据游戏邦了解，早期的Facebook游戏生态圈也是由许多商品、游戏构成的，这些东西归根到底都是一样的。 就像《Farm Town》和 《FarmVille》，《Mobsters》和《Mafia Wars》，《Happy Aquarium》和《FishVille》，以及其他无数的游戏一样。这让许多玩家（和开发商）对这一平台的最初情况感到困惑，“就是这些了吗？廉价游戏的翻版？”在早期的用户抢夺大战中，传播就是王道，独具匠心的游戏功能可以虏获无数的用户，开发商争相以最快的速度争取用户，尽管这些游戏都差不多，但谁也不清楚大家为什么不玩自己原先找到的那款游戏。
任天堂娱乐系统（Nintendo Entertainment System ）原来的开发商也是处于商品时期。当时开发成本很低，游戏平台和市场都是新兴事物，大家的创意换个包装后还是一样好卖。所有类型的公司都开发多种游戏，早期的玩家一开始都很乐意尝试眼前的东西。
回过头再去玩一些这一时期的游戏，你会发觉很有趣。有很多公司的名字你可能还认得：Konami、Capcom、 Enix。但也有很多你可能闻所未闻的名字：SOFEL、Electro Brain、或者Bullet Proof Software。有些公司在20年后雄风依旧，其开发的产品仍广受热捧，但有的公司却早已销声匿迹，或是勉强被收购，或宣布破产。
据游戏邦了解，暴雪是世界公认的最成功的游戏公司之一，有许多游戏均取得巨大成功，如《魔兽世界》（World of Warcraft），《暗黑破坏神》（Diablo）和《星际争霸》（Starcraft）。然而就算是暴雪也并不总是一帆风顺的；早期的暴雪和其他公司一样，主要靠模仿。早期的暴雪就是靠像《单车竞赛》（RPM Racing），《象棋大战》（Battle Chess），《MicroLeagues Baseball》和《黑暗王座》（Blackthorne）之类的游戏勉强立足。这些游戏的风格特点都有其竞争对手的影子；暴雪对每种游戏均有涉猎，但并未在任何游戏上表现特别突出。
那么暴雪公司发生了什么变化呢？暴雪学会针对特定用户群开发游戏。暴雪公司的《魔兽争霸：奥克斯和人类》（WarCraft: Orcs and Humans）卖得非常好，超越公司以往的其他游戏。不够睿智的团队可能会认为这一成功得归功于营销，广告，或者运营策略。虽然这些因素确实起了一定的作用，但变化的关键在于游戏的设计：设计什么游戏，游戏如何操作，如何让游戏受玩家欢迎，暴雪团队对此一清二楚。
Targeted Positioning in the Age of Social GamesFebruary 10th, 2011
This is a guest post by Brice Morrison, former CrowdStar designer and editor of industry game design resource The Game Prodigy.
Commodities are products with no differentiation; oil, grain, and gold are some of the most common examples. There are no competitive advantages, no deluxe features, no brand names or favorite companies that consumers like to buy from. A commodity is bought by consumers based entirely on price; the cheaper the better. If A is cheaper than B, then that’s all the information that’s needed to make a purchasing decision.
The early Facebook game ecosystem was made up of many commodities, games that originally were exactly the same as one another. Farm Town and FarmVille, Mobsters and Mafia Wars, Happy Aquarium and FishVille, and countless others. It led many players (and developers) to be confused by the early platform, asking, “Is this all this is? Copies of cheap games?” In the early massive user-grab time period, where virality was king and hundreds of thousands of users could be gained by clever features, it was often a race to who could get to the user first.
It didn’t matter that the games were very similar; since it was hard to tell the difference, why not just play the one that you found originally?
But as time has gone on, both the Facebook platform and Facebook players have matured, and commodity games are no longer acceptable. As production values have skyrocketed, what used to be simple titles that could be copied in a few weeks have become massive undertakings, requiring dozens of developers, months of time, and careful understandings of the original game’s design. With these production costs, players expectations have risen as well.
Thus, we are continually entering an age of a mature Facebook market, where game success isn’t defined by commodity rules of distribution and marketing muscle alone. Instead, games are defined by differentiation, by a unique brand of fun, and by customer loyalty. No one wants to play the game that is 90% as good as Cityville — they want to play Cityville. While the games of yesterday appeared to be a crowd of clones, games of today and tomorrow look very different from one another and players are choosing what to play by comparison.
