The world of Flash based games have been growing strong since gamers first snuck into games like Adventure Quest to beat up a few monsters during a coffee break at work. They have grown from single player games to asynchronous multiplayer to synchronous MMOs as developers took advantage of this easily accessed platform. They may not have the uber hard-core cache of client based MMOs that require cutting edge computers to run, but they nevertheless have their own following and fans. How handy to be able to access your game anywhere with any Flash capable web browser. Especially for MMO-RTS games, the ability to nip into the game start a crafting, research or building queue during a coffee break while at work is compelling. That being said, why not turn to Facebook to take advantage of its 600 million users? Can any game portal boast that many users and that many countries served?
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, real MMOs exist on Facebook. Some with multi-classing systems, all with the familiar EverQuest / World of Warcraft type gameplay. Kill creatures, group with friends, do quests, complete with back story and regular content updates. Due to the limitations of the platform, combat and crafting is simpler, as are guild functions and there won’t be 72 man raids in them. They range from the cute, quirky, and amusing to the feature rich, with character development to rival any of the big MMOs.
Facebook MMOs did not start with the much touted the vampire themed City of Eternals in November of 2009. Prior to that was a lesser publicized game launched a year prior, Sacred Seasons, with a multi-class system similar to the jobs system in Final Fantasy XI and the soul system in Rift. A game that proved popular enough it now has a re-telling of the tale, Sacred Seasons 2.
One thing all these Facebook MMOs have in common is that since the games are Flash based, they are not limited to the Facebook platform and are served through other games portals such as Kongregate and their own websites, with no difference to the game itself. Players play on the same shard or world regardless of how they access the game. Another common facet is that they are all free to play, although their monetization methods can vary from micro-transactions to subscriptions to a blend of the two, and are linked to Facebook via features such as “Facebook Like” and “Facebook Connect.” There is no commonality in art styles and they run the gamut of top down to isometric 2-D to full 3-D graphics.
What is more interesting about the Facebook platform is that the number of players is quite transparent. Monthly active users (mau) are reported on the application’s Facebook page and often players are encouraged to “Like” the game for a reward. Services such as Appdata show the daily active users, monthly active users as well as a ratio of the two which serves as an indication of the game’s stickiness. For example a “stickiness” factor of 5% of 1 million monthly users is an indication that there are a potential 50,000 users a month that pay to play the game, be they just using a single Facebook credit to the “whales” that can spend hundreds and thousands on games.
Here is a quick round-up of current MMOs on Facebook:
City of Eternals by Ohai, Inc. launched 11/06/2009 with Scott Hartsman of EverQuest II and Rift at the helm. This modern day vampire themed MMO launched at a time when vampire shows and books were all the rage but never did all that well on Facebook, currently running 2,600 mau with a high of only 7,600 mau.
Faunasphere by Big Fish Games, launched 12/18/2009 with Toby Ragaini of Asheron’s Call directing. An MMO where you zap pollution, decorate your home, breed Fauna and grow a community tree by donating resources. We reviewed this game in 2009. It currently has 8,700 mau with an all time high of 345,000 mau.
Fantasy Online by Pixelated Games, launched 1/29/2009. A quirky, amusing game with snarky quest dialogue and pixel art style that takes you back to old, old console RPGs. Would MMORPG readers believe it is currently running 21,000 mau with an all time high of 135,000?
MilMo by Swedish game company Junebud AB launched 7/16/2010. This is a colorful, fully 3-D game that’s targeted at the teen population on Facebook. It currently boasts 46,000 mau with an all time high of 524,000.
Sacred Seasons 2 by Emerald City Games, launched 12/9/2010. This game is a reboot of the original Sacred Seasons and has global and local chat, guild functions and a multi-class system. Currently it is running 215,000 mau and that number is climbing steadily.
A newcomer to the Facebook MMO scene is actually an RTS, Battle Pirates by Casual Collective which only just launched and already boasts 46,000 mau. This is an empire building game where you can attack other players on a map and control your fleets or protect your base in real time.
As other developers begin to take advantage of the versatility of the browser platform and the Facebook market, can we expect more MMOs to launch on Facebook? I certainly think so. MMOs that appeal to the casual player, core gamers looking for a more casual game, kids and women that make up most of the social game market. The Facebook game has come a long way.