Farmville's impact on the future of gaming could be as important as Call of Duty says Julien Merceron, worldwide technology director at Square Enix.
Merceron believes that while Farmville and other social networking titles may not be taken seriously by hardcore gamers, the sheer number of people playing is a sign of its importance:
"Right now you see a wide range of games out there," said Merceron, speaking to VideoGamer.com at Develop. "There's Call of Duty, that is selling millions, and all these millions of consumers can't be wrong - this is part of the games that we're going to see tomorrow [in the future]. But at the same time, you have millions of people playing Farmville on Facebook, and again, this type of game is not wrong. These consumers can't be wrong.
"I think both are important. Both of these games are right, both of these games are doing things right. It's about [asking], what can you learn from this? And when you learn from that, what type of products are you then trying to design?"
But Merceron added that the growing popularity of Farmville and similar games won't come at the expense of more traditional, triple-A projects.
"There's room for both," he continued. "There's probably room for a combination of some of these experiences. The high-end experience - the kind of Hollywood, high adrenaline, extremely intense experience - that's still going to be there. And it's going to get more intense, it's going to get way more intense than it is today. And for a wide range of consumers, that's going to be the type of experience they want. But we see at the same time, the social components are super important."
And there's another reason publishers shouldn't dismiss social network gamers: the fact that a user's taste in games changes as they grow up.
"The thing that is interesting is, sometimes it can take four or five years to make a product, four or five years between conception to actually shipping your game. If you're targeting an audience of 18-year-old people, when you're starting, these guys are 14. That's one mistake a lot of developers are making: they're thinking about 18 years olds today - but those guys will be 22! [The question is] what are the 14-year-old guys doing today? What's important to them?
"The products we're moving towards are going to be evolving experiences, with social aspects, user-generated contact, downloadable content."
From the sounds of things, we can expect social features to play a prominent role in future Square Enix projects.
"We're already making a lot of effort on this generation of platforms," said Merceron. "You see how things develop: it went from multiplayer, to multiplayer and co-op, to multiplayer and co-op with social community features. And now these experiences are trying to enable a deeper style of community management.
"[It's about] not only creating a game, but creating a whole experience that is social, that is entertaining, that is immersive and involving. That's the goal."