Train2Game news: Zynga building own social games site

Train2Game students will no doubt be aware that Zynga’s games are heavily tied to Facebook, with the Train2Game blog previously reporting that at its peak Cityville had over 100 million users.

Allies & Empires also reached over 50 million users within weeks of launching, thanks to the Facebook platform.

Now however, Zynga wants to reduce their reliance on the social network, after the introduction of Facebook Credits saw a 95% drop in profits during the last financial quarter, and will start delivering games directly to consumers online or on mobile phones.

The social game developer has therefore revealed ‘Project Z,’ on Zynga.com, a gaming hub that’ll allow players to connect to games such as Farmville through their own portal rather than Facebook.

Games can be played across Project Z and Facebook as players will be allowed to use the same username and will feature familiar social features.

“Project Z is a Facebook connect platform that leverages your Facebook friends to play in an environment tailored with just your friends,” said Zynga COO John Schappert said at the Zynga Unleashed event in San Francisco.

“We learn a lot more about our players, not just from stats but from talking to them, and this is what they wanted.”

“It’s a platform for a direct relationship with consumers, whether on the web or on mobile, to give you a whole sandbox and create socialness about the games and not just within the games,” Zynga chief executive Mark Pincus added.

The news comes the day after Facebook launched its iPad App, and as reported by the Train2Game blog, it means Facebook games can now be played on mobile devices.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Zynga’s move? What does it say about Facebook gaming? And what is the future of social media games?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum

[Source:  WSJ]

Allies & Empires gains more users than Farmville

Just last week, the Train2Game blog reported that Zynga’s Empires & Allies had reached 33 million users. Now the game has passed 41 million players, meaning that more people are playing Empires & Allies than are playing Farmville.

It provides a reminder to Train2Game students as to how big a phenomenon social media gaming has become.

Empires & Allies is free-to-play, but like many other Zynga and social media games, players can spend money to help them progress faster. And as noted by Venture Beat:

“If the game continues to get users, it could reach a much bigger audience than a hardcore game would typically get.”

“The combat strategy element will address the tastes of hardcore gamers as well as many mainstream gamers who have complained that there isn’t enough game play in Zynga’s other games, such as FarmVille.”

As the Train2Game blog reported earlier this year, a survey suggested that 70% of internet users play casual games. Social games are therefore potentially a lucrative market forTrain2Game students to be involved in.

Indeed, the Train2Game blog also reported that Game Design  is the most important aspect of a social game, and that Game Designers behind them much larger roles than those who help produce console titles.

If the popularity of Empires & Allies keeps growing, could it reach the 100 million player peak that the Train2Game blog reported Cityville had?

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Empires & Allies? Have you played it? Could it potentially appeal to a more hardcore audience then previous Zynga games?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: Venture Beat]

Zynga’s new game Empires & Allies gets 33 million players in three weeks

Empires & Allies

In a big reminder to Train2Game students of how popular social games now are, Zynga’s latest title Empires & Allies has reached over 30 million users in less than 3 weeks.

According to AppData, Strategy game Empires & Allies gained 20 million of those players in the last week.

The game Zygna said has “more social features than any Zynga game” was released on at the beginning of June.

Empires & Allies is free-to-play, but like many other Zynga and social media games, players can spend money to help them progress faster.

For more information on Freemium games, their increasing popularity, and how this could be important for Train2Game students, see the Train2Game blog.

As the Train2Game blog reported earlier this year, a survey suggested that 70% of internet users play casual games. Social games are therefore potentially a lucrative market forTrain2Game students to be involved in.

Indeed, the Train2Game blog also reported that  Game Design  isthe most important aspect of a social game, and that Game Designers behind them much larger roles than those who help produce console titles.

In theory that means creating a social game could allow a Train2Game Game Designer more of an opportunity to flex their creative muscle.

Whatever your opinion of Facebook games, it’s hard to argue with such high user numbers, although there’s some way to go before reaching Cityville’s 100 million players.

As reported by the Train2Game blog in January, it’s previously been suggested that the social media gaming market will reach $1 billion this year.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the success of Empires & Allies? Would you develop Facebook games?

Leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: Gamasutra

Zynga: Game Designers more important for social games than for triple-A titles

Regular Train2Game blog readers will be very aware about the growth of social media gaming, and whether they like playing the games or not it’s proved to be a very lucrative business for those who develop the most successful ones.

Zynga are arguably the Kings of the social media gaming world, with over 100 million people played their latest title, Cityville, in its first month. Their chief Games Designer Brian Reynolds believes not only is Game Design the most important aspect of a social game, but that the Game Designers behind them much larger roles than those who help produce console titles.

“One of the things I do is I recruit very senior game designers into Zynga and what I’ve found is a growing interest that people are realizing that there’s actually more Game Design to be done,” Reynolds told Industry Gamers.

