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Facebook's Beard: Gaming Is 'Leading The Way' Toward the Social Future

Facebook's Beard: Gaming Is 'Leading The Way' Toward the Social Future

August 29, 2011 | By Christian Nutt

In this interview, Facebook's director of platform partnerships tells Gamasutra's Christian Nutt that "gaming, we think, is leading the way" in the social makeover of media and content.

Beard oversees the company's developer partnerships across all of its apps; he's the boss of Sean Ryan, its director of games partnerships, who focuses specifically on games.

Beard spoke to Gamasutra at the launch event for EA/Playfish's The Sims Social earlier this month in San Francisco.

"You know, in many ways, gaming, we think, is leading the way. It's going to transform lots and lots of industries and experiences by making them social at the core," Beard told Gamasutra.

Reflecting on the progress EA has made in social games since it acquired Playfish in late 2009, Beard suggested that Facebook still has a lot of room to evolve as a games platform.

"I think it's still early days. I think there's a lot more that we're going to see. The space is moving quickly. We're definitely not at an end game," he said.

"What's going with mobile is completely different. In two years, the type of games we're playing on a mobile phone is going to look really different from what we're playing today," said Beard.

He also pointed out that "we find that users that use us on mobile are more engaged than users who only use us on the PC."

However, how social games can be implemented effectively on mobile platforms is still evolving, as Sean Ryan alluded to in a recent interview where he spoke about the company's attitude toward native mobile apps and HTML5.

People don't necessarily think of Facebook as a platform in the right way, Beard suggested. "There's the Canvas platform where people are putting games, but in many ways, the platform at its core is like an identity and communications platform that can span across multiple devices. So, it works great on a PC. It works great on mobile phones, iPhone, and Android."

This can have profound implications for games that are not "Facebook games" in the way that term is usually used, he suggested. The future is wide open: "You can play games on PlayStation and Xbox that are social and have the social graph at the core of them. We're still at a very early stage. Titles that tie together all those experiences. Distribution that you can get on all these different experiences. And truly rich social gaming that isn't just setting a title on a Facebook Canvas space."

The company's primary concern is how it can enable and encourage developers to leverage the social graph at the core of the site, with its 750 million-plus users, and not just how it can get developers to put games on the web version of Facebook.

"That's what we're constantly thinking about, Facebook as a platform that is the graph, and having users tap into that and have experiences with their friends. We feel like we're just scratching the surface, and it's really going to transform."

He said that though Facebook is a "small company" with "small teams", the social network does encourage its developers to think through new ways to evolve their uses of social mechanics.

"A lot of the true innovation and genius is happening within our gaming partners. We certainly encourage it and listen to them to make sure that what we build works for that, but I definitely think the like kind of cross-platform coordination and cross-platform platform is a really exciting area. We think we're going to see a lot of interesting innovation take place," said Beard.

"I think games like Sims push things much further in that direction," he said.

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