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Facebook's Zuckerberg: App Reengagement Focus, Credits Help Level Playing Field

Facebook's Zuckerberg: App Reengagement Focus, Credits Help Level Playing Field

June 23, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

June 23, 2010 | By Eric Caoili

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg says the social network's focus on reengagement instead of virality for apps and games, as well as its upcoming credits system, help level the playing field for smaller developers.

Though many of Facebook's most popular social games have lost millions of palyers in recent months after the site enacted changes to restrict app "notification span" -- which many titles depended on to attract new users -- Zuckerberg believes this puts the focus on creating high quality productions that reengage users.

"... You basically had apps that were growing very quickly, and their best way to get a good user count was to get new users and churn through them," explained the CEO in an interview with Inside Facebook. "That really optimizes for apps that are very viral instead of apps that are high quality and that people want to reengage."

"So we intentionally weakened the viral channels recently, and intentionally strengthened reengagement with emails, so that there will be better apps. It’s going to be a long process, but I think it’s going reasonably well."

He commented that the social network's changes to its app notification system are also designed to make it so that smaller developers "have just as good of a chance to build a good game" as bigger companies like Zynga or Electronic Arts/Playfish, which have more resources and more chances to cross-promote their titles.

"That is a long term thing, to make sure the market stays competitive around this," said Zuckerberg. "... A lot of what we’re working on is [so] a small company [can] succeed in the space."

The executive also argued that Credits, Facebook's universal virtual currency system currently under beta testing, works toward the same goal of building a level ecosystem for its social games and apps -- as opposed to some of the publisher-specific currency systems several companies have set up.

"So if Zynga or any one [publisher] can allow cross payments within their games, but that doesn’t extend to other games, then that ends up being a big barrier to entry for other startups," said Zuckerberg. "Making it so that there is one currency that people can take everywhere levels the playing field a bit, which is good."

He added that the company wants to make it as easy as possible for users to build up a liquidity of Credits, and that the social network plans to pour all the money it makes from Credits back into creating ad offers (allowing users to earn free virtual currency) and prepaid cards, potentially lubricating the economy and encouraging users to buy more virtual goods.

"Overall we think it’s better for everyone for us to be in that place," said Zuckerberg. "Now if we fail, we fail, and someone else will succeed. But I think that over the long term this will end up being a pretty valuable thing."

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