“This is work at the cutting edge of a new space. A Game Designer is actually more important on a social game than on a triple-A game because on a triple-A game you spend a lot of time making technology and tools and gigabytes worth of animations and things like that, and I can remember whole months going by where they didn’t need me to do any game design whereas on social games it’s a game designer’s paradise.”

Reynolds added that the nature of Social Media games allows Game Designers to test out new ideas– and allows new Game Designers to get content out to a huge audience – in a way that isn’t possible with consoles.

“We invent new things and try them out very quickly. I tell the young Game Designers, ‘Listen, you come here, you’ll have ideas, and then 2 months later they’ll be in front of millions of people.’ On a live game it might be a little bit longer but even then 2 months is actually the slow version and that’s if it’s a really big idea. This is a great place to come if you want to try new ideas and see results quickly and if you want to see things shipped and in front of players,”

“This is an industry now where we’re able to talk to audiences that we’ve never been able to talk to, much larger audiences,” he continued “

“People that we were never able to interest in games are now interested in games. I was talking this week with a very veteran and well known Games Designer and he was saying, ‘Wow, I’m really jealous of you guys because you’re achieving what’s been my lifelong dream, which is to make a game that tens of millions of people can play’.”

As the Train2Game blog reported earlier this year, a survey suggested that 70% of internet users play casual games. Social games are therefore potentially a lucrative market for Train2Game students to be involved in

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Brian Reynolds comments about Game Design in social media games? Do you think the simple nature of the games makes it more important than on a high level console game? Would you develop a social media game in order to reach a large audience?

Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: Industry Gamers]

Train2Game, in association with DR Studios, TIGA and the University of Bedfordshire, held a 48 hour Game Jam from March 25th to March 27th. Every game produced at the Game Jam can be downloaded for free from the Train2Game Game Jam website!

Zynga dismiss Xbox Live and hint towards move to mobile

Cityville Train2Game blog image

Farmville developer Zynga has dismissed the possibility of developing games for Xbox Live. The move may come as a surprise to Train2Game students, many of whom are aware that XBLA can be a great tool for publishing smaller, indie games.

Just last week Mediatonic Director of Games Paul Croft praised XBLA and other digital platforms that allow indie developers to distribute their games. The comments came in an interview with the Train2Game blog about the upcoming Train2Game Game Jam.

However, Zynga Chief Game Designer told Industry Gamers at the company isn’t interested in the console because of its small userbase compared to social networks such as Facebook.

“Xbox Live’s too small a demographic,” chief game designer Brian Reynolds told Industry Gamers. “Think about, of my friends, how many of them own an Xbox 360?

“[Xbox Live’s] too small a demographic. Think about, of my friends, how many of them own an Xbox 360? Well, I’m a game developer and I even come from a triple-A space so we might even be in the double digits… Twenty or maybe even thirty percent of my friends might have an Xbox 360, but effectively 100% of them have Facebook and effectively 100% of them have a mobile phone. Of them, probably 90% have a smartphone.”

Facebook gaming is certainly popular amongst certain demographics, with  Zynga claiming last week that the 40 year old woman is the new hardcore gamer.  Their latest game, Cityville, has been a huge success, with 100 million people just one month after it was released. And as reported by the Train2Game blog in January, the success of social media games has led to predictions that they’ll generate  over $1 billion in review this year.

Zynga therefore see no reason to make the switch to Xbox Live, but suggest they could make the move to mobile games in future.

“If we made a game on Xbox Live, I think the number of anyone’s friends that’s going to be able to participate in the social experience is going to be a very small number so the amount of social capital that there is isn’t going to be very high,” Reynolds  said

“That’s why right now we’re on Facebook for sure, and mobile is the obvious next place for us to go because it is an inherently social platform.”

Earlier this month Angry Birds developer Rovio suggested that mobile was also beginning to supersede consoles. The evidence all seems to point to the possibility that Train2Game students working towards TIGA Diploma could find themselves careers developing social games in future.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Zynga’s comments? Are they foolish to disregard Xbox Live so easily? Do you see a future in developing games for release on XBLA? Or do you believe you’ll find a career developing and distributing social games for Facebook and mobile?

You can leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: Industry Gamers]

Train2Game, in association with DR Studios, TIGA and the University of Bedfordshire, will be holding a Game Jam at the end of March. For more information, see the official Train2Game Game Jam website, the official Train2Game Game Jam Facebook page, or listen to the Audioboo interview with organiser Dave Sharp. Alternatively, keep an eye on the Train2Game Game Jam Twitter account.

Report confirms huge growth in social media gaming

Farmville Train2Game blog image

A new report on social gaming potentially contains good news for all Train2Game students.

The Social Gaming Smart Pack from EConsultancy suggests that one fifth of all consumers now play social media games online with one third of those playing  several times a day.  Among other things, the report also suggests that a fifth of regular social gamers have paid to play and that more women than men play them.

For Train2Game students’ reference, the report defined social games as “Web-based games that can be played with other people and include interactive elements or content that can be shared online.” The report makes particular reference to games on Facebook such as Mafia Wars and Farmville.

