With Christmas just a few days away, the hype of the holiday is at its peak. Social game developers are making the most of it with a tremendous influx of specially themed goods, décor, and game mechanics. From snowmen to Santa, the Christmas theme is showing itself to be far greater than Halloween and completely dwarfing the holidays from 2009.
From big to small, we take a look below at what Facebook games have done for the holiday. We’ve split our review into two broad categories: virtual goods and new features.
Christmas Virtual Goods
Themed virtual goods are easily the most common Christmas addition across all social games. Here’s a compilation of social developers and which games are hosting what:
A Bit Lucky – Lucky Train has about six Christmas-themed houses such as Santa’s House, a Gingerbread House, Toy Factories, and so on. Additionally, players can change the entire theme of their train town to resemble a winter wonderland blanketed in snow.
Players can also gift special, limited time, holiday items such as candy canes, snowmen, and Christmas trees. This plays well into A Bit Lucky’s more interesting holiday contests, which we cover below.
Booyah – Nightclub City, with all of its glitz and glamor, has put in a variety of stylized Christmas club items. These include decorative club items such as snowflake dance floors and “North Pole Dancers”, as well as holiday clothing for avatars and entourages. Complete with Santa hats and tops, the game also takes a goofier approach with Rudolph, Frosty, and Christmas tree avatar outfits.
CrowdStar – As with both Halloween and Thanksgiving, the majority of themed elements to CrowdStar games are virtual items. Of all the titles within the CrowdStar repertoire, It Girl seems to have been most affected, with city streets covered in the sights and sounds of the season.
Yes, sounds. It Girl is the only title we have seen thus far that boasts Christmas songs playing in the background. Beyond the décor, players can also purchase holiday clothing, of the sexier variety, including a Santa and elf outfit.
It Girl aside, virtual Christmas goods can also be found in Happy Pets, Happy Island, and Happy Aquarium. Such items include Christmas colored pets, scuba diving reindeer, and the ever-coveted Santa fish.
Digital Chocolate – The folks over at Digital Chocolate have decided to focus on Christmas virtual goods. Across five games — Millionaire City, Vegas City, Epic Fighters, Ninjas Rising, and Island God — there are 20 plus virtual items for the season.
The two business-oriented apps (Millionaire and Vegas City) contain the most goods, while Epic Fighters and Ninjas Rising host a special Christmas helmet and Santa costume respectively. All, however, have new Christmas themed backgrounds and snowfall.
LOLapps – In Ravenwood Fair, LOLapps is certainly in the holiday spirit with nearly 40 special holiday items. Igloos, snowy river banks, and holiday lights are only the tip of the iceberg. However, much more interesting mechanics are noted below.
Playdom – A good number of Playdom titles are in the Christmas spirit, including Social City, City of Wonder, ESPNU College Town, Wild Ones, Tiki Resort, Tiki Farm, Mobsters, Mobsters 2, My Vineyard, Market Street, and Sorority Life. For the most part, the items are fairly basic, but some are slightly different.
In Tiki Resort, players are being given daily Christmas items until the end of December (players can also gift “Xmas Charm” and Champagne), while in ESPNU Santa randomly flies about from time to time. In fact, City of Wonder has a few visual surprises in this regard as well, with many older items blanketed in snow.
The real treat is a bit more explosive. In Wild Ones, players don’t just get Christmas decorations, they get an entire “Winter Wonderblammed” map in which to blow each other to kingdom come in. And what better way to do this than with a “Snowman Gun”?
Playfish – As one of the larger social game developers, Playfish has a myriad of Christmas themed goods across some of its major titles (Pet Society, Restaurant City, Country Story, and Hotel City).
In Restaurant City, a handful of items come with functionality such as the “Festive Fridge” that serves drinks 10 percent faster. There is even a special Coca Cola vending machine that will earn 50 percent more profit off of beverages. It’s part of a two-week partnership with Coca Cola, a promotion that includes the Coca Cola penguin, polar bear, truck, and Santa.
As for Hotel City, there isn’t much, but come December 22nd, players will receive special “surprise” items just for playing. This special Christmas promotion will run until the 25th.
