In 2011, social gaming turned out pretty much the way we thought it would. Mobile devices proved to be a fertile breeding ground for social games, FarmVille maker Zynga continued to get bigger, and we witnessed more than our fair share of advergames this year.
Now it's that time of year that we, once again, reshuffle our tarot decks and see what the next 12 months will hold for games of a social nature. And, even if the Mayan predictions about the world ending in 2012 prove true, that won't happen until December -- so everyone has plenty of time to get this stuff in under the wire.
Facebook will still be the #1 place to play social games
Facebook may (or may not) be losing users in the US, but it will still be the number one platform for social games this year. Google's social network needs to make its service much more user friendly to convince the change-averse general public (i.e. non-tech-heads) to make the move from Facebook.
Mobile social games suffer from a similar problem -- there are a lot of them out there, but there's not an easy way to play them with other people. Mobiles have three major game-based social networks duking it out for the top spot -- Apple's Game Center, OpenFeint and Mobage -- but it's hard to convince social gamers to join, especially when a majority of them don't consider themselves 'gamers.'
Facebook's strength continues to lie in the fact that its games are integrated into a larger social experience. People are already visiting the social network daily to uploading photos, write zingy status updates and commenting on friends' walls, what's the harm in spending a few minutes playing Bejeweled Blitz or checking in on the farm?
SimCity Social will go toe-to-toe with CityVille
Since launch, Zynga's city building game, CityVille, has maintained its position as the number one game on Facebook. There are several reasons for this: First, the game was simultaneously released in multiple languages, and second, there's something about building virtual cities that crosses any cultural, gender and generational divide. So when we heard reports that Electronic Arts is hard at work on making a Facebook version of its PC gaming mega-hit SimCity, well, we can't think of any other game more likely to topple CityVille from atop its perch. If the success of Sims Social is any indicator, SimCity Social (or whatever it's called) will be sitting pretty this time next year.
Play your game of choice on any device
One of the biggest problems in social game-dom is the fact that you have to be on a computer to play your games. Or on a mobile device. But you can't do both. And world that is quickly growing to embrace tablets, from the iPad to the new Kindle Fire, as a secondary computing device, it's annoying that we can't check in on our virtual people in The Sims Social whenever, wherever and on whatever.
2012 will be the year that someone makes this breakthrough. Why? Because it has to be. Companies like Zynga rely far too much on Facebook and must stop doing that for long term success. Technology is the main reason this hasn't happened yet, as in, you can't play Flash games on iOS devices. Flash-creator Adobe says it has come up with a workaround for that problem and many seem to be pinning their hopes on the platform agnostic HTML5 as well.
Social games with video game-quality graphics
Last year, we were certain that social games with 3D graphics, or what I like to call "video game quality" graphics, would be everywhere by the end of 2011. That didn't exactly happen, but we've got plenty good reason to believe that 2012 will -- for real, this time -- be the year of 3D games on Facebook and other social gaming outlets. Social games will continue to look and play better, and the addition of high falutin' 3D graphics is a natural next step. Second the technology to do it made major strides recently (though we're still dubious that Flash 11 can deliver games on par with those on Microsoft's Xbox 360 or Sony's PlayStation 3).
Do you think SimCity Social will beat out CItyVille in '12? What else do you see happening in social games next year? Sound off in the comments. Add comment.