Shaping the Future of Facebook as a Game Platform
October 4, 2012 Page 4 of 4
Do you see a potential future where there are console-level games being played at scale in the Facebook platform?
MW: Yes. Absolutely. I think you're already seeing it with Unity and Flash upping the quality. We get to see a lot of games in beta, and I'll walk past and say, "Wow, that looks like a console game -- what is that?" about something that's running in Flash 11 or Unity. The performance -- obviously, we're working on pretty speedy PCs -- but the quality is just going to continue to rise on web generally and in mobile, where you're seeing great experiences.
From our perspective, console, mobile, and Web should all be able to take advantage of the growth of Facebook and the increased engagement of being social. In some ways, we are interesting observers of what goes on, and just try to make sure that our APIs support the platforms that make the most sense.
I'm actually a little bit surprised that more dedicated console games don't have more Facebook connectivity -- more ways to let people know what you're doing. The PlayStation 3 and I guess the Vita as well say what trophies you get or what you bought, but I don't see individual games making decisions to share. It's weird to me. Does that surprise you?
MW: We think there's a ton of potential. Hardcore console gamers want to share their achievements on their timeline or with their Facebook friends, and developers want to be able to distribute more through Facebook. We think there's a ton of potential. A lot of the ideas we have and the focus we have when we talk internally is on how do we make the console experience more social and get more distribution on the console developers.
That kind of brings me to another question, which is: when you build new features for developers, do you think outside of that box and think about who might come to Facebook if you can attract them?
MW: Absolutely. We really try to outreach to the game ecosystem at large. In our experience, the best games are not built by Facebook developers who then switch into games, but game developers who start using Facebook. So I think you're increasingly seeing that the really high-quality games are from people with deep, deep game backgrounds who see Facebook as simply the most efficient way to distribute their great-quality games.
Seeing yourselves as a platform, have you ever thought as a company, "We should have our own games"? Nintendo has its own games; Sony and Microsoft have their own games. Have you ever thought, "Maybe we should, too?"
MW: We're pretty committed to not making any games and staying as a platform that just spends all of our time and resources -- and, believe me, we've got enough work to do just as a platform (laughing) -- but we're committed not to.
One of the things that's interesting is that the games team at Facebook tend to be a lot of former game developers who are right now actively not making games, but building a platform to be the kind of platform that they would want to develop on.
That makes it really exciting, to have that kind of background. Because we don't make games and don't intend to make games, what we get excited about is seeing other people create great games for our platform and seeing businesses emerge that are massively successful by creating great games for our platform.
That brings up an interesting question: How do you recruit people to your team? How do you determine who you want to pick and what sort of experience do they have?
MW: If you look at the background of our team and the experiences, you'll see the background alumni of Xbox, Electronic Arts, PopCap, a bunch of people from Cryptic Studios, Linden Labs, a whole bunch of indie devs that you may or may not have heard of... So it really comes from a variety of places. We tend to highly prefer people with games background, and we are hiring actively.
Why do you appreciate people with a games background in particular?
MW: The people from a games background generally tend to understand the industry better and the ecosystem better, so for us to support game developers former game developers just tend to have better judgment as to what to build and when it can impact the product quicker. We have some great developers and great members of the team who have no games background, but we generally have more success with people who have a games background.
Facebook is growing in Japan, but maybe not quite yet as a games platform, given the success of mobile social games there, perhaps. It'd be interesting to see what would happen if DeNA decided to point its sights at Facebook. They run games on Mixi, but obviously their biggest target is smartphones right now.
MW: Yeah. What we'd like to see is for mobile devs like that to develop games on mobile or any platform, and use Facebook as the distribution channel for them. From our point of view, one way of looking at the way the games ecosystem works is that there's a huge user base out there who potentially wants to play and discover great games and great social games, and we've got this huge developer ecosystem out there, many of whom are developing for Facebook and some of which aren't. Sort of our job generally is to connect those two worlds and give people social gaming experiences that they love and allow developers to build hugely successful businesses. We've had some success there, but I think there's still potential to do a ton more, which makes it exciting to do what we do.
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