Mobile games have a lot of good qualities. They're cheap, portable and lots of times, they'll outperform a $60 console game. But lately it feels like games for smartphones and tablet computers have become more demanding.
At worst, they can resemble a mooching friend, asking for a few dollars more -- or worse, seeking access to your Twitter and Facebook accounts.
It's that last point that I've found particularly annoying lately.
Yes, Facebook integration can help games like Zynga's "Words With Friends," where you probably want to play with real-life friends.
But more and more, it seems like games are begging you to tweet about them or post your high scores on your Facebook wall. It's like viral marketing, but in an obnoxious way.
Michael Pachter, a research analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, agreed with me.
"It feels obtrusive to me," he said. "I think that games that require you to link to social media will lose players more rapidly than those that do not."
I asked some developers around Austin what they thought.
Not surprisingly, several had mixed emotions.
Patrick Curry, CEO of Austin developer Fun Machine, said he sees both sides of the issue.
"Letting players easily tell their friends about your game is a huge boon to game developers -- it's essentially free advertising, and in some ways it's much better than an ad, because someone is saying 'Hey, I'm playing this game and I endorse it' directly to their friends and followers," he wrote in an email.
"That's powerful stuff. But I'm sensitive to my personal privacy, and respect the privacy of people who download and play our games, so I don't want to force that on anyone."
That's the rub that developers are facing. Smartphones have been around since 2007. The App Store is crowded and getting your app noticed is harder than ever before. And Twitter and Facebook offer a cheap, easy way to get the word out about your product.
Jo Lammert, studio director of White Whale Games, said the integration of social media can be a fun way to share the excitement of a game.
"For example, I was playing 'Zombies, Run!' on my iPhone for a while and a couple times I thought it'd be kind of fun to show off how far I ran in real life, along with how many zombies I escaped from," she said.
But that novelty can wear off fast, she said.
When Lammert goes through her own Facebook feed, "anything even looks remotely automated/spammy, I'm turned off."
Which isn't what developers want, of course. In the end, they want organic word of mouth -- not for your friends to think you're a spammer.
"I've yet to see a Twitter/(Facebook) implementation strategy that is fun for long term," Lammert said. "And as both a developer and gamer, I worry that such implementation runs the risk of starting to antagonize their followers, who in turn will start to hate the game that is cluttering their Twitter."
Which is the big risk that companies take when they too-aggressively solicit recommendations.
If you get too annoying, the delete option is only a click away.
Gary Gattis, CEO of Austin's Spacetime Studios, said that mobile games are taking cues from successful Facebook games such as Zynga's FarmVille.
"Part of the reason that Zynga games were so successful on that platform is that they used customers as a currency source," Gattis said.
"For example, it may take a day to grow your crops, but if you invited four friends to 'help' you then it would only take an hour. This was an extremely intrusive mechanism, and led Facebook to enact some controls on what types of requests could be shown to your social graph. Mobile has become the next gaming forefront, and developers are trying to re-create the type of viral acquisition that made some companies so successful on Facebook. As a result they are asking for access to your social graph to help spread awareness of their games."
"I personally don't agree with this," he said, "but I understand why they are doing it."
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