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The rise of social networking has resulted in major shifts in the gaming industry. The rise of Facebook, in particular, has fueled the market for 'social gaming', creating huge opportunities. Most of these opportunities have, up until now, been seized in large part by upstarts like Zynga, which may be one of the fastest-growing companies ever.
But as social gaming matures, the old guard of gaming may find some golden opportunities of its own.
Case in point: two classic educational video games, The Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? are being turned into Facebook games by The Learning Company, which owns the rights to the titles.
First released in the early 1970s for mainframe computers, The Oregon Trail become a mainstream hit in the 1980s and 1990s. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was first released in the mid-1980s, and even served as the basis for a game show in the 1990s. Both not only demonstrated how the personal computer and computer games could be used as educational tools, they also inspired many youngsters who would later go to work in technology. Darius Kazemi, who announced that The Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego are coming to Facebook, says he counts himself as one of those who was inspired by such games.
The good news for established companies like The Learning Company is that many of their old titles are perfectly positioned for social gaming adaptations. Games like The Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego probably would have been social if the internet in its current form had existed when they were released. More important from a business perspective: there is ample opportunity in these games to incorporate digital goods that players pay real money to obtain.
Obviously, there's a lot of competition in the world of social gaming. Industry stalwarts like EA are investing heavily in building new social games. And startups like Zynga have already taken old concepts -- like Simcity -- and created their own adaptations. But despite all this, there's room for old titles to thrive, and it won't be surprising if nostalgia paves the way for games like The Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego to succeed once again.