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Myths, mid-core and mobile: Facebook’s message to developers Exclusive
Myths, mid-core and mobile: Facebook’s message to developers
March 28, 2013 | By Kris Graft

Facebook has big plans for browser and mobile games in 2013, and one of its key aims is to target a demographic that it hasn't particularly chased before: core gamers.

Over the course of this year, Facebook plans to back the launch of multiple hardcore-focused games on the social network, as it looks to cater for an audience that has up to this point not been hugely interested in the social games that Facebook has had to offer.

At the Game Developers Conference today, Facebook's director of game partnerships Sean Ryan talked to Gamasutra about what the social network is doing to attract developers, and make them want to create Facebook games in 2013.

So what are 18 to 35 year old males doing on Facebook?

Playing games, apparently [laughs].

Was that surprising when you got data back that said that?

Yeah, there’s always that image that we don’t have those users. It’s just that up until now, we didn’t necessarily have the games for those users, and they ways to surface those games. If you look at the three themes, it’s that desktop is healthy and growing, unlike what people seem to think. Also, 2013 is the year of core and mid-core for us.

I was waiting for the term 'mid-core' to come up here!

Yeah, it’s debatable, the mid-core to core break. But when we look at those types of games, when we look at the openings for FPSes, RTSes, MMOs, MOBAs, RPGs and any acronym you can think of, that’s where we see the next wave of games hitting over the next couple of months.

The third [theme] is cross-platform. We’ve seen more examples recently of games getting big on Canvas, then they move to mobile, and it just drives you up through the charts. Candy Crush is the obvious example, but we also see Solitaire Blitz and Dragon City both launch apps in the last week and they just shot up to the top 10 in 30 or 40 countries.

What are you doing to attract developers? Why would a developer make a Facebook game today?

You make a Facebook game, core or non-core, because we either have a lower cost of acquisition, or a higher LTV [life-time value] because of our re-engagement channels, or both. With core and mid-core games, which use our channels differently, is figuring out new ways to expose users to those games, both for installs and engagement. So App Center, which has now been retooled around strategy, adventure and action games, so they have distinct categories.

There are app-to-user notifications, which are aimed primarily at the core. And we’ve done a lot of work with Unity. We have 75 million active users each month with Unity, and that’s growing every day.

What are some of the myths that are going around about social games?

The first is that desktop or Canvas is dying. The truth is that at every metric level, we’re up. Number of payers is up, we have an all-time-high gamer DAU, ever in the history of the company as of a week ago. We paid out $2 billion to developers last year, and most of our developers had record years. Canvas continues to be, and just desktop gaming in general around the world, is big business, and is up. So we’re going to grow the desktop business.

And there’s also a myth that you can’t do core games on Facebook. What we’re doing with our new lineup of games is trying to show a set of killer games that use our channels in a way that’s appropriate for that type of game, not in a way that [the channels] have been traditionally used.

So the myths, I think, still are are that desktop is not growing, because it is; that Facebook is only for bubble shooters and casino games -- which it is that, but also more; and third -- what is the value of Canvas in the mobile world? And the answer is that Canvas allows you to iterate much faster, so when you go to mobile, you already have a user base, then the messaging kicks in. And at that point you’ve got a bunch of users who automatically are going to be able to send Android and iOS. They couldn’t before, so you get a much more virtuous circle than just launching on mobile-only.

What’s the status of Facebook games and mobile? Obviously, mobile has been a big push for you guys.

We have three components to the platform that apply to mobile as well as desktop: Identity, social graph and discovery. Identity is obvious, the social graph is important because you can’t have a social game without a social graph.

Really, the biggest complaint from developers in mobile is discovery -- how do you break through, given the amount of apps. That’s where we are focused, both paid and unpaid [apps]. The mobile app install network that we launched in December is doing incredibly well for a wide variety of our partners. And we’re starting to see more organic and viral traffic from News Feed. We sent 263 million clicks to the Apple and iOS stores last month. Hopefully that continues to go up -- it’s up from 175 million a few months ago.

In mobile, if you use our platform, you get social graph and identity, you get free distribution through News Feed, and you have the ability to amplify that through paid distribution in a way that’s more effective than what people are used to.

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Bruno Xavier
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I understand Facebook fear a major outflow now that PS4 and new XBox are coming...
But, please; You already said what it is, Facebook is for dumb games and casinos and everybody knows that.
Nobody need a canvas when they can install the game right onto the desktop, this is why most facebook games are what they are: nonsensical experiences.

Good luck trying to bite hardcore gamers, but does it had to be 2013, really?... Funny.
If you teach ppl there that there are real games awaiting for them instead of all those shitty experiences you have in Facebook, this is already a win-win.

Jan Zheng
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Flip it around- there are currently no GOOD games on Facebook, but with Canvas, Unity and a strong platform for socially connecting gamers, it's a great opportunity. If someone makes a great game, the players will come.

I think Zynga did a disservice to the platform by setting bad expectations. Someone just needs to step up and set new ones

Carlo Delallana
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Heart Shaped Games "Hero Generations" is not something I would call dumb. It's now out of public beta and i'm hoping they decide to do a full launch someday. It's a brilliant turn-based game that deals with heros who age and pass down their skills to their children who continue the journey. Here's the review of the game:

Facebook should really help promote more diverse experiences because this is the kind of game that could thrive in their environment.

E Zachary Knight
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Carlo, Yes that game was a lot of fun when I played it. There have been a lot more great deep games on Facebook that I enjoyed.

I also agree with Jan. There have been a number of developers, Zynga being king among them, that have spoiled Facebook by turning it into a DAU'fest. They spent all their time trying to maximize DAU that they sacrificed deep and compelling gameplay. Then it all came back to bite them just like SEO's trying to game Google's algorithm.

David Serrano
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@Jan Zheng

"If someone makes a great game, the players will come."

Exactly. This is a very simple truth which I think developers frequently allow marketing and business execs to blind them to, in all segments of the market. Regardless of the platform, it always has been and always will be about the games. And despite conventional wisdom, it could very well be Farmville didn't represent Facebook's killer gaming app. Facebook's killer app may still be TK (to come). The opportunities and possibilities there are only limited by the motivations, imagination, creativity and problem solving abilities of development teams.

I was watching Almost Famous last night and there's a line in the movie which definitely applies here: Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.

Shay Hugi
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There are many great games on Facebook... Take for example KingsRoad by Rumble Games launched just recently, it's a decent game with an extremely good graphics and very nice co-op social elements, so does Tank Fighter a real time multiplayer game by Sunset Games, and TDP4 by Javelin and many many others (Red Crucible 2, Offensive Combat, Uberstrike and on and on...) these are all mid-core games, not to mention Kixeye's games which are extremely addictive and very well designed in terms of balancing. I think Facebook games are here to stay.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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What are the action based games of FacebooK? Turn based is garbage to me. Only game I played on FacebooK is Dungeon Rampage.