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Shaping the Future of Facebook as a Game Platform


October 4, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

I've been talking to different people who've been developing service-based games; some have histories developing games like EverQuest, which launched in '99 and is still going, or like World of Warcraft, which launched in 2004. Is it like a television show that just eventually runs out of steam? Or does it never end as long as there are enough subscribers or people playing?

MW: Yeah, absolutely. World of Warcraft is the quintessential example. It's hard to know. I think it comes down a lot to the brand. You mentioned Final Fantasy before [the interview began]. The World of Warcraft universe or the Battle Pirates universe or Total Domination, depending on how successful a game or franchise gets, could continue to live on. If Mario was built as a service game, what would it look like today? I think it's going to be fascinating.

Do performance issues of games that run on the Facebook platform all come down to how the developers made the game itself, or, when you're playing something in the browser, in Canvas, does that have anything to do with you? Is that entirely down to the way the developers made the game, or are there any changes you make that affect that for people?

MW: Well, we put in a lot of time and effort to make sure that we are not adversely affecting any game. One of the unanticipated downsides to having such an effective growth engine is that sometimes developers have a lot of trouble handling the volume.

SongPop was one of the recent examples with the numbers they raised. Getting to 3 million DAUs in a couple of months and 12 million-plus MAUs -- that's a lot of volume to handle, and that's tough to scale up from a lot of their points. I think the ecosystem's matured a lot, though, and we haven't seen sort of games that go down as much when they hit that growth curve.

I certainly don't think we can take all of the credit for it because most of this is on the developer side, but increasingly the ecosystem is getting much better at it, despite the fact that the growth is much faster now.

Do you make recommendations on partners and process for developers who are doing things like trying to scale?

MW: Like what kind of database to use, or...?

Yeah, exactly; like what kind of technology to use or what server provider is good at scaling.

MW: Yes, we do, in some informal ways. I actually am not up-to-date with it because it's mostly our partnership team who does that, and shares best practices, and occasionally does blog posts about it. But the community communicates a lot with each other, so just on various forums or even our stack overflow page people are sharing tips and stuff. It's been an area where our ecosystem has matured a lot.

People know how to deal with this kind of scale because they've just seen it happen enough times: 130 games with over a million MAU. There's a lot of people that deal with that scale and had to deal with it very quickly, so we're seeing a lot of back-end providers pop up who basically say, "Hey, we helped Draw Something grow; we helped SongPro grow. We helped whomever, and now we can help you guys."

Have you seen an uptick in HTML5 games on the platform? Do you support HTML5 games on the platform?

MW: We're really excited about HTML5 and the promise of it. I will say, on web, definitely Flash still predominates, and, on mobile, native still predominates. We're sort of agnostic about it. We would like to see the potential of HTML5 realized more, but certainly it's not currently dominant on either desktop or mobile.

It's nascent and growing more than that, I think.

MW: Our intuition is that it's going to be very exciting, but, right now, we're focused on developers' success today with all of our developers, regardless of platform.

You mentioned that a lot of games on mobile are native apps; that's how it works. Obviously, a bigger and bigger portion of Facebook users use Facebook primarily through mobile devices. This doesn't really touch on your work, but how does the company feel about that at the end of the day? Does the fact that people are more likely to be gaming on a native app on mobile affect things for Facebook?

MW: We find that a lot of what's going on in mobile for games really exciting, frankly. The kind of innovation that you're seeing for mobile games is really cool and interesting.

From our point of view, we want games to be social and distributed amongst your friends and social graph wherever they are, so we've basically pivoted a lot of our time and effort towards making all of our APIs available on mobile. In 2009, we launched our first series of APIs first for iOS and then for Android, and now, basically, we're at feature parity with our SDKs.

We are developing first and foremost for mobile because developers and users enjoy it so much. There's still an enormously thriving and successful desktop experience on Facebook.com, but we are both investing in that and the mobile because we are sort of agnostic for the platform.

When you see things like King.com, where they're trying to send people on a loop from the mobile to the desktop and back, persistent, is that something that you would have anticipated, and is that something that you help enable?

MW: Yeah, we definitely enable it. Today, if you build a game on desktop and then build the same game on mobile, your users on desktop will get a bookmark on Facebook mobile application for your mobile app.

I've noticed that.

MW: It's pretty awesome for devs and for users too because they want to be playing the same games on both and sharing the experience, so it's definitely something that we're really supportive of. Some developers develop for Canvas only or for Facebook.com only, and are seeing enormous success -- like a Kixeye -- and some developers develop only for mobile and use Facebook to power their growth there. You've increasingly got people building for both because they've got this great effect of getting the Canvas users on mobile and the mobile users back on Canvas. I don't think I would have anticipated so many devs doing it, but, now that you see the data and the numbers, it's clear why they do it.


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