Question:I have long described both MMO gaming and Facebook social games as being a “well-padded Skinner box” for their staggered/random reward system. Do you see any possibility for anything else to eventually replace this model?
IB: I don’t know. Certainly the gold rush associated with a very bare version of these mechanics isn’t helping. If anything, the Skinner boxes seem to be finding their way into other genres. I haven’t played Diablo III yet, but someone who tried the beta opined that it’s “Farmville for hardcore gamers.” Then again, I suppose we might have said the same thing about World of Warcraft half a decade ago. These features have always been in games, but there’s no question that we’ve begun refining them in the way one refines oil, making them more pure and useful to drive the engines of commerce rather than experience.
We can’t just will ourselves out of this situation. It’s not simply a matter of developing a new design philosophy that will replace the old one through pure unfettered rationalism. Since the games industry responds only to economic incentives, perhaps what we need is an implosion. Just as the housing bubble was burst by the revelation of inviable lending and the related artifice of constantly-inflating property values, so perhaps something similar needs to happen to the behaviorist bubble. It may already be starting, thanks to the apparently disappointing performance of Zynga’s IPO. Still, it’s worth remembering that the founders and executives of today’s big tech companies have been enjoying the privilege of making liquid parts of their equity on secondary markets, so the tech investment community may not have the same deterrent to bubblethink that the market in general does.
In any case, this trend should remind us that the whole media ecosystem has been built on this promise of high-leverage value derived from the aggregated behaviors of a very large base of patrons who are actually the product of these services rather than their customers. Google and Facebook are the obvious examples, but Zynga derives all of its revenue from 2.2% of its players. The remainder are there as viral marketing infrastructure. Is it even possible to opt out of this situation? Not if you also want to live productively in contemporary society
Anyone who has been following HTML5 to any degree has probably gotten lost or confused at some point about what’s going on. I know I have and I know I will get confused again in the future. For now (end of Jan 2012) this wonderful blog post on HTML5 game development is great!
The post covers nearly everything one needs to know from the technology to some problems with HTML5 to how the heck one can monetize games made using the tech.
Here’s a snippet from the mobile web browser section:
Not to be mistaken with mobile apps, which you download and install onto your phone, the Mobile Web Browser is an increasingly important platform to target. Mobile browsing is catching up to Desktop fast with some predictions putting the overlap period to be as early as 2014. Take that figure with a pinch of salt of course, but no-one denies the rapid growth here. This is in part supported by the recent advances in mobile technology. It assumes the player is online and browses to your game via the browser installed on their phone or tablet. There is a rapidly growing market in mobile web games, with a number of high profile games portals already on board buying them and many more will follow. In terms of development you need to approach it from either the DOM or Canvas angle. Most smart phones contain dedicated GPUs and Mobile Safari will now use it to render DOM elements and under iOS5 Canvas as well. WebGL is also on its way. Enabled in Firefox on Android and a hidden option in Mobile Safari expect to see more of this soon.
I have asked NimbleBit about getting acquired before. The brothers seem like prime candidates for a larger company to come along and buy them out, and indeed Ian Marsh says during this whole affair that Zynga has offered to purchase NimbleBit and its games before. But as they told me, these guys aren’t in it for the money. Certainly their games are very lucrative, but the Marsh brothers have said that they just like making great games on their own and will continue to do that for as long as they can.