Much has been written about the genius of Playfish, Zynga and Playdom.
Playdom CEO John Pleasants recently said he expected to see “synchronous gameplay as an extension of some asynchronous games”. That struck me as interesting: not so much as an opportunity for FarmVille to go peer to peer, but for synchronous gameplay to evolve out of traditional asynchronous gaming and betting.
Let me explain.
The experiments of the social games companies suggests that getting a whole bunch of people to play games AT THE SAME TIME is so tough, you may as well focus your efforts else where.
Well I believe there’s a future for games where you need an “appointment to play”. This is the nub of the investment thesis for my investment in and ongoing support for PickLive.
So firstly to establish what I’m not talking about:
I’m not talking about a lobby system game like king.com or GameDuell. Where users pitch up and are told to “hang on a sec, another user is joining your room any second now.” These are true peer to peer games and synchronous but not event based.
I’m also not talking about virtual worlds like WoW or console games with web connectivity like Halo. Again these are synchronous but based on personal connection not events.
Clearly what I AM talking about is events. But what sort of events?
Well, for example, during the recent British election we had televised presidential debates, and watching these on TV was OK but watching real-time comments over twitter made an enormous difference to my understanding of the event. My experience of the event was better with a laptop open.
And so to sports.
Sports are the obvious events that already have passionate audiences of millions. Who come back every week. Big markets. The idea of a web-game we can play in real time alongside these events is for me pretty compelling. Especially when we consider two things:
1) The competitive landscape is weak. Worldwide “in game betting" is growing fast but its not social, it is based on very weak variables and isn't really a game, more a grubby bet.
2) The iphone has changed everything. People can play along in the pub while watching the football. At the ground watching the baseball. And the ipad will change everything again. The ultimate sofa companion for your Monday night Football.
The issue. The BIG issue. Is that events, by definition, have a immovable start time. If you want to play along, you need to be ready at your iphone when the game is on. You need an "appointment to play". This is therefore not a casual game, but a scheduled game. And this means that Picklive either need to register strongly in the mind of the gamer for them to "tune in" and / or develop a customer acquisition strategy embedded with the event or it's coverage. difficult but not impossible.
And so I invested in Picklive.
Investment thesis + great team. QED.