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Programming Social Applications by Jonathan LeBlanc

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Case Study: Friendship-Based Social Gaming

Our first case is a social gaming application whose infrastructure is built off of social interactions between two-way, or reciprocated, connections (friendships). Building upon the real-life relationships that people have with their friends, family, coworkers, and everyone else in their stream is a great method for developing an extensive relevant graph within the social game as well.

Let’s take as an example one of the biggest players in the social gaming space: Zynga. Zynga has built its core business from creating highly addictive social games that are some of the most played in the social gaming space. Love it or hate it, Zynga is one of the most successful social gaming companies in the business, developing titles such as FarmVille, CityVille, and Mafia Wars. Companies like Zynga use several tactics to build highly viral, lucrative games.

Note

Even though we are speaking specifically about social gaming applications in this case study, you can apply these principles to any social-based application that makes use of someone’s social graph.

Understanding user targeting

Understanding the appropriate audience (i.e., which demographics you should be targeting) should be one of the first steps for any social application developer. Simply understanding who makes up your existing audience is not enough anymore, though. For instance, if you build a great social game targeting an audience that is completely saturated with other great social games, ...

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