TIGA CEO Dr. Richard Wilson says the report confirms changing trends in the UK games industry:

“This report demonstrates once again the increasing prevalence of gaming and the shift towards playing online. Games are now accessible and attractive to a wide audience, on a variety of platforms and come in all shapes and sizes. The report finds that more women than men play social games. This is a hugely significant development for this industry. The report also shows that games are increasingly being viewed as a format of choice for big brands to advertise their products and services”

Dr. Wilson also echoed comments he made in an interview with the Train2Game blog last month, that increasing numbers of UK developers are producing games for online:

“UK games developers are extremely well positioned to take advantage of the new trend toward social gaming and digital distribution. TIGA’s research indicates that 80 per cent of the new UK games businesses that have set up over the last two years are developing games for online digital distribution.”

In last months’ interview, the TIGA CEO also told the Train2Game blog that this switch to online distribution is potentially a positive development for students on Train2Game courses:

“A collection of Train2Game students working together to develop a game now have more options open to them. Five or ten years ago they would have had to work for hire and they would have had to convince a publisher to commission the game and sell and market it for them. Now they have other options, they can sell direct to the consumer through Facebook, over the internet and on mobile. So there are now more options available to Train2Game students who wish to develop games and create their own companies.”

The Social Gaming Smart Pack report comes on the same day that games industry consultant Nicholas Lovell posted a huge article on Games Brief asking ‘What is a Social Game?’ Train2Game students would be well advised to have a read as it contains views on social games from many high profile figures in the industry. One of the over two dozen games industry luminaries asked is Game Designer Jon Hare who was part of the Third Official Train2Game live webinar panel.

Lovell himself talked to the Train2Game blog last month about a number of issues including social gaming. The interview is almost essential reading for Train2Game students!

With the report from EConsultancy  suggesting social media is on the rise, a small team of Train2Game students who produce a good game could potentially find that takes off thanks to how relatively simple it now is to distribute a product online.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the report? How often do you play social media games? Could you see yourself producing one in the future? And with regards to the Games Brief article, what do YOU think is definition of a social game?

As usual, you can leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

The rise and rise of social media gaming

Farmville: Helping to cultivate a predicted 1.5 billion big ones.

2014 may not bring us hover cars or jet packs but it’ll apparently be a good year for the social games market. Why? Well, a new report from media consultants Screen Digest suggests it’ll be worth $1.5 billion in four years time. Yes, $1.5 billion.

It really is a staggering amount of money to get your head around! Especially so when you consider that in 2008 social media games were worth just $76 million. Not that $76 is a small amount of money at all, but in 2009 that increased to $639 million thanks to 500 million active monthly users. The Screen Digest report predicts this growth will continue over the next four years with social media games becoming more and more popular.

I doubt anyone will be surprised as to what has caused such a massive increase in the social games market, with the Screen Digest report stating:

“The market remains dominated by the distribution power and massive userbase of Facebook”

Yes, Facebook. The reason for this massive upsurge in casual social games is titles like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Both of these games are produced by market leader Zynga who last year are thought to have got annual revenue of around $100 million.

It’s not exactly to see surprising with the massive advertising campaign behind the games. According to a Facebook ad I’m looking at right now, ‘Everyone plays Mafia Wars’ Well 25 million players might not be everyone, but that number suggests Zygna must be doing something right. Then of course there’s Farmville which just seems to have become an entity unto itself…the spellchecker I’m using to write this blog even recognises Farmville as a word!

So, with social games set to become even more successful, we used the Train2Game Facebook page (Appropriate, right?) to ask Train2Game students if they’d like to use their skills to help produce a successful social media title. The responses were….somewhat interesting! They included:

“Games like Farmville are easy to make, I would rather a challenge with the more hardcore games, however that being said I would like to give the lower level games a go also.

As far as Farmville go’s I would rather shoot my self head, but everyone has to start some where, and a small game like that could get you the experience it take to work much bigger projects.”

“Yes, you have to start somewhere… But not Farmville…I would feel like a total sell-out if I made a game like Farmville.”

And…

“Farmville is such a badly built game. I couldn’t believe the amount of corners they cut, honestly, I don’t think it cost them more than 2k to build the actual game. Mafia Wars was probably the same.”

So while it seems that the Train2Game students that responded aren’t exactly too keen to produce the next Farmville, it appears the majority feel that working on such a title would provide that all important first step into their chosen career – be it Games Design, Games Development or Games Art & Animator. While many people dislike the concept of social gaming, it’s difficult to ignore how successful it has become. Remember, that big old $1.5 million that’s just over the horizon.

So now it’s over to you, Train2Game blog readers. Do you think the social games market will really be worth $1.5 billion in four years time? What do you think has made it so successful? And how would you feel about developing a social media title?

As usual, leave your comments here, or on the Train2Game forum. Or why not join the discussion on the Train2Game Facebook page?