Will social / online games completely replace traditional offline gaming?

Short answer: No.

Long reply:

If you’re a developer or just a player, you’ll have noticed reading all around the net that social /online games “ARE THE FUTURE”. Literally everyone is doing it. Even Google, with his NaCl and the upcoming Chrome Appstore (at least with it people will be able to use their existing code and not use Flash or Javascript!).

But what exactly does this means for players, for indies and for the big AAA studios. I honestly belive that this is just a hype, a bubble that is going to explode. Still, we’re at the very beginning so many YEARS will pass before it’s gone. Let me explain better what I mean in some points:

1. I think players just look at the GAME, at the experience, they don’t care much if is online/offline or in which language is written to.
2. Social games right now are doing most damage to casual games. Also while I don’t have any real figures I really believe that this enormous amount of free content is going to damage everyone in the casual games industry, so that at one point it will have to end or shrink. People that once used to buy casual games from portals, now spend MONTHS playing the social games spending a ridiculous amount of money vs the time spent on them. Maybe also the crisis is helping this?
3. “Downloadables are dead”. This is far from being true. Steam basically is a giant, huge, downloadable webstore. There are many indies doing GREAT with downloadables. I’ve recently been selling Eschalon Book 2 as affiliate and honestly the download market doesn’t seem dead at all… 😉
4. There isn’t just one type of gamer, but several types. There are also taste changes based on the age and time constraint. I myself was playing Everquest almost 10h a day when I was at the university (doing nothing), then when I started to work seriously I completely quit that game and now I don’t play any MMORPG at all. I’ve noticed this same pattern amongst many other friend I know. So, a people’s tastes can vary/change greatly over the years
5. I know many younger people that don’t care about Facebook or social games in general. It’s a bit like saying that nowadays nobody reads books anymore because everyone watches TV or play games 😉 That is not true. You can still make quite good money with books, as well as other creative mediums.

So, while it’s clearly true that right now your best bet to make money is a social, online or MMO game (I’m doing some online game experiments too), this doesn’t mean that everything else is going to be dead soon. It all depends on your target market: if your target are teenagers or casual people, your best bet is to make a FB game now, rather than a downloadable (and still, a decent game on top10 of a major portal like BFG can bring in still LOT of money).

If you’re into niches like I am, you definitely don’t need to worry about which system you’re using. If your game can benefit from being online (for example to reduce the impact of piracy), then do it, otherwise you can just keep doing downloadables like Spiderweb is doing: he just announced his new game series called Avadon (I find hilarious the name because is very similar to Avalon). It will be a downloadable as always, he’s doing it since 1999 (or sooner, I forgot) and it’s surely easier than changing completely the kind of language/platform/system.

What about me? I am making some experiments right now with a Renpy downloadable client+php/mySQL server, and I must admit is VERY HARD. I am making it though 🙂 But I have intention of keeping this project running as a “side-project” because I want still to make normal downloadable games as well.

Time for a screenshot I think:

Not hard to guess what kind of game it is… 😉

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