FacebookFan

by Chris Bodenner

Sam Sanders surveys a new Facebook phenomenon called "Farmville" - a game with more players than people on Twitter:

The average Farmville user is a 43-year-old woman. More women than men are "avid" users of social games like Farmville. Women are more likely to play these games online with their relatives and real-world friends than men. Two-thirds of these social gamers play at least once a day. One in four spend money playing them.

This new data challenges some preconceived notions about just who is actually playing games online. The image of the nerdy, male, mid-thirties recluse, playing shooting games over the internet with fellow nerdy, male, mid-thirties recluses on the other side of the world might be forever shattered.

Austin MacKenzie looks at the big picture:

"Facebook knocked us on our ass this year - we didn't see it coming," game design professor of Carnegie Mellon University Jesse Schell said. "Facebook is terrifying to the traditional games biz."

Schell said the success of Facebook games is due in no small part to the utilization of psychological tricks, where the games are initially free but unlocking special features costs money. Other games such as Mafia Wars, Schell said, have you directly compete against your friends and family. This competitive nature encourages people to play longer and invest more money to win.

Much like the advent of Guitar Hero and Wii Fit these new Facebook games totally blew traditional game developer expectations out of the water, Schell said. These new approaches to gaming could have a huge impact on how developers make games. Schell predicts the methods social networking sites like Facebook ingratiate themselves into a person's everyday life will become more prevalent with gaming as well.

(Image via Laughing Squid)

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