A bit of a theme this week, more big names are heading into the lucrative social gaming world. This is of course exciting news for those who want more 'typical' gaming to land on Facebook, and we should see a great deal more variety as other developers follow suit.

The simple fact is, most people login to a social site daily out of habit, so arranging a deathmatch or RTS battle couldn't be simpler. It might also drag in casual into the mix as well, giving you more people to play against.

It's still unlikely that your Gran will play an FPS, but a less cutesy spreadsheet-based approach to social gaming is very welcome, certainly in my mind.

The question is, at what point could Facebook games become dangerously close to console variants, and will any further complication of games put casual gamers off? Managing a farm is one thing, but preventing a rush attack on an RTS is quite another.

Aside from being free, what other benefits are there from bringing over glitzy games that are already done superbly on other systems? Mr Casual is fairly picky, and may not want to mix with 'true gamers'.

I've often wondered exactly what stops people from becoming gamers. Is it just the stigma attached to gaming that puts people off, or their inability to want to or try understand how a game plays?

Perhaps it's a lack of patience or simply the reluctance to buy a console, or a PC that can play modern games?

Whatever combination of factors results in hooking a user, it will be interesting to see at what point the complexities of Facebook games and their similarities to console or PC gaming will cause casual gamers to look elsewhere.

Maybe your Gran would like fragging relatives (don't misread that) on something like Counter Strike after all. It just needs to be put on a highly accessible plate like Facebook.

Farmville coming to MSN, additional Zynga titles on the way

ZyngaCourtesy of a Zynga press release, the social gaming giant will be aiming to launch Farmville and presumably Mafia Wars and Zynga's other big hitters onto MSN games in the near future via Facebook Connect.

This would be the first time the popular farm-'em-up is playable on a dedicated game destination.

The announced partnership between MSN Games and Zynga would give an audience of a whopping half a billion people - if you include Windows Live Messenger into the calculation, which would certainly enhance on its 75 million monthly current userbase.

Great news if you want more friends playing the farm simulation, bad news if you wish everyone would stop talking about their virtual small-holdings.

“Social gaming has gone mainstream,” said Mike Verdu, senior vice president of games at Zynga. “People love to connect with their friends through our games, which are broadly accessible and have universal themes. Bringing Farmville to a major site like MSN Games is a great way to expand the reach of social games...”

Mike Ybarra, general manager for Windows Gaming said, “As hundreds of millions of customers continue to enjoy social gaming, we’re excited to partner with Zynga to add Farmville to our broad portfolio of games on MSN Games.”

Brave Arms

Brave Arms3G Studios, the developer responsible for SWAT: Target Liberty on PSP amongst other things, has announced a first-person shooter designed for Facebook. It's not the first, as I recently discovered - Paradise Paintball 3D can apparently lay claim that crown and is discussed below.

"Our new title, Brave Arms, will bring First-Person Shooter games to the masses," James Kosta, boss of 3G Studios, told Worlds in Motion. "It's about fast-paced action and either competing against or forming teams with your friends. We want people to feel empowered and to share in a real video game experience."

Brave ArmsJudging by the pictures, it does look good, but with looks comes the need for some graphics processing. Farmville and friends has never really required much to work, and something based on the Unity Engine for example will not work on a PC purchased a decade ago - or at least it wont run very well.

That aside, it's pretty exciting to see just how big a shift we will see from developers when it comes to creating more accessible mainstream experiences. It should also open the floodgates for new developer talent who simply can't afford to put a game on the shelf of a retailer, much in the same way the App Store did.

Paradise Paintball 3D Paradise Paintball 3D

Paintball is one of those really fun experiences, right up until you experience a point-blank shot to either the groin or face.

Thankfully, Paradise Paintball 3D won't cause you any pain (at least not physically), but you can enjoy all the excitement of running about in fantasy locations shooting paint at other Facebook users.

In my limited time, I decided to just choose a game at random and see how badly I could do. Once I had installed the Unity Plugin - to allow it to run, I was quickly thrown into a match, and subsequently started shooting anyone who came near.

The graphics were smooth, and head-shotting players was as a satisfying as ever. The group I played against (12 players is the maximum number) weren't too skilled, so I managed a few kills. It also allowed me to try out some of the guns on offer, including a sniper rifle.

True to social gaming fashion, and how the developer will make money, players can purchase guns, clothing and other items to customise your character with, if that sort of thing floats your boat.

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All in all, I was impressed. The lack of claret might put some people off, but removing gore is something that older games might appreciate, though let's face it: you're still shooting people. There's a lot of potential in this first-person shooter, and definitely worth a go whether or not you typically like this sort of thing - I certainly had a blast and will continue to try it out. At the least, Paradise Paintball 3D shows exactly what is possible on Facebook, and may be a sign of things to come.

We Rule

I had to cover this, even though details are fairly scarce. If you can imagine Farmville and something akin to MyTown joining forces and going back to simpler times of olde, you would have the premise for We Rule.

WeRule

Basically We Rule is what happens when social gaming meets real time strategy gameplay. As well as cultivating your farms and producing goods, you can provide services for other players, trade with them, and a whole lot more.

In fact, from the screenshots it reminds me of the truly addictive Anno 1503, and if it can capture the trading, conquest, and building features Anno did so admirably, it should prove pretty special.

Trading with friends would make the whole simulation two-way, and would encourage more clever uses for having friends, instead of simply unlocking something when you reach 'x' amount.

WeRule

One of the biggest allures is the ability to create something unique, and We Rule looks like it ticks the box. If you build a school, you will see students wondering about - presumably avoiding their classes. As you build up wealth, you can boost the number of amenities in your city, further enhancing its personal, unique look.

Look out for a preview of We Rule on Pocket Gamer in due course. In other News
  • Fans of World of Warcraft can enjoy the new Armory application, allowing you to show off your character and achievements. Blizzard also released one for the App Store, so you can show how much spare time is spent indoors, while outdoors.
  • Fans of the Superbowl and Gangster City will be able to equip a helmet from their favourite team. The stats aren't great, but it's a good way to show your allegiance.
Data Club

As usual, here are the numbers for today when it comes to daily active users (DAU), thanks the people at App Data.

1. Farmville 27,475,893
2. Café World 9,515,392
3. Mafia Wars 6,676,046
4. FishVIlle Fishville 6,556,639
5. Texas Hold'Em Texas Hold Em Poker 5,790,441
6. Happy Aquarium Happy Aquarium 5,704,977
7. PetVille Petville 4,518,728
8. Pet Society Pet Society 4,197,931
9. Restaurant City Restaurant City 3,405,033
10. Bejeweled Blitz Bejeweled Blitz 3,173,763

In case you've ever wondered who the current top ten movers and shakers of the Social Game developer world, here's the current leaderboard.

1. Zynga - 230,283,643
2. RockYou! - 81,073,357
3. Facebook - 58,638,729
4. CrowdStar - 50,972,427
5. Playfish - 49,185,674
6. 6 waves - 32,523,252
7. Mmkay - 27,602,690
8. Causes - 24,936,786
9. Playdom - 24,215,300
10. FamilyLink.com - 20,197,856