There's been much written in the course of the past few weeks about Apple's iPad, but not about its prospects as a social gaming platform. One of the handful of truly successful social game developers on the similar iPhone is SGN, using a mixture of paid apps and microtransactions. SGN Vice President of Strategy and Analytics Jeff Weiser believes the iPad is part of a much larger trend in social gaming.
"In the long term, [the iPad] will be part of a larger move to mobile social gaming we envision for the marketplace. Twenty-five million Facebook's users are active each month via mobile phone. As more people have social experiences on their mobile phone, we think there'll be a lot more people accessing social games through mobile Web," said Weiser.
Weiser believes that both mobile Web and application stores will have a role to play as mobile social gaming matures. He points to (fluff) friends, a social game that SGN makes available both on iPhone and Facebook. SGN can arguably monetize the Facebook version better, since it can update the game's item shop more regularly with new virtual goods. Adding any new virtual goods to the iPhone version of the shop requires SGN to resubmit the entire app to Apple for approval.
Through the iPhone client, (fluff) friends offers players a cross-platform experience that wouldn't be available if it was only a Facebook app, according to Weiser. Simply by having an iPhone client available, SGN can grow the app to new users who may get so involved that they're willing to go to the mobile Web version of (fluff) friends on their iPhone's browser just to buy virtual goods. Weiser believes the important element for SGN is making sure content is always available on platforms with an appropriate form factor.
"[The iPad is] just a different form factor. It lends itself well to multiplayer, but a lot of board game type use cases could really lend themselves to iPad, thanks to the form function of the screen," said Weiser.
The iPad's larger screen size and compatibility with iPhone apps can also benefit less traditional social games. Weiser believes the iPad would be a good fit for SGN's F.A.S.T., a graphics-intensive multi-player flight simulation game. F.A.S.T. is free and ad-supported until users decide to begin making in-game microtransaction purchases. Weiser believes F.A.S.T.'s high-quality 3D visuals would be even more appealing to iPad users, who could see them in more detail in fullscreen mode.
"We think [the iPad] is going to be in the hands of a lot of people, so we'll try to accommodate what its strengths and weaknesses are," said Weiser. "On balance, I don't think we'll change our approach to market, to what we think are compelling games. Any platform with deep market penetration, it's worth adapting to the needs of that device."
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