GamesBeat

WePlay is a social tool — not just Apples to Apples with social elements

You wouldn’t believe it! George Bush was reading about a daddy complex on the airplane.

If you’ve ever played Apples To Apples or Cards Against Humanity, then you have a basic understanding of WePlay, available now for iOS and Android, the first release from new mobile developer Thumper Studios. Thumper is composed of former OpenFeint and TinyCo developers, and they brought their knowledge to this new venture.

WePlay is a card game, but it’s a bit not quite poker. Each round presents the players with a question, statement, or fill-in-the-blank that everyone must respond to by playing a card from their hand.

You can find an example in the header image. The game presented this fill-in-the-blank: “You wouldn’t believe it! George Bush was reading about ____ on the airplane.”

I had to answer with one of the cards from my hand, which included “a sausage fest,” “believing in evolution,” and “Taylor Swift.” I nearly chose “believing in evolution,” but I thought “a daddy complex” would appeal to a wider audience. After everyone plays their cards, the group blindly votes on its favorites. Whoever gets the most votes wins that round.

It’s a simple concept that plays great in social settings, but how well does it translate to a mobile experience on a smartphone?

Making a game with real social gameplay

“The whole idea of Thumper Studios is to create products that are truly social,” co-founder Jennifer Lu told GamesBeat. “I think the word ‘social’ is thrown around a lot. If you say the word now, people think FarmVille where the games are really about playing by yourself. It’s not really a direct social connection.”

Games like FarmVille allow people to build their own farms and visit other player’s, but it’s more of a hook to keep people playing rather than a core part of the experience.

“We didn’t just want to make the game itself,” said Lu. “But also the other parts that make playing a board game fun. Being able to trash talk with each other and all of the charm that goes along with playing a game physically.”

WePlay does that by incorporating accepted social functionality. Players can chat with and friend one another, but it also features a rare multiplayer infrastructure.

“We talked to Apple and Google, and they had never seen a game like ours before in regards that it is asynchronous and you can play with up to 12 people,” said Lu. “All the other asynchronous games are 1-on-1. That limits a lot of the social interaction involved.”

Titles like Draw Something and Words With Friends allow for asynchronous play. That’s where gamers take their turns separately and not while both are necessarily connected to the game. But titles like that only support two players.

A head-to-head matchup is fine for people who are already friends, but it can get awkward if you start playing with acquaintances or Internet randoms.

WePlay allows for a dozen people in a single game.

“It’s the difference between going to a party and going on a blind date,” said Lu. “The group environment makes people feel much more comfortable.”

WePlay is a social instrument

I’ve experienced those social pressures while playing games. For me, I feel my most awkward with acquaintances and people whom I only know online. It can feel kinda creepish to start a game with someone you haven’t really met, but Thumper set up WePlay to provide a situation where friends of friends can bond and develop a relationship of their own.

In that way, WePlay is a social tool rather than just a social game. You can play Words With Friends to socialize with people you already know, but it won’t help you break down barriers between acquaintances very well. WePlay is perfect for that. It’s the equivalent of getting to know someone at a party, and Thumper’s numbers reflect that.

“Over 92 percent of our players play with random opponents,” said Lu. “Whereas other casual games — for example, Words With Friends — they see only 30 percent [who play with random opponents].”

In the first 48 hours, the average player 18 to 34-years-old sends 24 messages and “friends” three other WePlay users. For comparison, according to the Pew Research Center the average teen sends around 60 SMS text messages a day.

These numbers are still early. Thumper only released WePlay in December and hasn’t done too much to promote the game yet. The developer plans to give the game a more official launch later this month — and that’s when we’ll find out if people want a social game that focuses on the social … and George Bush reading about his daddy complex.


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