With the luster of social games gone, what now?
November 4, 2013 Page 6 of 7
"The numbers have dropped from completely insane to garden-variety insane"
That shift toward mobile makes Facebook itself less relevant as a web presence, suggests Koster, who left Disney Playdom over a year ago. "I spent my time in Facebook development mostly trying to create new kinds of social experiences. I think I wasn’t the only one trying things along those lines," he says. "It doesn’t seem to me that most of those experiments worked – not just mine, but those of other people as well."
Broader audiences don't seem as interested in more synchronous interaction, which was a big push many designers thought could 'legitimize' Facebook games. The shift toward mobile will allow Koster to revisit other design interests, like puzzle-making. Meanwhile, "I haven’t found myself wanting to play a Facebook game since I stopped working on them," he says.
There are still millions of people playing Facebook games where most of the design community no longer has to see them seeking White Mystery Eggs in their newsfeeds. Thanks to platform changes, most users opt out of seeing social game notifications.
"The numbers have clearly dropped off from the completely insane levels they were at a couple of years ago, but they've really only dropped from completely insane to garden-variety insane," Cancienne says. "We're still talking about millions and millions of people playing games on Facebook every day. What's definitely changed is the rhetoric around them and the amount of mind share they command within the industry."
"There's never been a better time for gamers and developers to start working with Facebook," said the company in its recent Q3 earnings release, claiming there are now more than 260 million people playing games on Facebook every month. The company says its users spent more than $1.5 billion in games in the first half of the year.
But Siegel sees a perfect storm of disinterest keeping developers at bay: "The platform has become more difficult and more costly to develop for, at the same time that the perceived opportunity has waned," he says. "At the same time, I think that trust in the Facebook platform from a user perspective is probably at an all-time low."
Even though he once believed in a wide array of opportunity and possibility on the Facebook platform, Siegel himself has run out of motivation to try any games on the platform, assuming any Facebook game he tries will be poorly designed, lack invention, try to trick him into spending money and spamming friends, and start emailing him regularly without permission. With those assumptions in place, it's hard to imagine developers would see the value in putting time and energy into Facebook games anymore.
"A lot of people now equate 'game on Facebook' to 'spammy piece of shit,' which I don't think is an unfair or inaccurate estimation of the situation," he says. "To what do I credit this? Zynga, of course."
The end of the Facebook boom might even mean that "social" itself -- once such a broad trend embraced by designers and triple-A publishers alike as bigger than Facebook and Zynga, and full of potential -- is no longer a lustrous buzzword.
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