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facebook dashboardFacebook showed off a new version of its dashboards that are meant to give more attention to games and other apps on its social network. Today, it will give developers access to the new design so that they can start creating apps that are well integrated with the dashboards.

Users can reach the dashboards by clicking on an icon on the left hand side of their Facebook pages. The dashboards give users a central place to to manage, play and discover games or apps. That means the social network recognizes the popularity of these activities and is giving them the same kind of visibility it does for photos and events, said Gareth Davis, platform manager for games at Facebook. The latest versions are here.

“This is all about helping games and apps in front of users in a more effective way,” he said.

This is critical for Facebook to get right, since there are hundreds of millions of gamers on the social network. The idea is that users will be able to see games that their friends are playing, helping users discover games that are relevant to them. The game dashboard’s top will show the apps and games that a user has recently used. The games can also leave messages in a news section. That news can be global, or personal. An example of the latter would be “it’s your turn in a game against Jared.” You can also mention a specific name of a user, using an @ sign, in communications that show up on the page.

Below your own section, you can see the recent activity of your friends. And below that, you can see the games that your friends play. Both are meant to help you discover new games that are relevant to your social circle. On the right hand side, Facebook can promote specific games or items. At the very bottom is a directory for games available on Facebook, another feature meant to promote discovery. Overall, it looks nice, and it looks like it will help users discover games that are relevant and thereby preserve the virality of games.

The latter topic is of interest to developers, since Facebook is making it harder to spread spam about apps or games to masses of users. Davis said that the dashboards will make it easy for users to notice that they should return to their games. In that sense, he said it should help with the retention of users. The life cycle of a game could thus be extended.

Facebook signaled it would make the changes late last year. Davis said the final versions would roll out in a matter of weeks. He said the company put the designs through extensive testing and got a lot of feedback from developers. Once it rolls out, he said Facebook would continue to watch usage and tweak as necessary.

Be sure to check out our latest announcements on GamesBeat@GDC, our video game conference taking place March 10 in San Francisco.

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