RockYou! – RockYou has incorporated new Christmas goods into Zoo World. That in mind, they are not mere aesthetics and actually have a much more complex, functional use described below.
Wooga – German outfit wooga is filling its games Monster World and Happy Hospital with well over 30 decorations that range from Christmas trees, to monster-like nutcrackers, to nativity-themed items. Beyond these, Monster World has been completely covered in snow, with the vendor non-player robot, Robert, dressed up as a robotic Santa Claus. Wooga told us that six new virtual goods will make their appearance come New Years.
Happy Hospital is a bit smaller in the virtual goods area, but has also been covered with snow and even comes with a special snowman that gives small rewards to users from time to time.
Zynga – With the biggest social games in its roster, Zynga has plenty of resources to produce holiday goods in FarmVille, CityVille, FrontierVille, YoVille, Café World, Treasure Isle, and PetVille. While most are fairly basic, such as the Ice Furniture Collection in PetVille, many involve the help of friends to construct, such as the Winter Throne chairs in YoVille that require friends to gift parts.
Most of these items are adaptations of past Thanksgiving and Halloween specials. For example, in FarmVille, instead of a haunted house, players can begin making a snowman, asking friends for parts to build it. As they get more parts, the snowman gradually gets fancier until it ends up as a veritable Frosty, complete with dance moves.
Special Christmas Features
While themed virtual goods are all well and good, most developers attempted to do at least one very different thing for the season. Be they contests, limited features, special quests, or new social elements, the following list is a compilation of some of the more interesting new features:
A Bit Lucky – Lucky Train, with its new snow-blanketing theme, is first on the list, and A Bit Lucky makes use of its themed virtual goods and gifts to offer players a chance to win some “Lucky Bucks,” the game’s virtual currency. Dubbed the “Winter County Decoration Contest,” players can view and submit votes on their favorite player counties. The winners earn Lucky Bucks as their prize.
Booyah – In light of the major changes to Nightclub City, players can now create multiple clubs in the game. One such locale is “Holiday Main Street.” A Christmas themed locale is needed to unlock most of the holiday virtual goods for purchase.
CrowdStar – CrowdStar has thrown a handful of special elements into its social titles. Though not as significant as some of its competitors’ additions, players can experience a few interesting features in both Happy Pets and Happy Island. In the former, there is a special “12 Days of Christmas” feature that will give users one gift per day. If all 12 are collected, players will receive a “Glow Elf Cat” as an extra special reward. If any day is missed, that missed item can purchased for virtual currency. Additionally, players can also spin a wheel for a chance at Christmas themed goods. If all five are collected, users earn Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
As for Happy Island, it also makes use of the 12 Days of Christmas promotion, rewarding a Christmas bundle (North Pole Islet, Santa’s Workshop, Reindeer Stable, and a Flying Santa with Reindeer). Additionally, players can create and send Christmas postcards from their island.
Digital Chocolate – The Christmas mechanic of merit for Digital Chocolate is a new creature in Island God called the “Festive Fiend.” A gremlin version of the Grinch, complete with Santa outfit, it randomly terrorizes the player’s islanders. Of course, since the player is a god, they can easily defend their followers with some godly gusto.
LOLapps – Along with purchasable décor, Ravenwood Fair includes two new holiday quests for users to complete. The rewards are a very special Candy House and Santa’s Workshop. Neither item can be bought; they must be earned.
In addition to these, three new avatars have been introduced. The abominable snowman Brumble appears to scare the wits out of the fair’s patrons, while Briggs, the snowman protector, helps to calm them. Also, players may also see the visitor character Hansel, the gingerbread man, who spreads “holiday cheer” to the characters in game.
Playdom – Social City stands out among Playdom’s games for its Christmas additions. Players are able to construct an entirely new city within the “North Pole District.” This means that every single item within the region is holiday themed. All of them. In fact, this area is all about decorative creativity, as there are no factories one can build here.
Players can still put Christmas décor into their main cities, but many of these items are won using the spin feature introduced when Playdom offered Disney-themed items. As a refresher, players can log in and spin a wheel for a small bit of virtual currency and will randomly win one of eight virtual items. Once all eight are collected, they will earn an extravagant “Town Christmas Tree.”
