Developers who ignore FarmVille face “disaster”

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Games will need to be “discoverable, direct, shareable, and free”, according to Louis Castle, former founder of Westwood and current CEO of Instant Action.

The 30 year industry veteran, who helped make Dune, Command & Conquer and Blade Runner, kicked off the Develop's Evolve Conference with his keynote focusing on the how social networks like Facebook are disrupting how people discover and play games, and how every other games publisher will need to embrace the model, and not ignore it because of the type of game that uses it.

“I see the game, I click, I play, I find, I sometimes have no choice but to share, I play for free, but if I want to shortcut I can pay. That fits the exact model. We have seen the online games disruption. We discounted them because of the type of activity [like Farmville]. If it had been Call of Duty, we'd have paid attention.”

His argument is Zynga, the developers of Farmville which at its peak had over 80 million users, “they are taking all of our customers, offering something we haven't yet.” They've given everyone an easy method to play their games. They don't even need to search: there's not one Facebook account in the world that hasn't had a Farmville update from a friend appear unprompted.

It doesn't matter if it's a casual game or a 20 million dollar plus epic, according to Castle, everything is about to change. Steaming services like OnLive and Gaikai and social networks will be the only way to stop the industry heading for “disaster in the retail space”, losing revenue from the thin margins that traditional development and retail models use.

He was at pains to point out that he's not got all the answers, but in his view this is the way the industry needs to head.