I conducted a little experiment over the weekend.
I played some games on Facebook. I didn’t expect much, but after reading about how much fun Jetpack Joyride was supposed to be in my Twitter feed, I figured I’d see for myself. Not only did Jetpack Joyride make two hours pass quickly, but I wound up dropping close to eight hours total on Facebook games without spending a single cent. I played some slot machines, I swung my sword playing Fruit Ninja, I checked out Mark Turmell‘s Bubble Safari, and I got my virtual contestant on playing some game show games.
For the low price of zero, I got a lot of enjoyment out of my time and will probably play more of these games in the future. I can see why some consumers are choosing to go this route for their gaming fix, or even choosing to play games on their smartphones or tablets. These games may not necessarily be for the hardcore and devoted video game player, but for everyone else… they’re actually pretty decent. Sure, they aren’t 30-40 hour masterpieces, but are cheap and entertaining ways to pass some time. These games can test your reflexes, tease your brain, and some have that unmistakable arcade quality about them… where you just want to play one more time to try and beat your best score.
Facebook gaming isn’t without its annoyances. Jetpack Joyride was probably the least intrusive in trying to get me to spend money to lengthen or enhance my gaming experience, but the game show and slot machine games were quite direct about monetization. After a couple of games of Family Feud, for example, I was locked out for the day unless I paid. Running out of bubbles in Bubble Safari can be rectified by paying some money out of pocket. Once my hot streak ended while playing The Price is Right Slots, I was offered the chance to get back in the game by paying up.
Most of the games I played were more limited experiences for free players, which is arguably fair. Advertising can only do so much, so attempting to generate revenue makes sense. Using a couple of free games to get players interested is a good tactic. Sometimes it works, and sometimes– like in my case– it doesn’t. I’m far more inclined to play Jetpack Joyride or Fruit Ninja with frequency, as opposed to more strictly limited games like The $25,000 Pyramid or Deal or No Deal. I could be persuaded to spend money on extra time with The Price is Right Slots, as it feels closer to a casino slot machine experience than most other games of its kind that I’ve played. (And, yes, I know it’s not for real money; it’s the authenticity of the experience that draws me in.)
The rise of social and mobile gaming makes it harder for consoles and handhelds to live up to the standards of success that we’ve seen over the last few years. Social, iOS, and Android gaming is legitimate, whether the gaming community chooses to recognize it or not. It’s also elicited negative responses, with angry reactions to the idea that consoles and handhelds are being replaced. I don’t think that a full-on replacement is close at hand here, but trends suggest that more people who play games are doing so in different ways. That’s why I’m a firm believer in the idea that the next console generation will be less successful than what we’ve seen over the course of this generation– but there will still be some level of success to be had.
For me, as a fan of video games in general, I’m happy to see them branching out to new and successful platforms. Video games are still enjoyed by millions of people, whether they play on their smartphones, tablets, computers, handhelds, or consoles. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I had fun playing Facebook games recently, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ll play more of them down the road. I won’t give up my consoles to play them anytime soon, but they’re an enjoyable alternative to my usual gaming habits.
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