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Facebook is about to propel Zynga’s competitors by providing mobile game publishing services to smaller developers. That will range from giving free advertising to select developers of high-quality games to other promotional support so that more games can reach more users on the giant social network.
It’s going to create a brave new world of competition, but Facebook says it is doing it in the name of creating new paths for the discovery of mobile games and the expansion of its gaming ecosystem. Zynga, which has fallen on hard times lately, was once in lock step with Facebook. But the two companies have unraveled their close-knit partnership. That has freed Zynga to put its games on other networks, including its own Zynga.com, and it allows Facebook to publish its own games. In romance terms, it wasn’t quite a divorce, but they’re free to see other people.
Dan Morris, the global lead for mobile game partnerships at Facebook, told GamesBeat that the social network will focus on publishing games for small and medium developers who are creating high-quality games in important new genres. Facebook isn’t making investments in games the way first-party console makers such as Microsoft and Sony do, but it will provide services in exchange for revenue shares.
“We are taking a much more active partnership with these companies,” Morris said. “We will steer users to their games. The idea is not to show one game to all users but to take advantage of our reach and our ability to match users with the games they like.”
While it isn’t yet as successful on mobile platforms as it once was on the desktop, Facebook said last week that its game platforms are growing on both the desktop and mobile. It says it had more than 260 million people playing games on Facebook out of its total population of 1.1 billion users in the second quarter. That’s up from 250 million in the previous quarter.
“We continue to see record numbers of players on Facebook,” Morris said.
Facebook has already been helping developers with mobile app install ads. However, many developers don’t have the money to pay for ads. So Facebook’s mobile games publishing initiative will help. The new pilot program will help developers take their games to a global audience. Morris said the company will test a variety of new channels to promote mobile games in a way that helps Facebook users discover the kind of games that they like to play. It will, for instance, help strategy-game fans find strategy games and casual-game enthusiasts find casual games.
Facebook will promote games in exchange for a share of the overall revenue they produce. The company will share its analytics tools and the expertise it has gained from helping games grow over the years. The timing isn’t necessarily good for Zynga, which has been losing players on Facebook by the millions. Zynga had its own third-party publishing program, but Rob Dyer, the head of that business, left the company. Morris will talk about the publishing business at a talk at 2 p.m. PST at the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco today. The program has been in testing for a couple of months. Over time, it will grow.
“We have been listening to the intense demand from game developers for another path to success,” Morris said.
Facebook will work with eight developers at the outset. It will help promote the following games:
· 5th Planet’s role-playing card-battle game, Dawn of the Dragons
· Brainbow’s puzzle-packed adventure game, Dr. Newton: The Great Brain Adventure
· Certain Affinity’s pirate-themed strategy game, Age of Booty: Tactics
· Dragonplay’s social-poker game, Live Hold’Em
· Gameloft’s medieval-strategy/simulation game, Kingdoms & Lords
· KiwiGames’ quest-based exploration game, Shipwrecked
· Outplay Entertainment’s explore-and-battle fantasy game, Monster Legacy
· Space Ape’s multiplayer combat-strategy game, Samurai Siege