Mobile Games Prove Challenging For Facebook

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

Mobile Games Prove Challenging For Facebook

The rise of Facebook as a social media system and the rise of mobile gaming were two phenomena that fired up largely alongside each other in terms of time. But the two phenomena really didn't interact for quite some time, and when these two did come together, it made for an interesting problem for Facebook. To solve that problem, Facebook has had to do some reconsidering about the way it addressed issues of mobile development, and mobile developers alike.

With mobile-first gaming becoming increasingly prevalent online, and Facebook's move to being more of a mobile operation likewise coming into play, it becomes clear that Facebook too had to make some changes in a bid to get more involved with developers who were wanting to go mobile more often than standard Web-based. But Facebook originally had a problem with mobile games, and in a sense, still does; playing a game through Facebook on mobile devices is said to be impossible.

However, there are still means for Facebook to be relevant to mobile game developers, particularly as a marketing tool. Games meant for mobile can be launched on Facebook, which draws in new audiences, and Facebook as a promotional vector for an online game is a familiar marketing tool used for just about anything from cars to food and beyond. While gaming on Facebook isn't exactly an option, there's still the issue of Facebook's billion-plus total user base and average 375 million gamers on the platform. Facebook can route users to app stores, and even offer synchronization in some games.

Facebook's 2013 annual report, however, points to something of a contrarian view here, as it says “Platform developers' efforts to prioritize Facebook integrations with their own mobile apps may reduce or slow the growth of our user activity that generates advertising and Payments opportunities, which could negatively affect our revenue.” Yet Facebook seems to be taking a longer-term view of the concept, suggesting that serving as a marketing facilitation platform could ultimately bring gamers around to Facebook-integrated apps and websites alike.

It's enough to make one wonder why Facebook isn't working to make mobile games functional on the mobile site; after all, we know that Facebook has been increasingly going mobile over the last few years, so why not do likewise with its gaming components as well? Why not offer up a mobile game shop or app store-style component? There's quite a bit of revenue that seems to be left behind here. While admittedly, for game producers, there's plenty of value in turning to Facebook as an advertising platform or as part of a marketing tool or even as a customer experience augmentation system, there's not so much value as there would be in allowing users to download games on the premises, taking percentages of the games in question, as well as potentially on any microtransactions that come up in the process. Why leave all this money on the table?

Facebook's game plan here seems to make some sense, but to the outsider, it looks like quite a bit of lost opportunity in the short term and in the long term as well. Only time will tell how well it all works out, or if Facebook makes some changes in the intervening term that improve things further. But right now, Facebook looks to have a plan, one that may pay off in the long term, but then, may not.

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