With GunShine, SuperCell Looks to Create a More Social MMOG Off the Facebook Canvas

As Facebook becomes crowded with successful titles, developers are looking for other ways to publish their games. Some are looking at alternative platforms. Still others are using the Facebook platform as a method to create a community. Supercell of Finland is one such developer.

GunShine, a semi-traditional MMOG we previewed in February, has no plans to run inside the Facebook canvas, yet it will use players’ feeds and friends list for virality. Eschewing the dogma of asking the player to post for help to complete a mission, Gunshine will instead ask the player to post only “brag” posts.

While this may sound appealing on a personal level, at first blush it appears as virtual suicide in game design. At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen, COO Janne Snellman, and Creative Director Mikko Kodisoja clarified their strategy and explained their plans for launching a successful MMOG using Facebook.

“We believe that if the game is good enough,“ commented Paananen, “it will sell itself through word of mouth. People will talk about it and that should increase our community. But this doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas on how best to use Facebook to our advantage.”

Upon entry, a user will be able to see which of their Facebook friends are currently active in the game. A message can then be sent to that player, allowing for synchronous play. If no friends are available and the user chooses not to play with strangers, Facebook friends can be hired like henchman in an asynchronous atmosphere.

While this works to bring together groups or find friends already playing, it does little to encourage a user to post to the wall. After several false starts at finding the answer due to language differences, I found the question that would elicit the answer I was looking for.

“You are depending upon people talking about your game to get them to start playing it. Brag posts are how they will know it even exists. Why would I even want to brag?”

“Credibility,” they told me in unison.

Credibility is a player stat that can either be purchased for significant Diamonds (the in-game microcurrency) or increased by posting brag posts to a user’s wall. The key to Credibility is in what it gives you — additional content. If Supercell makes this content compelling enough, they may have struck just the right balance to have created a mechanism that is both viral and monetizable.

Another mechanic that has been anathema to traditional MMOG designers but Supercell seems willing to embrace whole-heartedly is having durability on purchaseable items. Those these items can be repaired creating a never-ending money sink, they do eventually wear out and require replacement. Puzzle Pirates has existed successfully on this model for five of its seven years but it is a mechanic other North American designers have been unwilling to attempt.

Durability not only places a dependence between players (those who repair and those who need it), but it allows for a dependable revenue model as gameplay and monetization become one and the same.

With GunShine still in the first two weeks of closed beta it is difficult to make a determination as to whether the players find it a compelling game. Beta is invite-only and much can change before launch. But Supercell seems to be willing to the risks necessary to be successful by using Facebook without being part of Facebook.

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3 Responses to “With GunShine, SuperCell Looks to Create a More Social MMOG Off the Facebook Canvas”

  1. D says:

    When I started playing this game the first thing that came to mind was: “finally an MMO I can play!”. I never played MMOs before, however Gunshine I was able to fully embrace.

    I see the game as a casual approach to MMOs. For starters, I think the fact it requires no installation or super powerful machine is the big plus. It’s also their punchline (which makes me wonder why it was not mentioned in the article). The urban theme and isometric world also made it easier for me to learn it as opposed to World of Warcraft’s fantasy world where a casual player like me needs more time explore and grasp (Compare weapons with magic: I know guns are used to shoot with, pretty straght forward. Magic on the other hand…you need some abstraction and patience to learn…but that’s me.)

    About the virality point, the article mentions that the posts are only bragging posts, but how it actually works is that the posting window is ALWAYS visible. So when something in the game happens, the box only suggests something for the player to post, however the player can post anything at any given time – which I found a genius solution. Different players have different motivations, hence it’s hard to tailor posts that would inspire every single player to post. My posts could have never been predicted by the developers: “It’s 4am and I’m still playing this thing…there goes my Saturday…”.

    It ofc remains to be seen if the non-pushy approach will bring the desirable numbers but I appreciate that the developers are taking their time to experiment with new ideas in closed Beta as opposed to just use conventions.

    I do think that friends are under-used in the game and that aspect could be improved a lot. For instance, there’s no clear advantage in having a big friend list in the game, so I don’t see the value in inviting more of my friends. A cool down system for using your friend’s character when they are offline is the first thing that comes to mind.

    As my final point, I also don’t see it as a Facebook game, but as a web game that used Facebook connect as an extra. There are successful MMOs developed prior to Facebook, so I don’t think the “we are independent” approach necessarily means “death sentence” but more of a trend actually. These guys are really onto something and I can’t wait to see what they will discover with their bold moves and how that will translate into upcoming updates.

  2. Now pulling in $1M a day, Supercell reflects on a banner year | PandoDaily says:

    [...] year, Supercell killed three games, including its first effort, “Gunshine,” a beta release of “Battle Buddies,” which was available only in Canada, and an unannounced [...]

  3. Supercell generating $1M a day | ImpressiveNews says:

    [...] isn’t without fault. The Finish developer axed three games including its first title Gunshine, a beta release of Battle Buddies, and an unannounced combat strategy game that was pulled in its [...]

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