[published on my Gamasutra blog]

Metaverse Journal notes that in May Zynga’s userbase on Facebook declined — but will it more than make up that 10% on other platforms?  Zynga is in the process of distributing themselves more widely (Yahoo, MySpace, iPhone,…) so the reduction may be out-migration to different social platforms.

That’s why Zynga isn’t in danger — they have some good news coming this year, I’ll wager — but there are also reasons why we “traditional” game companies should be happy to see Zynga spread and grow in total.

Zynga is making it ok for middle-America (not to mention middle-[pick a country that's wired]) to be gamers.

I’ve seen City of Eternals and Kingory as well as Zynga games move people off of Facebook gaming and onto web- or client-based strategy or MMO gaming. I have no broad data, but my bet is that much of this is going into the F2P world.  Of course, that includes Turbine’s DDO and will include LOTRO shortly — so this is another trend we should be watching!

As a long time gamer, it’s a really amusing process to watch, often involving repeated choked up cries of “I am not a gamer!” combined with increasing hours gaming, followed by a hunger for more complex games than Facebook’s platform tends to foster.

Facebook games have scared the hell out of the games industry because they go broad rather than deep.   And that means fast money.  People will outgrow broad-over-deep, and look for something richer.

Social [network] games are a feeder to the established game companies, much in the same way games like Club Penguin is already.  Remember when Club Penguin came out?  Were you deafened by the chorus of moans from older gamers and parents?

But Club Penguin, Puzzle Pirates — and social [network] games — are going to drive an entire generation to what we’ve thought of as Gaming, and social [network] games will feed new cohorts from boomers to millenials (disproportionately women, I’d predict) to subscription and F2P games, where community is also key.

My company is creating a cross-game virtual world platform and entertainment hub for MMO gamers, to which we hope to add licensed gateways into the major games, to add the social facilities that the gaming titles don’t want to develop.  We’ll have taverns/cantinas, rich emote vocabularies, jukebox music/video — adding a third dimension to the current metagame.  And like social networks in 2D, we’ll create an environment that promotes and creates brand evangelism for the licensors.  We believe in learning from Facebook, and using those lessons to bring MMO communities together.

Shava Nerad is CEO of Oddfellow Studios, Inc. which is developing a virtual world which, among other things, hopes to be a social nexus for MMO gamers.