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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 17, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
TIm Fields and Brandon Cotton are experienced game developers who look to explain what social gaming is than share their secrets of game design and development. Overall this book provides a clear and deep discussion of this phenomenon from a business and technical perspective. You might imagine that a book on social game design might read like a transcript from an old 'bill and ted' movie, but Fields and Cotton show that the business and technical edge of social gaming is real and something we ignore at our peril.

The book provides a multi-mode discussion of the issues surrounding social game design. The modes are text, interviews, examples and illustrations. The book is is not a how-to manual so much as a how-to-think-about-it discussion. Fields and Cotton make good use of direct discussions, interviews with gaming legends and examples to illustrate their points.

Business executives and aspiring game developers will each benefit from this book. Business executives will learn how traditional business concepts apply to social gaming and better understand the terminology and ethos behind the people that create the games. Aspiring game developers will learn from their peers as well as how to position and talk the business talk. Both valuable reasons for reading this book.

The book covers a wide range of game types and platforms from a conceptual, business and operational standpoint. People looking for more technical specs, discussions, hints and tips will be disappointed. The topics discussed are helpful and interesting but at times the advice can be a little obvious which is part of the reason for the three star review.

Recommended for people who want to understand the social gaming phenomenon at the next level -- below that of a magazine article -- as its breadth and format makes the content very accessible. Not particularly recommended for people looking for technical advice and support.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 26, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What you think social gaming is, and what social gaming *actually* is...might be two different things. This book explains in detail what a social component in gaming can do for your game, how to set it up, and most importantly, how to use that social component to monetize your programming efforts.

It covers things that you may not have considered, including the newest business models, selling virtual goods within a game, and more importantly, how to engage and captivate your players to keep them coming back for more. There are a ton of case studies -- Zynga, Microsoft, Spacetime, OMGPop, Ravenwood Fair, and more -- to give you real-world examples of how other companies have blazed trails, and what you can learn from their successes (and misses). There are sections on keeping your game "sticky" so that people return day after day, explanations of internal currencies, and types of games to inspire you to create your own social game, whether or not you're currently a programmer.

The section on metrics is worth the whole cost of the book, in fact. Learning how to acquire and interpret KPI data to improve not only your players' experience, but also to refine your monetization strategies, is, really, priceless...and something all too many otherwise good games get wrong.

This is *not* a technical how-to manual. You won't find information on how to code the things you want here. You won't get step-by-step instructions on how to create in-app purchases. Instead, think of it more as an overview of what's possible, and a very detailed survey of what's currently working (some of the data is from as late as early 2012, so it's very current at the time of this review), and how to structure the idea you might have for a game so that you can communicate that to a team or a programmer (or to yourself, if you're a programmer yourself). It touches on marketing concepts that are integral to success, and really dives into user interaction with each business model, so you can make informed choices about which direction to go with your game.

Fields and Cotton have produced a fabulous primer with this book. If you've got a game brewing in you that you're just not sure how to get out profitably, this book can begin to illuminate your path to getting it done, getting out there, and getting it *great*.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 4, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In a very thorough and succinct discussion, Fields and Cotton are able to provide readers with what could become a foundational way to look at monetization strategies in social games. The early chapters provide a good characterization of the different games (and their evolution) and the typical metrics used to assess the success of a game. The authors leverage their experience in game design to provide good examples of how (and why) these metrics matter and is a good starting point for game designers. Their discussion of the impact of social games on various stakeholders in the ecosystem (designers, developers, gamers) is also interesting. The authors main contribution is in their unique and detailed treatment of the customer acquisition and retention, monetization strategies. The last 3-4 chapters provide very thought-provoking frameworks to design incentive structures for social games. Particularly, the discussion on how to develop meaningful "leaderboards" is very informative. The chapter focusing on "currencies" for social games is also an excellent read. Chapters 7 (customer acquisition, retention), 8 (monetization) and 10 (currencies) are clear stand-outs in the book and are well worth investing in this book.

Throughout the book, each chapter features a detailed interview with experienced game designers/executives that amplify some of the points made in the chapter. While the interview format (reads like a verbatim script) and lack of a quick summary of the salient points from the interview can be distracting to some readers, it is well-worth the read. A reader will also be able to gain information nuggets along the lines of potential revenue streams (using Facebook as the example) for social media - the evolution of Facebook's revenue models alluded to in various chapters is also instructive.

As a researcher exploring the role of social media in healthcare, one area where the authors could have spent some additional time is to discuss how social media/games can be integrated with other service models whose sole purpose is not gaming/entertainment. While most of the discussion is focused exclusively on gaming-for-sake-of-gaming, the principles could be very well adapted for other service models (though that is left primarily to the reader's imagination). A more enterprising reader interested in game design for service models will be well served by exploring the discussions in Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and books on experience design such as Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier. Nevertheless, this book provides an excellent starting point for those interested in understanding how games are designed, game designers and those exploring the role of social games in other service models (retail, healthcare, etc.).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 18, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let's cut to the chase, the software industry is continuously evolving to the point that information is often obsolete even before it is published. The authors of this book make no effort to hide the fact that the information they share in this book may, at times, be out of date.

