Once games started appearing on Facebook, a social stigma was immediately attached to them. They were immediately dubbed casual games. People expected low-quality entertainment that was constantly and consistently making grabbing hands at your wallet while claiming to be completely free-to-play. While the majority of games are still copycat tripe churned out as quickly as possible to attempt to develop a lucrative fanbase, more and quality games are coming through.
These aren’t just adequate games that are only considered good compared to other Facebook games. More and more Facebook games are being developed and released that rival iOS and Android, and even the occasional PC games. There are games that people are not only comfortable admitting they play, but that they’d invite friends to try even if there weren’t incentives to do so.
Take, for example, Farmville. When people think of a Facebook game, the Farmville series immediately comes to mind. While it is definitely example of money-grabbing and copycat behavior, it’s draw is undeniable. People have created complex stategies to make their farms churn out crops at a rate that puts the most money possible in their pockets so their farms can be as ornate as possible. It’s akin to a real-time Harvest Moon, minus the ability to socialize with virtual neighbors. Not to mention with over 46 million playing Farmville 2, it’s reached a point where it’s okay to play.
SimCity Social is another successful Facebook simulation that is a more than admirable attempt of recreating the SimCity formula in a social, browser-based game. Over 3 million people play, maintaining their own cities while completing optional quests to unlock more extras and advancing by visiting “neighbors” so their city can grow. I’ve played it in the past, and was even able to participate in the beta. In fact, I was excited to be able to go through the closed beta and admit to making two friends jealous that I received the invite and they didn’t.
Of course, a platform like Facebook is a natural fit for casual games. Even those have been stepping up their game. We have access to both Bejeweled Blitz, a trunicated version of PopCap Games’ beloved Bejeweled match-3 series, and Triple Town, a match-3 game that encourages players to match items to develop an area into a town. Granted, we’ve probably reached a point where we’re all sick of match-3 games, but these two manage to stand above others due to their ingenuity and solid gameplay.
But, Facebook wouldn’t have turned into a valid gaming platform with just casual games. Developers have to be creative and turn to other popular genres. Marvel: Avengers Alliance is a turn-based RPG that pits various Marvel heroes against notable villains and while it’s primary function is to get people excited about the Avengers movies and Marvel comics, it’s succeeded in also getting over 5 million playing.
You Don’t Know Jack, however, is some of the best evidence that a Facebook game can be just as popular as its console and PC counterparts. In fact, it may even be superior. Granted, you aren’t directly playing against your friends in your living room, but you’ll constantly be competing with your Facebook friends, even if they aren’t immediately online. It’s a game that blends perfectly with the social networking elements and the fact that the game is always having new questions added means it’s more current than the other incarnations.
Probably the best way to show the progression of Facebook games is the movement of more serious developers to the platform. PopCap Games and EA are all fine and good, but they’ve always been known for casual games. I’m talking about developers like Insomniac Games and Q-Games, both of which have released games on Facebook. Insomniac went with an original endeavor called Outernauts, which is essentially outer space pokemon. Only here, the pokemon look slightly more awesome, all battles can be one on one, two on two or three on three and you constantly have to watch your energy to see if you can keep participating in battles. Q-Games, however, decided to just port over a form of PixelJunk Monsters to Facebook. It’s still a tower defense game, only on Facebook you’re defending and launching assaults against friends.
Most importantly, these are still early days of Facebook gaming. Earlier this year, Gaikai went to facebook to launch a Real Games on Gaikai app. The beta in April 2012 allowed people to try playing Farming Simulator 2011, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, Magicka, Orcs Must Die!, Saints Row: The Third, Sniper and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings in their browser through Facebook thanks to the wonder that is cloud gaming. It was a glimpse at the future of what could be.
Facebook games aren’t something to be ashamed of anymore. We’ve reached a point where it’s not only acceptable, but encouraged because now there are games out there that are worth playing and badgering your friends into playing with you. So go ahead and share your progress in your games on your wall with pride! We’re not judging you for asking for baby bottles for your farm animals anymore.