The news coming out of the Facebook gaming summit is, as expected, all about revenue, viral spread, and expansion strategy. Even prior to the Facebook gaming event (liveblogged here), information leaked indicating over 50% of Facebook users are logging on to play casual games. If 19% of all Facebook users are self-described as “addicted”, well you have to think Facebook is banking big on gaming producing an ever larger piece of revenue for the social network.
Facebooks’ latest in a long string of changes move is to concentrate virality spread in a games notification tab, rather than in general notification. Here’s what it looks like:
More significant is a change which can’t be screenshotted. Facebook users who do not play games will no longer see news feed stories from friends who do play games — same goes for any other third-party app.
The reason this is huge news: FB feed stories were a main way that people found games in the first place, an number of developers expect material drop offs in app virality. Facebook is clear about its rationale behind this: “Tens of millions of app wall posts are deleted every day by people who find them irrelevant. By surfacing relevant stories based on usage and discovery stories based on friends, we believe we’re providing the best user experience and building lasting and long term value.”Facebook is replacing hard to meter virality into easier to meter virality (easier for Facebook). What’s driving this is Facebook’s feeling that they generate more traffic than Google, yet pull in less revenue than Google. This is likely Facebook’s attempt to close the gap (perhaps for a future IPO?).
Our take for game developers: game discovery on Facebook is likely to hinge less on news feeds and far more on traditional promotion like banner advertising, cross platform gaming (i.e. iphone/Facebook/web), and intra-publisher game virality. Larger developers may be less affected since they will likely be able to funnel traffic from successful games to newer games. Facebook is still the casual gaming virality giant, and that’s unlikely to change. However, a cross platform, cross web strategy is a smart strategy to maintain a flow of low cost traffic.