Now, this book is not by any means a 'How to' book, so don't expect detailed tips on how to program social games, rather it is a 'What' book that provides some background history of the game industry and its evolution, including the details of how the audience and monetization have grown from simple sandwich bagged floppies sold to computer geeks to downloaded or server hosted applications that appeal to broad segments of the population.

The authors offer up numerous examples and case studies to illustrate the current market and methods of getting users to part with their money. Overall, I would have to say this is a great book to get up to speed on the industry and garner a few ideas from the current practices, with the understanding that in two or three years this information may be little more than history. P-)
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on January 5, 2015
Reading this book is like having a long conversation with a veteran of the game industry: enjoyable and plenty of insights. So if you are looking for a 360 degrees overview of the social game industry, go on and get this book, you’ll get through those 200 pages with pleasure. If, on the contrary, you are interested in something more technical, then as you get to the back cover of this title, you will feel some bad taste in your mouth.

I’ve been suggested this book. Working in the game industry, I have already been exposed since day one to its rules and acronyms and I was merely interested in a title that focused on KPIs. This title marginally touch the subject, even if it’s about monetization.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pleasant book to read that, in my case, didn’t really get me any real value. I simply had the wrong expectations from it, maybe driven by the title, which could have been different, indeed.

The authors describe the many concepts that anyone into social games must know, starting with a history lesson about how the industry evolved from text based adventures to MMORPGs and games asynchronously played on the major social networks and/or on mobile devices.

This approach is used throughout the eleven chapters: all the topics are introduced first as they were in the past, when solo playing was the rule; then as they are now, in a world where everyone is connected and playing together.

Among them, I have particularly enjoyed those about the power of competition and cooperation, as well as the desire to show off success and vanity goods. The importance to quickly adapt, through A/B testing, to a fast moving cruel industry where hundreds of competitors are ready to get a piece of your cake is constantly highlighted.

There are a couple of things that I’ve particularly liked about this book: the first is that the authors often accompany the concepts with real world examples of companies and games and how they were able to exploit this or that social feature. The second detail that I have really loved is the interview with some legend of the game industry that you find at the end of each chapter. These interviews usually take up some good 4 to 5 pages and are a great mix of wisdom learned from the past and vision of the present/future of the industry.

So, this title is a good up to date read, as long as you are not expecting to get some formula or technical details about monetization. A pleasure to read.

As usual, you can find more reviews on my personal blog: http://books.lostinmalloc.com. Feel free to pass by and share your thoughts!
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VINE VOICEon February 27, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
With the recent push of social business and gamification I wanted a viewpoint from the originators of the idea. Social Game Design: Monetization Methods and Mechanics by Tim Fields and Brandon Cotton comes from true successful experience. Game designers lead the way in gamification and monetization with many of the tips applicable to social business design.

I am glad I was able to get this book for review after getting into the second chapter. The first chapter was just introductory and gave you an idea on what the book does not cover. I fully anticipated it to be about online and mobile games with tons of technique I could apply outside of that.

Chapter 2 has a subsection that summed up social business ideas in many enterprises. Just being online or multiplayer in their words does not make you social. This is a point often overlooked by businesses entering the deployment and ideas. The ability to bring employees, partners and customers back again and again is a key component.

A highlight of the book is the interviews at the end of each section with major names in social game monetization. They openly talk about how they built the empires and what mistakes they made along the way. It is great knowledge and the same mistakes that we will all make.

While chapter 3 is only a few pages on the history of game monetization,chapter 4 gives the business reason to build social into the game or your company site if you look at it with the same lenses I did. Industry terms were not as important that were shown in Chapter 5 but serve a good reference point for some analytics you will need when deploying.

I felt Chapter 7 was the most important one I read showing you how to acquire, keep and regain users. Not only through innovation but by building in rewards and systems to keep them energized about your platform. Acquiring the users is the highest cost a social business will have. Providing value back to the enterprise is a grassroots effect. Getting the data into the system and having it grow is where rewards, leaderboards and badges come into play.

For the gamers reading this the book definitely covers virtual goods, payment systems and forms of currency. Being able to decide what platforms will be beneficial and how to set varying levels of gaming are all explored with great expertise.

This book has value for both the game writer and business trying to get into the social game.

Disclosure: The above links are Amazon affiliate links for the book.
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on February 5, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Back when computing resources were very expensive, very few people had access to computer games, and those games were mostly for single players only, and offered very few bells and whistles. Today, with many types of computing resources having fallen in cost, the bells and whistles in computer games have increased. Games that can be played on mobile phones and have a social interaction component to them are now available, and are, in fact, growing in popularity, and attracting new types of player demographics that computer game publishers are competing to win over and convert into loyal and paying customers.

