When it comes to city-building and city-simulation games, one of the classic brands that pretty much own that space is SimCity. It has over two decades of experience cranking out and fully evolving city-simulation and city-planning games. It has left a massive mark in the city-building video game genre. A lot of the features that you see in other city-building games were first pioneered, developed and innovated by SimCity. Be that as it may, it has been conspicuously absent from one key and fast-growing area of the video game industry – social gaming. But that is about to change.
SimCity’s publishers EA is slated to roll out the SimCity version for social networks like Facebook, called SimCity Social. This game is a product of collaboration between EA-owned Maxis and the Beijing studio of developer Playfish. As with other SimCity games, players would shape the growth and planning of a city, and the goal is to transform a small town into a large, thriving metropolis. The big difference is that in the local software version of SimCity, players pretty much play a deity, because they can dictate not just one city but different cities around it. In SimCity Social, however, players play the role of the Mayor of just one town. They have to interact with other mayor’s decisions regarding their town. While one mayor cannot go ahead and destroy other towns on the map, decisions regarding their town will impact the towns and cities nearby. For example, if your factories and industrial plants are producing too much pollution, the impact will be felt by a town or city down-river from theirs.
This higher level of cross-reference decision is a very welcome development for social gaming. The city-building genre in social gaming has been dominated by Zynga’sCityVille. This game was released over a year ago and has met quite a bit of success. It remains to be seen if EA is going to be able to wrest the city-building crown from CityVille. One must understand that CityVille is not just the only Zynga game that dominates Facebook. Zynga is the company behind the extremely popular and famous Farmville. Considering the network and branding effect of Farmville and CityVille, it looks like EA has its work hard out for.
Regardless, SimCity Social does have a lot of aces up its sleeve, and it should, considering the game’s corporate pedigree. In particular, the city upgrades automatically. There is a fluidity of development where decisions in one part of a town impacts the behavior of the town’s residents and has effects on other buildings. Also, the social version of SimCity carries a very interesting element called Fame, where one interacts with friends through gift-giving and other actions, they generate fame. This feature can be used like money to get structures that would make the particular city unique.
SimCity Social, at least from its technical specifications and released screenshots, so far, looks like it has a lot to recommend and might give CityVille a run for its money. With that said, the biggest challenge for SimCity Social at this point, is that city-building games are not getting as much attention and interest from Facebook users as it did before.
In March of 2011, CityVille was the most popular game application on Facebook with over 21 million daily average users. At the moment, it has fallen quite a bit. The game now has only 4.9 million daily average users. This is quite a steep fall. The gap between the number one spot held by CityVille and the number 2 spot is huge. It is a 4.4 million user gap since the second-place city-building title only has around 500,000 daily active users. EA needs to resolve this city-building issue quickly for SimCity Social to be a success. The city-building genre in general is a very specific genre. It has a fixed market size and EA must really pull out all the tricks in its game strategy bag to be able to drum up and sustain player interest in SimCity Social.