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Editor's note: The concept of Facebook as a gaming platform intrigues me. I've always believed that good gameplay can work in any environment, and I'm hoping Civilization: Network is the first game that proves this for me on Facebook. Do any of you see a future in Facebook gaming? -Jason
Anyone who has a Facebook account has seen the signs: 2,000 FarmVille requests, your own virtual fish tank (equipped with experience points and microtransactions), and other games that seem like they would fit right at home on your DSi or your smart phone as downloadable games. Social gaming is here, and it has the capability (and the backing) to become the next major gaming platform.
Facebook has more than 350 million active users a month, and more than a 100 million of them play games, according to a piece on Facebook gaming in the March 2010 edition of GamePro. The report, "Inside Virtual Goods: The Future of Social Gaming," projects that social gaming will amount to $835 million this year.
These big numbers mean that Facebook has an incredible potential to generate revenue for makers of media. Putting anything on Facebook, whether it's your business, your band, or a new piece of software, gives it a possible audience higher than the population of the United States — especially since many users access the social network from not just their home PCs but cellphones, laptops and netbooks, and even game consoles. For game developers and publishers, this means a potential audience that's staggering.
Because of those numbers, Facebook is drawing interest from some noteworthy players in games: Sid Meier is working on Civilization: Network for Firaxis Games, which he intends to be the social version of the hugely popular Civilization franchise. NGMoco, the company headed by Neil Young (a former EA executive) that's already profiting off iPhone games such as Rolando and Topple, is also interested in Facebook gaming. Even Namco Bandai is joining the fray, installing an arcade on Facebook.
Is this new platform profitable? Early reports from smaller companies like Zynga claim their profits are steadily rising higher and higher — Zgyna claims it projects revenues of $300 million a year in the March 2010 GamePro piece. BuddyMedia, a company that creates and sells company-branded widgets for social networking sites, reported an increase of revenue of 138 percent in the downturn of 2008.
The future of Facebook gaming remains intriguing. With Facebook accessible by the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and smart phones becoming new alternatives to portable gaming, consoles could start integrating the social network into our friends' list — or even using it as our friends' list. Imagine if you could see and contact your friends on the Wii or any of the other consoles at any time: You could issue challenges, send quick messages letting them know when plan to game, or even set up events and game nights (with handy reminders built in).