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Facebook strikes back at Google with its own game enhancements

Fighting back against Google’s new social game platform, Facebook announced its own game announcements today. The enhancements are part of a larger set of improvements for Facebook users.

The social networking giant is making the announcement today in part to try and keep the focus on its own platform, rather than the new Google+ game platform announced today by its competitor, Google.

Facebook announced some enhancements such as the ability to post announcements about particular user achievements on your friends’ Facebook pages. If you pass up your friend’s score in a game, you can easily brag about that and make your friends more competitive. You can also boast about your movement up a game leaderboard. Facebook users can also utilize new bookmarks on the home page to see their top apps more easily.

Arjun Sethi, a top executive at 6waves Lolapps, one of the biggest Facebook game developers, attended an event tonight where Facebook described the enhancements.

“They’re really focusing on engagement and retention of the user,” Sethi said in an interview. “They have a qualitative and quantitative way to deliver better discovery of games for developers.”

That means that game players might become more engaged in noticing the new games that are promoted to them or appear on their home pages, Sethi said. So far, 6waves Lolapps is paying attention to Google+ games, but its main focus is still making Facebook games, he said.

As pictured, you can also see exactly what your friends are playing or doing on Facebook in a real-time “app activity” ticker window on the upper right corner of the page now. Users can also see a bookmark for a person’s top apps listed, so the player can quickly go back to the app when they want to do so. Facebook will also allow developers to expand the size of their games on the page so that players can have a more immersive experience. Lastly, Facebook said that it is driving quality distribution to its game developers, mainly through improvements that get game promotions in front of the right gamers at the right time.

Facebook said that more than 200 million people play games on Facebook each month and the top 80 games on Facebook have at least 1 million active users. Zynga has the most players, with 258 million monthly active users according to AppData.

But Facebook is drawing attention to other successes beyond Zynga. Stung by criticism that Facebook and Zynga have too cozy a relationship, Facebook is trying to point out that there are a lot of other players that are part of its game ecosystem.

  • For example, Meteor Games, which makes Facebook games, recently expanded from 35 employees to 100 in the past year and is doubling its staff every six months. The company’s hit game Island Paradise has been installed more than 20 million times in the past two years without any marketing. The company also began making money from its Ranch Town game via Facebook Credits, which lifted the number of paying players three-fold overnight, Facebook said.
  • Facebook noted that another company, Funzio, raised $20 million in funding earlier this year and plans to go from 55 employees to 100 by the end of the year.
  • Facebook said that iWin, the maker of Family Feud, saw its monthly active user base increase by 40 percent over the last month. iWin’s Deal or No Deal game has grown to 900,000 monthly active users in one month, and the company has added 30 employees this year.
  • Ninja Warz, the first game from developer Broken Bulb Studios, has stayed above 125,000 daily active users for two years with no marketing. The company launched Miscrits: World of Adventure, in January and have 4.5 million monthly active users. They doubled their head count from 11 to 23 and moved into a new officer.
  • Kabam grew from 20 people last year to more than 500 people this year, in four offices on three continents. Nine out of 10 Kabam players play daily, and they play on average for three hours a day.
  • GSN grew from 4.8 million monthly active users at the end of July 2010 to 7.5 million this July, up 60 percent. The company’s social game team has tripled over the last year.

Overseas growth has been good as well among Facebook developers.

  • Nordeus of Serbia built Top Eleven, a football app that grew to 3.5 million monthly active users in three months.
  • Platika of Israel has 4.8 million active users a month for titles such as Slotomoania and Farkle Pro.¬†Last year, Cesars Entertainment bought 51 percent of the company for up to $90 million.
  • In Turkey, Peak Games was founded less than a year ago in October 2010. The company already has 50 employees, 10 games, and 10 million monthly active users playing traditional Turkish and Arabic card and board games on Facebook. The company has raised $7.5 milion.
  • In Finland, Supercell was founded in June 2010 as a maker of hardcore social games. It has raised $12 million from Accel partners, and it has 20 employees. Gunshine, a crime-fighting game on Facebook where players shoot criminals and other enemies, currently has more than 300,000 monthly active users.
  • In France, Pretty Simple Games launched MyShops in December. The game now has more than 1.5 million active users and the company has raised $3.6 million.
  • Also in France, Kobojo has 4 million monthly active users and it has raised $7.75 million to date.
  • And another French game company, IsCool Entertainment, has more 2 million monthly active users on Facebook. It has grown from 30 to 85 employees in the last 12 months.

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