Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why do people play social games? Why do they pay for social goods?

Facebook has 100M people that play every day an average of 30 minutes. This equals to 50,000,000 hours / day, or 1,5B / hours month spent playing games only in this site.

Why do people play social games?

  • They provide fun outside of their game mechanics. They provide fun via their flexibility and emphasis on customization. FarmVille itself (a social game where the main objective is to take care of a farm doing chores like harvesting plants) is very simple to play. The fun in playing is mainly found in doing things like choosing where to put your barn, how to decorate around your farmhouse and creating an apple orchard in one corner.
  • They make people feel part of a community in which they relate to other people by helping each other with their farms chores, sending each other’s gift, posting messages in the network, competing with each other and allowing others to see the farm built with your own effort, patience and good taste.
  • They require no download or install. They can run on old computers and they are (initially) free.

Why do people pay for virtual goods?

A virtual good, it is most commonly thought of as a discrete digital item upon which a player can exert some level of control. Examples include interior design accessories, and machines. They can be functional or purely visual.

  • Desire to accelerate progress: they provide shortcuts to insider knowledge or to skip-to-the-front-of-the-line. As in the real world, we are willing to pay for access or knowledge to get ahead faster. Some of these virtual goods do the same within the environment they are part of a better barn, a boost, or tools to enhance the game play.
  • Competing: you want to beat others, and desire to be the best, thus you purchase virtual items that can clearly help you achieve that goal.
  • Entretainment: this seems to appeal more to females. Shopping (especially if there is a social feedback loop) and/or collecting (mainly when there is an overlay of social cooperation or competition) can be a strong form of entertainment.
  • Self-expression: often related to aesthetic rather than functional virtual goods, is tied to the human desire to show off a sense of style/identity/personality.
Maybe the truth is based on what Caesar believed 1900 years ago, he said that people need just two things: food and games, meaning physical and virtual goods. Physical goods solve the physical problems of existence, while virtual goods solve mental 'problems' such as curiosity, aesthetic value judgment and boredom.