Mafia Wars has it Made

May 20, 2009 | Mobile & Web

Mafiawars 595438 pixels



Social games, or social network games, are those turns-based non-interactive, and non-cool graphics games that seem to defy convention logics about gaming. Social games share more DNA and ancestry with the board games like Monopoly and Life than any games that are computer-based.

I’ve been playing this social network games called Mafia Wars on my iPhone, and despite having very little that’s new and innovative, it’s surprisingly addictive. Part of it has to do with it being always available at my finger top on the iPhone, but we’ve covered that aspect before. What’s new here is that these games recreates the family game night or party board game experience, any time, anywhere, with a good deal of enhancement as well.

In the Mafia War’s case, it’s basically Mario Puzzo and Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather, where you battle for dollars and power. Each player has a certain number of attributes such as health, money, and of course attack or defense skills. Money buys you more weapons and vehicles, which increases you attack skills. Battling with other mafia members earn you money, of course, which you can then “invest” in anything from neighborhood stores to mega casino complexes right in downtown. More money buys you more weapons, which allow you to fight more, and the cycle continues. You know the drill.


What’s fun about these games is that you get to play with friends, without needing the synchronicity of place and time. It’s not the game itself that’s fun, it’s the chit-chats, the trash-talking, and the relationship buildings for people you know (or hardly know). It’s a social experience more so than a gaming experience.

In an age where busy people are finding it harder and harder to get together, this is another way for us to stay connected.

Social gaming networks are starting to form, much like how Electronics Arts became a major computer games publisher, with smaller creative game makers to form a eco system.

I also see product placement and sponsorship in these social games as a natural monetization strategy, besides the obvious revenue sources of game sales and more in-your-face advertising. Being able to insert a brand into an existing flesh and blood-based relationship, rather than some virtual Second Life, creates a lot more relevance and good will.

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