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The Facebook Doctrine: Gaming And The Future
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The Facebook Doctrine: Gaming And The Future

July 10, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 8 Next

You know, you're speaking about treating users respectfully, I think that sort of leads naturally into questions of things like spam and user acquisition stuff. I know you've made efforts to crack down on things like apps that spam invites to your whole friends list. I don't believe that that's exactly possible, at least not at present. So, what are you feelings on those issues? I'm assuming that's something that's still pretty rapidly evolving.

GD: Well, I think our policies will continue to evolve to match the realities of the app marketplace. The goal for us is always to provide the user with the best possible experience and to help developers succeed. And so finding the right set of policies is very important to us, and they evolve over time.

We clearly want developers to treat their users with respect -- because one app developer's users, those users will come back to more apps from that developer but also use other developers' apps and use Facebook. So, really, I view this as a community that everybody should treat well and be good citizens towards, because we want those users to continue to use more and more apps going forward.

Yeah, it's something that [Playfish's] Sebastian [de Halleux] was saying. He said it at the conference, and then he said to me again later that he didn't think people picked up on it to the extent that he thought was relevant. Playfish doesn't spam or have really hardcore virality engine to its games. What it does is it just has a little link on the right side that says, "If you like this, recommend this to your friends", because they want people to recommend it to their friends when they want to.

GD: Yes. Playfish very much believes in what they call "quality requests". So [the game experience] is a quality experience. It's a fun experience that you're having, and you want to share that with your friends so that they can have the same quality experience and also play the experience with you. They're very pure about that, and I think they set the standards there very well.

Actually, Playfish, all of their apps are verified, and it's something that they see as very important to their applications, and to their users as well.

And what about Zynga? They're really high up on the rankings. Do you find the top developers work closely with you in terms of things like verification?

GD: Yes. many of Zynga's apps are verified as well. I think if you look at a sample of the top-end apps, many of them you see are verified. It's really a win-win. The apps get better, they get more placement, and the users like it as well. It's a good program.

Facebook games have a tendency to be simple, though they're getting pretty elaborate. But do you see the potential of things getting elaborate to the point of a full 3D Flash-based browser MMO with full progression?

GD: Absolutely.

Because that's well within the technological capabilities of Flash today.

GD: Absolutely. There's a great quote from the lead designer of EverQuest this week, right? Saying that they believe that the next great casual MMO -- it wasn't even casual I think -- will be on Facebook.

Because the challenge that some of the traditional MMOs have today is that they've built audiences but they're not bringing in any new users, right? And it's actually quite intimidating to join an existing MMO that's been around for several years where everybody's level 80, right? It's like the new experience is a little intimidating.

Whereas I think Facebook has done an excellent job of growing and welcoming people into the experience and very quickly people feeling like they're having a great time, they're interacting with their friends, they're playing games, and so on. And so when you look at the scale of Facebook, over 200 million active users, there's an audience there that's already starting -- I mean we have over 10 million monthly players of three games already, and we're a year into our platform. It's only going to grow from there.

We're at the scale of World of Warcraft on three games already. And the capabilities of Flash are growing tremendously as well. Flash 10 introduces 3D, and so we have 3D games today. So, you see all the pieces, all the building blocks, and people are starting to put them together. I think it's inevitable that someone will find that right combination that will just take off and become the next great MMO.

I mean, we're already looking at YoVille, which I would consider an MMO. It's over seven million monthly actives, half the size of World of Warcraft already, and growing much, much faster.

That brings us nicely to payment and the ability to monetize users. A lot of the discussion at SGS was about monetizing; it seemed a little crass when you come from the game development side, where people think artistically. At the same time it's obviously super-duper relevant to be concerned with it because Facebook developers are not getting $60 upfront. They're getting incremental payment as payment comes from users, and they have to fight from it in a totally different way.

GD: Yeah. I think that's what you were seeing, that we have new revenue models that the traditional games industry is really not familiar with. But what you're also seeing is that in traditional games revenue, large publishers lost money last year, right? And I think all of them see as a shift from retail distribution to online distribution, and they're figuring out how to manage this transition. It's a big deal, what everybody expects with this.

Now, the social game companies started with digital distribution, online distribution. The models that are thriving on Facebook include advertising and in-game transactions. Neither of these are prevalent business models today in the traditional gaming space. It's very much a "Pay $60 at retail," or "Pay $15 World of Warcraft," right now.

So, there are new revenue models. And I think whenever there are new revenue models, there's a lot of interest in how they work and how to optimize them from monetization. And so, I think from a social gaming perspective, what you're seeing is an evolution in the thinking and the iterations in how they think about these topics.

And I think when the traditional game folks show up, they're like, "Well, why are you so focused on these things? Because you know, we've kind of cracked monetization even though, you know, we lost money last year." Yeah, you made four billion dollars. They know how to make four billion dollars. "So, why are you so focused on how you make money?" EA's very focused right now on making great games, not necessarily on how to develop new monetization models.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 8 Next

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