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Gaming The New Era Of Facebook

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Gaming The New Era Of Facebook

February 9, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

[Can new developers find success in the post-notifications era of Facebook? We've got three resounding affirmatives from two developers and a consultant, and we explore their paths in this Gamasutra feature.]

While conventional wisdom says one needs the sort of massive hits that Zynga and CrowdStar generate to be really successful on Facebook, that's "total nonsense," says one consultant -- and developers concur.

Rather, in today's market, a great game that targets a smaller, dedicated, niche audience can bring in decent money.

Indeed, developers say, within the last year, the pendulum has begun swinging away from the so-called "soccer moms" -- who gravitate towards casual games -- back to the more traditional core gamer. And savvy small-to-mid-sized developers are creating the sort of deeper, more strategic games that appeal to them.

For instance, the Facebook portfolio at Redwood Shores, CA-based Kabam consists mainly of what the company is calling "massively multiplayer social games," while San Francisco-based Casual Collective is creating Facebook games for the sort of hardcore gamers who enjoy a good Call of Duty match.

None of this surprises the folks at Facebook who are recognizing the phenomenon -- and, in fact, Facebook CTO Bret Taylor reported on how small-to-midsized social game developers can be successful on Facebook at the recent Inside Social Apps conference.

According to David Edery, principal of consulting firm Fuzbi LLC, "What we're seeing is the smaller, more targeted games growing considerably faster than the 'big mommas' that appeal to the large, general audiences, like CityVille and FrontierVille. If you believe the statistics, the top five games seem to be losing users while the games ranked 51 to 175 are growing substantially over last year."

Especially, he says, the targeted games that do a good job of promoting themselves in communities that would be specifically interested in the content. "It stands to reason that if you make a terrific soccer game and you advertise it in blogs for soccer fans, you better damn well believe you're going to have a better pass-through and better retention than, say, a FarmVille that appeals to -- who, farmers?"

FIFA Superstars

He cites EA Sports' FIFA Superstars -- currently ranked #62 -- which, he says, "is getting 594,000 daily active users, according to AppData, which is a pretty good number. With anything over a few hundred thousand, you can make some really significant money."

But the majority of Facebook developers don't understand the opportunities available to them by narrowly targeting their games, Edery says. Many of them can't even get their heads around the concept of free-to-play games, he adds. "That's still very hard for most developers to accept -- the idea of giving a game away for free, treating it as a service, and trying to make money over time, not immediately."

Edery spoke last year about how Facebook developers can make money "at the lowest reaches of popularity."

In other words, he says, if a game is ranked #163 on Xbox Live, for example, "you are hosed. It means that maybe five people a day are playing you. Same with PSN. But, on Facebook, #163 might have a daily average user level (DAU) of 50,000, which means you have a good chance of making money. That's an astonishing statistic.

"So what I'm saying is that if that game is designed correctly, if it is monetized correctly, it can make $200,000, $300,000, even $500,000 a year. That's totally feasible. Facebook is one of the only ecosystems where you can be that far down on the chart, and still be making a good profit."

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Brice Morrison
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Really great article; it's always encouraging to hear about little guys who are making it.

Joel S
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Michael Kolb
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Eric Ippolito
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+2 (for the effect)

Carlo Delallana
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It's also surprising to see how browser-based gaming could potentially grow more if you were able to play on a mobile device. Apple platforms aside tablets are set to overtake traditional desktop and notebook usage, the game follows the user everywhere they go.

E Zachary Knight
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As someone working on his first Facebook game, I am very encouraged by this article. I never planned on making Millions or becoming the new Zynga, but it is nice to know that there are developers making 200+ thousand a year on their games.

Tadhg Kelly
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Notifications actually came recently, in the form of notification-requests. CityVille makes heavy use of them for example.

Aside from that picky point, great article.

E Zachary Knight
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I think they are referring to the old notification bar that was in the bottom right corner where games could send quick messages out to allies and people who are not playing the game.

While the system still has plenty of opportunity to send notices, but not in the same ways as before.

Samuel Green
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Brilliant stuff. I played Backyard Monsters quite a lot back in the day, really was a pretty good game. Can't wait to see the next era of games from these companies, although I'm not really a fan of the Kingdoms of Camelot/Verdonia style game.

Tont Voles
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Kinda sad to see another FB gaming feature that's heavy on the MAU/DAUs and typically light on the ARPUs.

Joao Eira
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"In other words, he says, if a game is ranked #163 on Xbox Live, for example, "you are hosed. It means that maybe five people a day are playing you. Same with PSN. But, on Facebook, #163 might have a daily average user level (DAU) of 50,000, which means you have a good chance of making money. That's an astonishing statistic."

I understand how a game ranked #163 might have way more daily players on Facebook than on Xbox Live if it was in the same rank, but being ranked for example 59# on Xbox doesn't necessarly translate into being ranked #59 on Facebook, if even close to that.

And I have a question that isn't answered in this article which I thought would be the point of this article. How does one make money with Facebook? Where does the income come from? E-currency? I haven't seen anything that could answer me that question.

Eduard Pandele
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@Tont: Nobody discloses the actual ARPU; it's not in their interest to do so. Despite optimistic articles like
no-bubble/ , I can hardly believe Zynga is approaching EA in terms of income, and about Playdom being worth the 700 millions Disney paid for them ? Hmmm.

@Joao: All Facebook games that matter have a working in-game economy based on accumulation (of properties, in CityVille, of football players, in FIFA Superstars etc) and on retention (come back for more of the same). A small percentage of players want to improve faster and get more (have a bigger city, more advanced buildings, have a better football team) and also have the money to pay for this. This minority of players that actually pay real money for in-game currency are what keeps all Facebook games afloat.

Douglas Gregory
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Expanding on your reply to Joao, some Facebook games also derive revenue from advertisements, or by directing players to partner offers (although as I understand it, these forms of revenue are in decline, particularly the latter).

digitalnomad RealmOfEmpires
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"But the majority of Facebook developers don't understand the opportunities available to them by narrowly targeting their games, Edery says."

Absolutely, targeting a niche market, may not give you the hyped numbers of DAU/MAU as farmville boasts of ..but real time strategy games as Realm of Empires on facebook, does have hard core players forming a core group since the last 3 years. Facebook does provide a platform to small-to-midsized social game developers.