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If 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.
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.