If you are relatively new to the world of social game publishing and have a desire to learn how to grow your business, consider perusing this book.

Written by veterans of the computer gaming industry, this book begins with a historical and analytical look at how computer games and business models for computer game retailing and publishing have evolved over the past decades. The authors then define what social games are, and the new business model challenges and opportunities they bring, specifically: (1) how to minimize cost when the predominant customer acquisition strategy in the social games space is to make a game freely available for play; (2) how to incentivize a non-paying player to convert into a paying customer as soon as possible; (3) how to keep both paying and non-paying players interested in your game so paying customers will continue to spend money and non-paying ones will increasingly convert into paying customers; (4) how to carefully manage the various types of incentives that are being given out in order to minimize the risk of creating conditions that might turn some players off; and (5) how to fail fast so you can attempt to change direction and recover quickly by being responsive to feedback from your customers and business metrics.

Success doesn't come easy in this business. The guidance provided in this very well-written book is helpful, realistic, and mostly concrete. Transcripts of interviews with industry luminaries at the end of most chapters did provide additional and valuable insights, but your mileage will vary depending on the generosity and/or articulateness of the interviewed luminary.
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Vast new fortunes have been made un just the past few years as social networks grew at stratospheric rates. Games like Farmville on Facebook attracted millions upon millions of players, some of whom actually paid incremental sums for special privileges, masked as game enhancements. The authors discuss just how ostensibly free games can be monetized and hopefully make the developers rich.

Using Facebook as an example, they estimate only 3 to 5% of the free players become paying customers and they spend small sums, called "microtransactions" by one major developer.

The subject here isn't coding, but rather the sociology of games, the nature of social networks, who plays online games, the science of social game design and, because it is very necessary, a brief history of computer gaming.

The authors approach their task as if it were a graduate seminar. The tone is light, though the content is very serious. Extensive attention is paid to the subject line of the book - monetization methods - along with an examination of the various payment strategies, analytics and all the other elements that go into creating and then maximizing game revenue.

This is a serious book. If you're fascinated with the challenge of creating a revenue producing online game, this book will absolutely teach you the current state of the techniques for doing so. (The authors warn that the nature of the industry changes rapidly.) And, if you are merely a student of marketing or an advertiser, this book is also a very interesting read: it will give you insight into how and where you should spend your advertising dollars.

Jerry
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Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
People like other people. From the dark ages of the 50s when "social gaming" meant going down the block to play Monopoly with your friends, or having your buddies over for bridge or poker, the potential for social gaming has lurked behind those compelling solo games.

What we have here is a thorough straightforward primer on how to make money from your social game, whether it is on a social network or relies on its own servers, or whatever comes next. The emphasis is on social network games, since those are the newest and hottest opportunity.

You probably already know that the basic ways to make money from a game include pay to buy, advertising in the game, micropurchases of cool status stuff or extra tools and features inside the game, and pay to buy a different enhanced version of the game. But there are many subtleties to most of these, and this book discusses them in detail, including tradeoffs and methods. And how to attract people to your game when there are so many other games around, not to mention other ways to spend time.

As a bonus, there are focused interviews with prominent and successful developers of social games. These are more interesting than the usual developer interviews, partly because the authors chose articulate people to interview and partly because the interviews stick to the making-money issues rather than nostalgia and glory and such.

I must say that none of the information was surprising to me, and little may be surprising to you if you've thought or observed much about the issues. But it is useful to have it all together in a no-fat, no-silliness volume.

Another Morgan Kaufman winner here. Well-written, too.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Summary:
Social Game Design (monetization methods and mechanics) level and tone is setup as a series of essays on elements related to social gaming. The depth of the essays is like an in-depth article that you would fine in Game Development magazines. The people who will benefit the most from it are: Product Manager looking to add social gaming elements into their software, traditional game architects / producers and game studio management looking to evaluation if social game elements are appropriate for their next game.

It would be interesting if the authors would do an update to explain why firms like Zynga are not doing well after the initial rapid user base ramp-up. I think this is where a book like this could clearly show you industry best practices -- what works, what does not work and why.

Format:
The format is an outline of key social game elements where certain topics get much more treament than others. The concepts are illustrated with use cases, personal interviews and screen shots from various games. This why the book will be rapidly dated as the games mentioned may/may not survive by the time you get to reading the book. Also, the field of social game is fairly new and rapidly evolving.

I found the format to be a bit hard to deal with -- too much going on and it feels a bit scatter shot. Granted, I am software developer, project manager and product manager so I am used to books more focused on specific topics.

The book does succeed in providing a solid background/list of topics to research elsewhere.
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