14 thoughts on “The Difficult Transition from Core Gaming to Social”

  1. So where do designers and developers of good social games come from? Surely most of them have some game development experience prior to launching a social game? Is it easier to jump from a casual PC or mobile game to social, even if you haven’t had freemium experience? (At least you’ve been focused on gameplay for the same audience.)


    1. On the programming side, almost all the top programmers and engineers (and artists) that I have worked with have come from web development (e-commerce sites, web design firms, etc). On the design side, overall the designers do not have the same standing at a social company they do at a core game company so it is not as clear, but the ones I have seen the most successful either come with an analytics background and are designing for the first time or come from the advertising space.

      It is interesting that you brought up the transition from casual to social. The transition there is also, in my opinion, difficult, hence Big Fish’s big failure in social; but the actual data is much more ambiguous. King.com came from casual and in less than a year has become a top-5 Facebook developer. Popcap obviously had tremendous success on social after building its business on casual. Even iWin and Real have gotten some traction in social. If I had to guess, it goes to my last point. People in the casual space do not look down on social or players of social games, and that goes a long way to success.


  2. “The fact is, not one developer that comprises primarily of core game veterans has had a success in the social space, despite many attempts. ”

    To be fair, that’s not 100% true. KlickNation, for example, was made up of traditional hardcore gamers and they just sold to EA. From an investor standpoint, that’s a pretty good investment. And my team at Metaplace — we were all ex-MMO developers essentially (some from SOE, Blizzard, EA, etc.) and we ended up selling to Playdom, then to Disney. Our games, My Vineyard and Island Life, were in the top charts many times in 2009.


    1. You are right, and I’ll also add that Raph is a good example of someone transitioning successfully from core to social. I guess I didn’t consider MMO core, even though it is. I do think MMO veterans can and will succeed in the social space, I was thinking (but did not write) more traditional PS3, 360, Wii type devs.


  3. Though thinking about it, I don’t think KlickNation contradicts my point. In fact, it’s acquisitions like those (and investments) that prompted my post, we’ll see how much EA gets out of it.


  4. Off the top of my head I can come up with several social game developers that have core backgrounds:

    Playfish – created from Sony Online Entertainment and EA veterans
    Digital Chocolate – Trip Hawkins started 3DO and EA
    3blokes Studios (acquired by rockyou) – created from veteran SEGA, Pandemic and THQ guys
    Spacetime Studios – created from olds-school Ultima Online Veterans
    Trust me there ar several more, these guys are eveywhere

    Most of the growing social game companies with cash right now, at least everyone I have talked to, are looking for game developers with core game experience.


    Because most social games are not actually good games, even the guys who create games at Kixeye and Kabam will tell you that the quality of the games they make are crap, they make money from the distribution. The morals installed into core game developers reflect onto the social games they develop. I can usually tell when I see a social game that has no core-game influence–you start getting into games with ridiculous in-game advertisement or bad gameplay or poor game mechanics, bad storyline etc.

    Core game developers help fix that problem.


    1. I appreciate your comments and your point about Playfish is well taken (I would argue that Trip was out of the core space awhile before DC moved into social and the others did not have a success). I think your comments on why core game designers are being recruited by social game companies (and they are by some, but the results still are definitely up in the air) reflect my point. We’ll see how it turns out 🙂


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