Why Facebook is SO tempting to game developers

Facebook is the focus of a new gold rush for developers.  Everyone is trying to find the next Farmville.  The question is, why is Facebook so popular?  I believe there are 3 key reasons:

  1. It’s ubiquitous
  2. All your friends, in 1 place
  3. It’s so easy to start playing

Ubiquitous

Facebook is everywhere!  There’s no escape. Nearly everyone I know is on it, so nearly everyone I know can play games on it.  That is a massive market ready to be tapped.  No console game could get close to the number of Farmville players at its peak.

All your friends in 1 place

Nearly everyone likes to play games with friends.  All the way back to chess (and beyond) games have been a good way to interact with others.  Being online gives you access to millions of other players, but why play with strangers when you can play with friends?  The solution?  Friend lists.

John Vechey (Popcap co-founder) recently had some interesting thoughts about Facebook and friends lists:

I’m very pro-Facebook. I never want to make a friends list again… I hate making friends lists in games. Take League of Legends – I was playing for three weeks until I found out some of my friends had been playing!

The problems with friends lists as a concept include:

  • The need to recreate the list each time (or most times)
  • You need to know which of your friends to add – you sometimes need to stay in contact externally to keep track of who’s playing what
  • They sometimes need a complex string of characters to be entered (an email or a series of numbers). This is less of an issue with a PC, but with consoles and their less well suited input controls this turns into a real effort

Efforts have been made to reduce the pain by using shared lists. But why bother at all?  Most people have a ready made friends list in Facebook. I’ve seen Blizzard is looking to get into Facebook – and it’s not a moment too soon! I hope other developers take note.

Research is needed to find how gamers would want Facebook/the game to behave with this information. For example would gamers want their “game” friends mixing with their “real life” friends online, or should they be separated?  How would gamers like their online gaming behaviour broadcasted, if at all?

It’s easy to play

Adding a game to Facebook is easy.  No installation, very little loading screens and no initial costs. This means there’s no real technical barrier between the developers and the potential players.

Conclusion

Facebook presents a very compelling case to developers. Large markets, easy access and strong links between people. It’s also compelling to gamers. An easy access point to games, and strong social interaction with all your friends who are also playing.

All that’s needed now are iconic Facebook games that can capture peoples imagination, spare time and wallets.  Before that can truly happen, there is much work that needs to be done looking at gaming and social interaction and the interaction between the two.

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