browser-based games is here. There were two big announcements hinting that we’ll soon be playing richer and more complex 3D social games: Adobe launched a Flash Player beta that supports accelerated 3D, and Unity introduced a Flash export capability.
Meanwhile, AAA quality MMOs like Frogster’s Runes of Magic are starting to make a shift to browsers, too, abandoning the lengthy PC download, installation and registration process that has turned potential players off in the past. Will this open the door for new demographics to join the MMO crowd?
2. Mobile Matters
We’ve been playing games on our mobile phones for years, but for the first time in GDC’s 25-year history, this year’s agenda included a dedicated Smartphone Summit. The summit was designed to explore the future of gaming on platforms such as the iPhone and iPad, Android OS phones and tablets, and BlackBerry devices.
Classic MMO games can be so resource-intensive, it seems unlikely that they could work on a handheld device. But that’s just what’s happening with mobile MMOs like Pocket Legends for iPhone and iPad. What does the emergence of the mobile MMO mean for game design? One of the big challenges for designers in the coming year will be translating classic MMO features to mobile while balancing a whole new set of user needs, like shorter gameplay sessions.
3. Augmented Reality
Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary from Ogmento on Vimeo.
At the GDC Smartphone Summit, Ogmento’s Terrance Cohen said the widespread adoption of touch screen smartphones has created a “perfect storm for augmented reality games.”
To demonstrate the possibilities presented by augmented reality, Ogmento added a layer to its location-based game Paranormal Activity: Sanctuary. From there, the company recruited GDC attendees to participate in a battle between good and evil, using the actual streets of San Francisco as a digital battleground.
For social games that revolve around time management and commonplace tasks such as cooking a virtual meal or serving a dinner table, the idea of allowing players to physically perform tasks in a virtual world could be a serious game-changer.
4. Cloud Gaming
Two years ago, OnLive introduced its pioneering cloud gaming service at GDC, giving players the ability to play console-quality games streamed from the cloud. Since then, companies such as Otoy and Gaikai have joined the fold, but all three have focused on high-end games streamed to TV, computers and micro-consoles. This week, Spoon introduced a cloud-based gaming service that brings the OnLive streaming model to casual games, allowing download-free access to popular arcade titles.
Cloud gaming renders users’ computer speeds irrelevant and makes console quality graphics possible on slow internet connections. That means we can finally start seeing something a little more impressive than the overhead view and grid-based landscapes currently popular with most social game designers.
Few industries have been impacted by the staggering innovation of the web as much as the gaming industry. And despite Wall Street’s concern over rapidly declining console sales, the industry is perhaps as healthy as it’s been in years, buoyed by its ability to adapt to a more social, mobile and on-demand world. Coupled with the industry’s leadership in the development and implementation of new monetization methods, the games industry is poised for continued success. What will this success look like? You’ll have to wait until GDC 2012. See you there!