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Social Game Design: Monetization Methods and Mechanics Paperback – Dec 12 2011

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About the Author

Tim Fields has been in the game industry since 1995 as a producer, project manager, design lead, and business developer. Tim has helped small studios and top publishers like EA and Microsoft run teams that create great games. He has worked on shooters, sports games, racing titles, and RPGs using talent and teams from North America, Asia, Europe, and the UK.
Brandon Cotton has over 10 years of game industry experience covering a wide variety of technology, platforms and game types. He is active in the social and online game design community, and currently serves as a founder, design lead, and programmer for Portalarium. He has built games for NCSoft, Ubisoft, and Microsoft, and holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A clear and deep discussion more about gaming than about social design Feb. 17 2012
By Mark P. McDonald - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Well-written and timely information Jan. 26 2012
By Peony Blue - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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*.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A thorough framework for monetization; lacks discussion on service models Feb. 4 2012
By Jijnasu Forever - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.).
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Limited shelf life Sept. 18 2012
By David Stapleton - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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-)
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Social gaming elements defined...will be rapidly dated Oct. 14 2012
By L. C Glover - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product
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.

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.