Social Games as MMOs

There's an overwhelming opposition among MMO players to social games - things like Farmville, Frontierville, and their Zynga-produced ilk, and also smaller games like Treasure Island and My Vineyard. But these games are fast gaining market share because, as Wolfshead puts it, they contribute to a sense of virtual personal space.

I'd like to go a bit further and say that they're not much different from MMOs. In fact, the only difference that I can see is that MMOs involve killing things, and social games generally don't.

(Although even that's not wholly true; Frontierville has you clobbering varmints that surface in your homestead, and A Tale In The Desert has no combat.)

MMOs involve moving around in a game world, you say, not staying in one place. Well, Guild Wars doesn't have a world worth speaking of, and many social games allow you to travel to your friends' farms, homesteads, restaurants, islands, castles, or whatever.

MMOs involve character choices. Sure. My Farmville farmer is specced for wine-making, and to a lesser degree for raspberry production.

MMOs involve interaction with other people! Actually, I'm not going to dignify that with a reply, but invite you to examine the word 'social'.

MMOs involve character development. Social games are pretty much all about the character development, at least in the mechanical sense, and we all know that the reason I'm writing "MMO" instead of "MMORPG" is that, in general, MMO players don't RP.

MMOs have economies, you cry, getting desperate. I'll argue elsewhere that some don't, but social games very definitely do. The rice shortage in my Farmville neighbourhood is irritating, and there's rather an overabundance of fruit. I'm profiting by growing long-term crops other people don't have the patience for.

MMOs don't make you log in every day, whereas social games do. Well, actually... have you met the daily quest concept? And it's perfectly possible to play even Farmville on a drop-in basis, as long as you think about what you're doing.

As far as I can see, the border between MMOs and social games is getting fuzzier and fuzzier, and I reckon it'll shortly disappear. I predict that MMOs will develop social game interfaces, wherein you can dabble with tradeskills and crafting and the economic aspects, and social games will have downloadable clients where you can get in there and hunt down them varmints, or go exploring for new land to settle.

Posted by Drew Shiel at November 8, 2010 2:42 PM

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