So what are today’s social game companies to do? What kinds of games will resonate with consumers, and what kinds of games will no longer work? Many of these answers can be provided by history, during a time when the game console market seemed very similar to today’s Facebook ecosystem.
Positioning in Early Console Days
In the early days of console games, developers for the original Nintendo Entertainment System were in a commodity-state as well. Development was cheap, the platform and market was new, and ideas were easily copied and resold as new ideas. All kinds of companies made all kinds of games, and early players were happy to try out whatever was in front of them…for the time being.
It’s interesting to look back and play some of the games from this era. Many of the companies names you may recognize: Konami, Capcom, Enix. But there are many other names you wouldn’t recognize: SOFEL, Electro Brain, or Bullet Proof Software. While one group lives on, producing products that players love twenty years later, the other group has disappeared into obscurity, either through reluctant acquisition or bankruptcy.
Of course there are always outside factors to the success of a company, but it is telling to look at the lists of games that each group of developers made. One group learned to focus their products into one type of game design they could be the best at, while the others continued to explore new genres with every release. Companies that learned how to create a specific type of a game, with a style of gameplay, a common fanbase, a unique art treatment, these were the companies that survived. They learned how to transition from a commodity-style game market to a positioning-style game market.
Companies that were unable to position themselves fell away. ”What kind of games does XYZ make?” ”Well, we make all kinds of games.” This isn’t what a mature player wanted to hear.
While that absence of positioning worked during the early days of a platform, when players were still exploring and learning about their own preferences, the strategy no longer worked as the platform grew older.
Mature players wanted a positioned product, they said, “I want to play an action side-scroller; I’ll go play a Konami game.” Or a slightly different type of player said, “I want to play a competitive fighting game, I’ll go play a Capcom game.” Each of these positions were taken up by a company that became dedicated to their differentiation, and captured large numbers of players in the process. And by training their development teams with each title to be able to deliver the best in that position, they allowed themselves to evolve successfully with the platform.
Commodity to Positioning Case Study: Blizzard
Blizzard is a company that is often cited as one of the most successful game companies in the world, citing massive success for titles like World of Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft. However, even Blizzard wasn’t always successful; in the early days of Blizzard, it was a “me too” company just like many of the others. RPM Racing, Battle Chess, MicroLeagues Baseball, and Blackthorne were all early Blizzard titles which barely managed to keep the company afloat. These commodity titles all had similar game designs to competitors; Blizzard was mediocre at everything and master of none.
What made the difference? Blizzard learned to position their games. With the best selling “WarCraft: Orcs and Humans”, the game was a smash hit, far outselling any Blizzard title before it. A less wise leadership team may have decided that it was marketing, advertising, or business strategy that had resulted in the success. And while those undoubtedly played a factor, the key that made all the difference was the game design: what the game was, how it worked, and how players loved playing it. And Blizzard’s team understood that.
Thus, after a string of mild successes from 1991-1994, once WarCraft came out the company pivoted hard to focus entirely on creating one type of title: online competitive games. Warcraft II in ’95, Diablo in ’97, Starcraft in ’98. All competitive online titles. By focusing on one style of gameplay and mastering it, Blizzard created a development team that was the best in the world at what they did, and a rabid fan base that loved what no one else could deliver. By positioning themselves as the best developers of online competitive games in the world, they found their niche. The rest is history.
The Cycle Repeats with Facebook
The cycle of platform release, commodity products, and differentiated products has repeated many times. Each time, developers and designers that hit it big in the early stages but fail to evolve and differentiate themselves fall victim to the cycle and are forgotten. Companies that learn to develop their specialty, their core experience, and their specific type of player find wild success in the later stages.
You can see much of this playing out now, as many social game companies are learning to find their niches and deliver experiences that no other company can. Zynga is striving (and succeeding) to be king of the mass-market casual titles, simple games with great depth that focus on building, nurturing, and growing. PopCap is continuing its tradition of elegant games that involve only a few player actions and lead to great depth and high scores. Causal Collective is aiming to become a Facebook game company for violent and more male-oriented titles.
Other companies, on the other hand, have yet to understand what their “special sauce” is, the type of game that they are the best suited to make. And until they figure their position out,
DAU’s will continue to drop as players migrate to more targeted experiences. As time goes on, more and more developers that try to copy others will burn through millions in dev and advertising costs without much to show for it. While those strategies worked in a commodities market, it will not work in a mature market, where players are ready to settle down with their favorite game franchises and give their loyalty.（Source：Inside Social Games）