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MENLO PARK, Calif. — We have a very productive society. In fact, of the 1 billion people on Facebook, 251 million play games every month. And of those 80 million play arcade bubble shooter games. Probably during work hours.
Those are the sorts of details that Facebook’s game leadership team shared today at a press lunch at its headquarters. They offered a deeper dive into the symbiotic connection between Facebook and games, and the close connection with game companies such as Zynga.
Dan Rose, the head of partnerships at Facebook, acknowledged the importance of games to the social network through its history. It was the first part of the application platform to take off, with hits such as Zombies and Zynga Poker. Social transformed the game experience and helped Facebook win the social-network wars.
“Games are a huge and important part of what our users do on Facebook every day, and they are an important part of what they do on mobile,” Rose said.
Alex Schultz, (pictured at bottom) a member of the growth team at Facebook, said that the big change has been the increase of diversity of games, genres, and developers during the past year. He said the data shows that successes come in three categories.
Some games are hits that start big and dwindle over time. Other successful games stabilize and find a regular audience, like Kixeye’s War Commander, which continues to generate activity and revenue for the social game developer. War Commander doesn’t have a huge number of player, but 10 percent of them buy virtual goods, far more than usual. And then some games start big, dip, and then recover because players become constantly re-engaged with it as more friends play.
Schultz said that Facebook tries to make the latter happen by creating a lot of avenues for players to notice what their friends are playing and to communicate that them in a way that won’t be considered spam. Growth in games is no longer about cramming as many users at the top of the funnel (just getting them to join) anymore, Schultz said.
Mobile has become a huge priority, as Facebook now has 600 million mobile users. Facebook launched its App Center platform for installing games and it is generating lots of clicks for both mobile and desktop users now.
It is still inherently harder for Facebook to make money in mobile versus the desktop. On the desktop, developers are required to use Facebook Credits as a way for users to pay for in-app virtual goods. Those developers share 30 percent of the revenues with Facebook. On mobile, the developers don’t share that money with Facebook, and share it instead with Apple on iOS or other platform owners. Instead, Facebook makes money through ads in a newsfeed stream that helps games get noticed.
But Facebook is increasingly important on mobile as a way for games to get discovered among hundreds of thousands of apps, said Sean Ryan, the head of game partnerships. Ryan said the App Center is a great way for people to find games because a game will appear higher in the center if more of your friends are playing it.
“I sometimes hear developers say they are not on Facebook but they are on mobile,” Ryan said. “Increasingly, it is not either or. It is ‘and.’ As people spend more time on mobile, as developers move to mobile, we are moving with them. Facebook is the glue.”
Ryan said that early attempts to share in-game announcements with players were viewed as spam. But by doing it in a more controlled and smarter way, developers are now seeing clicks on such notifications in the 30 percent to 40 percent range, Ryan said. For instance, your Facebook Timeline may show that you defeated five enemies in Playdom’s Marvel Avengers game during the week. If friends see that, they might click on it and install the game.
Ryan said he expects that strategy games will be big in 2013. He said that hardcore and midcore game companies will make more use of 3D graphics on the increasingly capable platform.
Just a year ago, most of the game traffic was for Zynga’s simulation games. Now it is more diverse, with arcade games, puzzles, casino games, and action titles taking off.
“The next explosion of genres will be for core and midcore games,” Ryan said.
On top of that, geographic diversity is growing. Peak Games in Turkey is growing fast, as are European game publishers such as King.com, Rovio, and Wooga. In Russia, Ryan went to an event where 150 developers showed up. In Israel, he attended an event where 450 game developers showed up.
Upcoming games for the fourth quarter that look promising, Ryan said, include Stormfall: Age of War from Plarium, Wizard of Oz from Spooky Cool Labs, Fresh Deck Poker from Idle Games, Full Bloom from Playdom, and CityVille 2 from Zynga. He said five more major unannounced games are coming for the desktop in November. On mobile, he said big games include Hay Day from Supercell, Live Hold ‘em Pro from Dragonplay, NFL Pro 2013 from Gameloft, CSR Racing from NaturalMotion and Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder.
Facebook has launched real-money gambling in the United Kingdom with one game developer, Gamesys, and it is awaiting the results of that launch.