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Summary:

If the growing number of games being played on it are any indication, then San Francisco-based micro-messaging service

twitterlogoIf the growing number of games being played on it are any indication, then San Francisco-based micro-messaging service Twitter has the potential to become the next major casual gaming hub. The thought first came to me a few weeks ago, when I discovered Spymaster, a game that allows you to run your own spy ring. Every action in the game is tweeted to your followers. After an initial burst, the game activity has moderated somewhat, but in the meantime it got me thinking about Twitter-based games, of which there are many. Among them:

  • Trivia on Twitter
  • Terminator Salvation, aimed at promoting the latest “Terminator” movie.
  • WhoseTweet shows you 20 random Twitter messages, one at a time, and you try to identify to which one of your friends the tweet belongs. When it’s over, you can compare your performance with your friends.
  • Tweet Quiz makes you guess the hidden words using clues delivered by tweets (kind of like a crossword puzzle), and each word yields a different amount of points.
  • Beat My Tweet consists of scrambled words for followers to unscramble. Its site has a leaderboard to track players.
  • Twivia tweets trivia questions several times a day and followers respond with @ replies; the first to answer gets points, which are tracked on a leaderboard.
  • Twitbrain tweets out a math problem, and people race to @ reply back the fastest; results are posted on the site’s leaderboard.

Most of the aforementioned games are pretty basic and text-based, but I think in time we will see the emergence of more complex and interesting games. Spymaster is going to be first of many. For context, let’s go back to 2007, when Facebook launched its application platform.

Taking a Cue From Facebook

After initial experiments with pointless apps such as vampire bites and zombies, Facebook quickly became a casual gaming mecca, thanks to the success of games such as Scrabulous, Mafia Wars and scores of other multiplayer social games. Twitter could follow the same path as well.

After all, much like Facebook, Twitter offers the virality so vital to a social network, a name space and thumbnails, a communication channel for messages and notifications, and a simple API for developers. It also has momentum. But those are the basic building blocks of a good social gaming hub — they need to be aggregated to produce engaging experiences as well.

Just like Facebook has been pushing developers to use Facebook Connect for authentication, Twitter can help game (and app) developers build their own gaming destinations by leveraging Twitter’s distribution network.

Of course, all of this means nothing without good games that can hold people’s attention.

  1. Not until Twitter is really realtime. Twitter is a messaging system and messaging systems should have a messaging architecture. The HTTP polling paradigm will prevent Twitter from getting really big in games. It should be XMPP like Google Wave. Maybe round based or async games, but the Twitbrain example where people race reply shows the problem. The polling interval decides who wins.

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  2. you missed http://zombietweet.com :p not really a game just an experiment I did.

    I have designed a couple of games for twitter but they are not ready for prime time yet, The issues are balancing useful information with spam. You want people to be able to use twitter but you don’t want to be spam.

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  3. Oh please god no. We get enough of that crap on facebook. The last thing we need is to spread the twitter game meme which would allow it to become a spam filled crapyard. If this does become prevalent there MUST be an easy way to screen ALL game traffic out of your tweetstream.

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  4. Om, I don’t see Twitter being a legitimate platform for social gaming, at least not in the near future. As you know there was a lot of backlash from the SpyMaster game, most people don’t want to read those sorts of tweets. People have and are starting to enjoy the quality casual games on iPhone, FB, Myspace, etc. I don’t see why a user would leave those sites to play social/casual games on twitter. If you are using Twitter, you are likely to use Facebook as well, so why go to a less optimal platform to play games? If Zynga/Playdom/Playfish/Others can create applications to run on Twitter, than they can be become a hub

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  5. Twitter is hated by so many people now. For sure gamers will not like twitter. It is a waste of everyones time. Twitter is started to plagued by spammers and bots. For example have a look at http://www.istwittercrap.com and see how many million people hate twitter. I wish twitter goes down like that whale.

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  6. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but so far nearly all of the Twitter games are ports of word games. Spymaster was interesting in that it actually made use of the social component of Twitter, but went wrong by exploiting it to promote itself, rather than the players. So what would a social game that lives inside of Twitter rather than riding on top of it look like?

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  7. ramsay taplin Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    i think twitter games will just end up a fad. Fast rise, fast fall. Real gamers will play real games and twitter will remain the abode of updates. But, the spam issue is a big one. People are marketing links way too hard on twitter now

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  8. Thanks for the mention! In our short existence (we launched a week ago), here’s what we’ve learned so far:
    1) people like trivia (2500 players in 1 week)
    2) interacting and learning from your players is important! we’ve had some issues happen already and if we were not communicating well, I think people would’ve gotten very frustrated very quickly.
    3) build what they want, not what you want – we’ve been running surveys to learn about timing, difficulty level, community engagement, etc
    4) people like real world prizes
    5) sponsors like easily trackable systems (# of followers, # of players, for example)
    6) growth ebbs and flows – that’s okay
    7) it’s important to not have your players’ actions become annoying to their twitter followers

    And most important – running a trivia game is a lot of fun! I think it’s as addictive to us as it is to the players!

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  9. [...] problem with all the titles listed above (and more, enumerated here) is that none of them actually seem like they would be very fun. Sure, they all take advantage of [...]

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  10. [...] Tags: Casual Gaming Hub, dls-csb, Facebook, gigaom, Twitter trackback A very interesting post by GigaOm posits this: “After initial experiments with pointless apps such as vampire bites and zombies, Facebook [...]

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