The additions don’t stop here. Playdom also informed us of a new eCard mechanic within Social City. With this, players can take a snapshot of their city and customize it with special messages, borders, and greetings. Those who the eCard is sent to do not have to play Social City, or even have a Facebook account.
Playfish – As it has in the past, Playfish has fairly involved Christmas game mechanics. Restaurant City is the most prominent, with two new mini-games that allow players to save Christmas.
With an ingredient reward, players can learn how to cook a reindeer’s favorite recipe (basically carrots) and must feed 50 of them as they wander around the outskirts of one’s restaurant. Of course, if décor is more appealing, players can also search the snowy virtual outskirts for Santa’s lost presents. Once 40 are found, users can earn a gingerbread window and door.
Country Story is a little less involved, but every day, Santa will bring gifts for players and allow them to send them to friends. Moreover, there is a small mini-game where players can use the help of friends to rescue a reindeer trapped in a stocking.
In Pet Society’s new “Snowflakes Collection,” players collect snowflakes and, should they collect all 12 by the 26th, they will be entered to win one of three Apple Mac Book Airs. Ten runners-up will receive a free PC download from the EA Store (The Sims 3, FIFA 11, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), while the 10 after that will earn a Pogo Club annual subscription.
RockYou! – Zoo World is using a more involved approach to its Christmas goods, reflecting its Thanksgiving specials. Long story short, Santa has lost his reindeer and users must train new animals to pull his sled. In order to do this, players must first collect all the items needed to do so which includes candy canes, Christmas bells, a reindeer headdress, gingerbread cookies, and a winter scarf.
Each one is earned in different ways: Feeding animals holiday treats (Christmas cupcakes and lollipops) can produce candy canes; gingerbread cookies are earned when friends click a wall post; and bells, headdresses, and scarves are earned through gifting. All of these can be purchased with virtual currency or earned, randomly, from Mrs. Claus who shows up every two hours for a “check-in” opportunity. With five check-ins she gives a random component.
Once everything is acquired, players must ask five friends to help “train” an animal, which also provides the option to turn it into an “ultra rare” version of itself for virtual currency. Additionally, Santa himself visits on three different days, rewarding players with special gifts, should a set amount of animals be trained before his arrival. The special features will run until about January 14th.
Wooga – For Monster World, players that play during Christmas time will notice that their plants are growing rather differently this time of year. Rather than produce the usual, monstrous looking flora, these plants will grow to represent everything from toy blocks to frozen Christmas trees.
As for Happy Hospital, the major new mechanic involves the game’s core concept of treating sick animals. With its quirky ailments, players can now cure a frozen raccoon afflicted with “Icefluenca.”
Zynga – Like Thanksgiving, the biggest changes come from Treasure Isle. Placing a Christmas tree on their island, players can send presents to each other. As more are earned, the tree becomes larger and fancier, and will also grant rewards such as Christmas pets and boats.
The bigger element for the treasure hunting title is the feature to help a frozen Rudolph with friends. While he will get warmer with each day, friends can help expedite the process, and once Rudolph is better, users will unlock entirely new holiday maps to dig in. There is also a set of Christmas quests, tasking players to create elements of the 12 Days of Christmas (e.g. there is a quest to make a Partridge [cookie] in a Pear Tree). Doing these quests will earn significant coin and experience.
FrontierVille also has something interesting along this same thread. Called “The 12 Missions of FrontierVille,” players are given a series of 12 holiday-themed missions to complete in-game. Activated by clicking on carolers near a very Christmas-style toy factory, players can complete these goals for special, daily, rewards. In addition to this, players can earn a new currency “Toys” by helping neighbors, through random daily bonuses, or asking friends. These toys can then be used to redeem special holiday items such as Rudolph or a pink Christmas tree.
Each holiday is getting more and more attention from social developers as they attempt to adapt their top games for the season. From virtual goods, to contests, to special features, each of these listed titles have done something to coax greater user engagement, sharing, and purchasing.
A special thanks to all the developers who sent us screenshots of all their new Christmas features. You can find a full slideshow of these and our own images below:
Christopher Mack Read more: Inside Social Games