The commonly held belief among industry observers is that gaming on Facebook is on the decline. Big companies like Zynga and King are still making money on the platform, but they’re more focused on mobile. Developer Plarium doesn’t care about that trend.
Plarium released its fifth Facebook title today. The real-time strategy sim Sparta: War of Empires is the latest addition to the developer’s library of apps targeted at “hardcore players” on the social network. It has gamers taking control of Greece to fight off an invading Persian military force while also building and maintaining a city. All of this action takes place from an isometric perspective with simple 2D art. It may not sound like much, which prompts the question: Why is Plarium even wasting its time? Well, it isn’t. The company confirmed to GamesBeat that each of its previous four releases performed better than the last, and it believes that it can continue that trend with Sparta.
“Plarium has focused on developing hardcore real-time strategy games with deep gameplay mechanics since the company was founded in 2009,” Parium chief marketing officer Gabi Shalel told GamesBeat. “And that’s been our direction ever since. Now, our players log in an average of three sessions a day on Facebook alone. We consistently update the game with new content, new mechanics, in-game characters, and extended storyline events that take the experience to the next level. When all is said and done, our ultimate goal is for our players to be immersed in the games we create.”
The studio has a loyal following who love free strategy games, and it uses Facebook’s effective marketing platform to acquire new players. It thinks that its titles stand out not just because of the production values but also because Plarium listens to feedback from its fans.
“We leverage the learning process and insight that Facebook platform offers, coupled with close contact with our players to improves game engagement while increasing revenues,” said Shalel. “We have a loyal following who are always excited to keep playing our games.”
To keep its core fans coming back and to attract those new players, the company focusing on boosting Sparta’s production values. While the visuals are only 2D, they are crisp and easy to understand. The developer also strived to deliver top-notch production in other aspects of the presentation as well.
“Over the last few years, we have evolved to offer stunning music, quality vocal performances, and high-end audio production,” Plarium chief marketing officer Gabi Shalel told GamesBeat. “Our vision is to continue evolving and reaching for the level of console-quality gaming.”
Of course, while Plarium is finding some success with these types of titles, the real money makers on Facebook are still social-casino titles and casual games.
“Overall, Q4 was a surprisingly strong quarter for FB gaming,” Eilers Research manager Adam Krejcik told GamesBeat. ” Some of this may have been driven by the season, as we don’t expect this type of growth in Q1 of 2014.
“On Facebook, we mainly track social-casino titles, which as a category accounted for about 42 percent of all Facebook gaming revenues last quarter,” said Krejcik.
So while Plarium is making hardcore games work for its audience, this likely isn’t representative of a major shift on the social network.