Today, Facebook has announced it is joining the mobile publishing game. The real problem the company is trying to solve is discoverability, and it intends to use its network to boost selected partners' games, while sharing analytics data with them.
The company has recruited Dan Morris, formerly of Electronic Arts and DeNA, to lead its mobile games partnership team. Gamasutra spoke with Morris ahead of the announcement to find out how things are going to work.
Though the company is referring to this new initiative as Mobile Games Publishing, in essence it's primarily a way for developers to get access to new promotional channels Facebook is opening up -- in Morris' words, to solve "discovery problems in mobile games we have spent a lot of time talking about and thinking about."
Facebook will "promote a game across a variety of channels" and then "share in the success of those games by participating in the revenue share," he says. The company would not yet disclose the terms of its revenue share agreements under this new initiative.
Notably, it will not participate in other ways publishers might be expected to: "We're not financing games; we're not taking that active a role in funding or development or anything like that," says Morris. "This is about promotion and finding audiences. It's more about distribution."
"We're not getting involved in a lot of the things that traditional publishers get involved in."
The developers Facebook is working with, and wants to work with
For some time now, says Morris -- who joined the company in May -- Facebook has been working on a pilot program with eight handpicked developers and their games:
5th Planet, Dawn of the Dragons
Brainbow Dr. Newton: The Great Brain Adventure
Certain Affinity, Age of Booty: Tactics
Dragonplay, Live Hold'Em
Gameloft, Kingdoms & Lords
Outplay Entertainment, Monster Legacy
Space Ape, Samurai Siege
WeMade Entertainment, WIND Runner
Gamevil, Train City
Despite well-known partners like Gameloft and Gamevil, Morris says the goal of the initiative is to work with, in general, "smaller and medium-sized developers" which are "not necessarily very well established." It's "one more way for Facebook to create a path to success," in his words. Moving forward, Facebook is looking at both existing games and those which have "not been released yet but are later in their development."
Of course, the company is also looking for games with "potential for long-term monetization," says Morris.
While the company will not be funding games, it won't stop at just promoting them, says Morris. "We're not going to share any specific data about users or so forth, but one of the activities a traditional mobile games publisher does is share best practices, share analytics insights, so developer partners can tune their games for maximum success, and we will be working in that capacity with our partners."
Where the program came from, and how it worksWhen Gamasutra asked Morris why developers wouldn't just buy ads on Facebook instead of participating in this program, he specifically reiterated that this is an option to appeal to less well established devs. While many large companies can make effective use of existing advertising channels, says Morris, smaller developers are "not necessarily the best-equipped companies to compete in some of the existing channels."
"It's a response to a really obvious pain point in the ecosystem," says Morris. "So we've been working in pretty close coordination with a small number of pilot partners to see if we can offer that path, and so far the early results are pretty encouraging."
"We're trying to open the door further for some other companies," he says. "We really try to think of it as having a path to success moving forward for different kinds of developers."
The goal, says Morris, is to "match games to audiences" -- in many possible ways, "using a range of channels to promote games to Facebook users who haven't seen them before." One example, according to Facebook, would be promoting games in a specific genre to players who already play other games in the same genre.
How do I get my game on board?Participating in the program doesn't require any changes to games, Morris says, as long as they're integrated with Facebook already. He was cagey, however, about what requirements there might be -- saying there are "no specifics I'd be ready to share about what is required or mandatory" but also mentioning that there's "no special API" required and "nothing SDK related" to get your game ready to go with the new program.
In fact, he says, games in the program are not required to co-brand with Facebook, though developers can if they "really want it."
If you're interested in finding out more Facebook Mobile Games Publishing and applying to the program, you can head Facebook's official page.
Don't expect you'll get in immediately, however. "We'll be looking at those going forward," says Morris. "We're in a pilot program with a very limited number of developers, it's not something that's scaling today."