Ubisoft to launch social game portal and first Facebook game

The lure of social media platforms is drawing the biggest video game companies. The latest to dive into social gaming is the French console game publisher Ubisoft, which announced its first game for Facebook today as well as a Facebook game portal to access its Facebook games.

The first game is a viral trivia title dubbed TickTock, which you play with your real friends on Facebook. In the game, you send bombs back and forth to your friends. The impact of the bomb depends on how well you know your friends and their status updates on Facebook. Once you decide to build a bomb, you get 60 seconds to answer multiple choice questions about your friends, such as “Who recently visited Vail, Colo.?” For each question you answer correctly, you add to the bomb. If you answer five questions in 60 seconds, you build a level 5 bomb. If a bomb goes off, it can ruin your “secret Facebook room.” Then you have to repair it. You earn points if you blow up your friends. Over time, you can build bigger bombs, starting with a cherry bomb and going up to a nuke.

Your friends can disarm the bomb if they answer five questions in 60 seconds. It’s a novel use of the uniqueness of Facebook, where keeping up with your friends and having lots of them will enable you to play the game better. The game is available at 5 pm today on Facebook’s Marketplace.

The game has been in the works since last fall, said Omar Abdelwahed, producer, who led a team of six developers in San Francisco. The company has been testing the game and modifying it for months. It’s a far different style of game development for Ubisoft, which often builds console games with teams of a hundred people. Laurent Detoc, head of Ubisoft North America, said the game is the first of many new social games the company will put on both Facebook and its Ubifriends game portal on Facebook.

Abdelwahed said the attraction of Facebook is its 250 million users who have demonstrated a great interest in games. Detoc said Ubisoft’s focus is on providing entertainment wherever people are, on consoles, PCs, phones or social networks. The future of games is social and digital, Abdelwahed said.

Abdelwahed said the team decided to build the game around status update messages because 30 million users update their status on Facebook once a day or more. Playing with your friends can make a game much more relevant to you, he said. And he said it was important to hook gaming into people’s everyday lives.

Facebook is connecting with the traditional game industry in a big way now, said Gareth Davis, program manager for games at Facebook. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all announced varying degrees of partnership with Facebook at the recent E3 game conference in June.

Ubisoft is partnering with Google to build the server technology for the game. It will use the Google AppEngine, which is a service that allows UbiSoft to serve as many players as necessary.

Ubisoft is exploring other social game platforms as well, but so far the game is available only on Facebook. It will be interesting to watch how well it does, as there are at least 14,000 other games already available on Facebook. Ubisoft hasn’t said how it will make money from the game yet.