GamesBeat: Vishu, tell us about the original App Center and how you’re going to improve it.
Vishu Gupta: We launched the App Center a couple of years back. Before that we had a destination where people could go look for apps, but two years ago for the first time we added game genres and game detail pages on the App Center so that people looking for specific kinds of games could have a more reasonable browsing experience.
GamesBeat: Before App Center, what would have been harder for people to do?
Gupta: One thing that wasn’t there, we had a section for games, but you couldn’t filter that further into strategy games or puzzle games. Game categories were one thing. Another thing, the recommendation system was something we designed for the first time for App Center. The previous version was very, very basic. App Center was the first time we had a reasonable recommendation system that learns based on what other people are playing, to recommend the right games for you.
Over the last couple of years, the App Center has done really well. It’s one of the biggest sources of installs on Facebook Canvas. One thing we’ve found that we could improve on, though, was to make the experience more personalized. When you land on App Center now, most of the content you see – even the recommendation lists – will be personalized to your tastes, rather than a generic sort of list. That should be a big improvement. We haven’t started rolling it out, but we plan to start next week or so.
The second thing we’re investing in by building out this thing is just the speed of the UI. We’re building it on top of React, which is one of the things we open-sourced a little while back. That should be a much better experience. All the studies have said that faster UX increases engagement. We hope that happens here as well. In general, this redesign is a chance to test new and different things for the App Center. We have a bunch of new ideas.
GamesBeat: Do you call that A-B testing, or do you call it something else?
Gupta: There’s an A-B testing aspect to it, and then there’s just regular new product experiences as well. We launch something new and see whether people like it or not. One of the things I didn’t mention already that we’re doing, when you click on a game on the App Center, instead of navigating you to the app retail page, we just have a big pop-up that shows up, which is much faster. It still contains all the information you need to have to decide whether you want to play the game or not. It highlights videos or game trailers, if the game has uploaded those things. We launched game trailers a few months back on the current App Center and we’re highlighting them more now.
Above: CEO Mark Zuckerberg at f8.
Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
GamesBeat: So there are things here for both app developers and consumers.
Gupta: Yeah. In the long run, they’re aligned. For developers, usually they’re in tune with the user and vice versa. This will enable developers to showcase their content. A game with a high-quality trailer in the App Center will likely do better compared to one that doesn’t. It gives developers more power to influence a person’s decision by giving them good information about the game.
If a developer uploads the right content, the right assets to the App Center, it’s better for them, and obviously as a user I want more information about a game before I decide to play. It’s definitely right thing for everyone using the App Center.
GamesBeat: Is the App Center something that you’d take over to mobile, or do you think that there are other solutions that would work better on mobile?
Gupta: We currently have a place where people can look at recommendations on mobile. We’re thinking about how to introduce more game content on to other users.
GamesBeat: Is there any other major activity happening in games on the platform side?
Gupta: The three main things I’m bringing up in my talk regarding game discovery—number one, how to get game discovery through friends. The best dynamic is people inviting their friends to play a game. How can Facebook enable that? We have a request product, which we’re starting to invest more in. We announced a new version of request at GDC. It gives more game contacts to people so they can make a more informed decision about playing a game or not. We have an iteration of that to support turn-based gaming.
The second thing is developer-driven distribution. If developers want to target a certain type of user through our apps channel, what amount of information, what amount of targeting can we make available to them? We’re continuing to iterate on that in terms of paid distribution. Third, we have people looking for specific games themselves. App Center and other recommendations in this area, across web and mobile, are things we’re continuing to invest in.
One thing that we really believe in is cross-platform gaming. We want to enable all those things I just talked about across all the different platforms, so it doesn’t matter which one you’re on and which one your friend is on. You can play games with them irrespective of platform, so long as the game developer wants you to.
GamesBeat: Are there any standout game experiences that you’re seeing on the platform these days?
Gupta: I’m more of a casual gamer. The biggest thing I see on my feed right now is people sharing scores from the games they’re passionate about. People are using Facebook to talk about games that they like. That’s something we want to continue to support. Share Dialog and things like that, that we’re investing in across platforms, aren’t just for gaming, but they’re helping with that dynamic as well.
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