Revisiting Twitter as a Social Graph for Games

About 3 years ago I wrote a short post about why Twitter was probably not a good platform for game developers to target. This was in the early days of Spymaster and other games that tried to use the Twitter graph in many of the same ways that social game developers were using the Facebook graph at the time. A lot has changed in that time – Twitter has grown quite a bit and Facebook has developed as well. I thought it was worthwhile to revisit the thesis about using Twitter as a social graph for game development.

Because it’s still a fundamentally asymmetric graph, trying to build a game that assumes that Twitter followers are equivalent to Facebook friends still feels like a flawed premise to me – As we’ve seen in many other domains, Facebook and Twitter are not the same platform. One of the really nice things about Twitter is that the follower model is asymmetric while the Facebook model is still (largely) rooted in the concept of symmetric friendships (as in to be “friends” we both have to agree vs a follower model). I just don’t think that assuming all (or a large portion) of a given person’s Twitter followers are interested in playing games with that individual still doesn’t seem like a reasonable assumption.

Twitter is (to me) a great broadcast and publishing platform – Twitter is potentially a great channel for discovery and new player acquisition. I have a few thousand followers on Twitter and I continue to believe that the Twitter channel is more tolerant of broadcast pronouncement and messages than Facebook. I think it’s just the nature of the medium – Twitter feels like it was designed primarily as a platform for one-to-many broadcast where as I still think of Facebook as less of a pure broadcast medium. And I see many of the most popular games, namely Draw Something and Words with Friends, making heavy use of Twitter as a way to a) broadcast player usernames to discover people with whom you could play but might not be in your Facebook graph and b) to publish achievements and accomplishments in game.

So, I think I’ve come around to thinking that Twitter could be a really useful channel for games that are designed to target really large mass-market audiences given the broadcast nature of Twitter. Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message @chudson.