Something extraordinary happened this weekend, that set off a cascade of thoughts and experiences that left me utterly humbled. But if I write about that now, I will be breaking my word to you, gentle reader, to respond to Shawn’s recent article asserting that the most successful games will be those that are designed to their platforms. And to be fair to the new topic, I do need a couple of days to process just what happened. But in the meantime, let’s take a look at this Social Game Darwinism approach. Shawn states that one cannot consistently have the same social game on both social networks and mobile and have them both be successful. Instead, the successful companies will be those that specifically build to mobile. He is not alone in this. I would say most social developers have adopted a specialist approach, narrowing down on platform with almost religious fervor. Crowdstar for one has converted from Orthodox Facebook to the Church of Latter-Day Mobile in the space of a few short months. I don’t mean to criticize the decision, certainly mobile has ongoing growth opportunities where social is more mature as a market. But the idea that developers must tailor their games to the platform to achieve true success is a philosophy that best serves the platform. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good platform, some of my best friends are platform people. But I prefer a philosophy that best serves the player.
Relative to Activision and Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Sony Computer Entertainment America have the misfortune of poorly timed geography. As mega-publishers and game platforms, all four are rich with proven game talent and invaluable experience, but also saddled with institutional hierarchy and now an ironic shift in employment stability. However, only EA and SCEA are a stone’s throw from the social mobile revolution, whose epicenter is San Francisco. Zynga, Kabam, and in full disclosure, the companies that Shawn and I work at, hire liberally from these and other traditional game companies in driving distance. Even with these rich resources at arm’s length, there’s scarcity in certain specific areas, causing recruiters to adopt increasingly audacious tactics to hit their target. The Bay Area is not enough. Seattle and LA are now fair game. Enter the Valve Handbook for New Employees. Please take a moment to read the recently released pamphlet, it’s a quick read, available here. I’ll wait.