Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Five Considerations for Choosing a Social Games Platform

Social game developers are faced with a number of platforms to choose from on which to build their products. But what platform should they choose? The greedy answer is 'all of them'. The larger exposure your application has to various audiences on various platforms, the larger the opportunity for revenue in the long run.

That logic, however, has some large obstacles associated with it. Developing for multiple platforms costs money, because with the rare exception, different platforms have different code requirements that limit the ease of porting a product from one to another. Ergo, time and resources must be applied, sometimes in excess of potential revenue.

The process of platform targeting must be strategic for reasons that have little to do with technology and much to do with adoption. Here are five things to keep in mind when beginning the selection process:

Potential Market. Size matters, but so does relevance. Bringing a sports product to a business community might work, but bringing it to a casual community might work even better. Have a complicated product? Target savvy users. Also look for opportunities for viral communication amongst users. Does the platform allow your early adopter evangelists to share your product with their like-minded peers? Can you reward them for it? Take time to analyse whether the platform itself is growing in terms of users. If so, build for the long-haul, or for the sequel.

Competition. Will your product be one of one hundred? One of 10? Alone? Each scenario has opportunities and weaknesses. Analyzing the competition, from quality, to numbers, to development ability, will mean being able to assess whether your product will be a leader, competitive or lost in the noise. Remember, having competition is not a bad thing, even if it's a similar product. There is always a cost savings associated with not bearing the burden of educating your users, especially in a pioneer space.

Stability. Analyze stability in ways beyond platform growth and number of users. Is its technology integration policy clear and reliable? Will your product ever come in harm's way of its user protection policies? Does it have 'flighty' APIs or are they solid and well thought-out? Is the technology selected to build the platform at risk? As a social games developer interested in building and maintaining an audience, it is important to ensure the health of your symbiotic host platform before committing to a long-term relationship.

Mobility. A social game that does not integrate mobility is asking for trouble. So the question becomes, does your target platform threaten or encourage potential mobile integration of your application? Does it allow data sharing? Does its API provide tools to make it easier?

Accessibility. The audience and success you have on a platform is worth significantly more if you can leverage it on other platforms. Connective technologies allowing users to maintain their intellectual and emotional investment in your game as they move from platform to platform promotes a stronger user experience. If the platform isn't open to interconnectivity, it threatens the growth of products running on it.

© Jeremy Buehler and Rogue Tendencies ( 2010.

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