Mar

5

Where is Facebook’s Social Gaming Platform Heading in 2013?

Mark Stephens

In such a fast-paced sector as social gaming, on such a rapidly-changing platform as Facebook, it’s often hard to know where everything is heading.

Success in social gaming is nearly always fleeting; there is no resting on laurels for game developers if they strike gold, as there is always a competitor waiting in the wings, ready to shoot them down, declare "game over" and step in to take their place at the next opportunity.

Despite many challenges, Facebook’s social gaming platform remains the best barometer of the sector as a whole, and we take a look at where it’s going as 2013 unfolds.

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The Evolution of Gaming on Facebook

As Facebook started to grow in popularity from 2007 onwards, the large captive audience it attracted was an ideal target for game developers.

Zynga was the developer that rose to the top of the heap and, in particular, their games Mafia Wars, Farmville and Zynga Poker rapidly led the popularity charts, with many millions of users.

But nothing stays the same for long. As Mike Thompson of Inside Social Games says:

“It’s a very new industry that is reinventing itself on a yearly basis, if even that long.”

Nothing has demonstrated this clearer than the Zynga’s story. Following its high profile public listing in the US last year, the company has been struggling, while the likes of King.com from London, have been flourishing.

It’s true, Words with Friends from Zynga remains one of most popular Facebook games, but King.com has actually overtaken it on most of the overall game charts with titles like Bubble Saga, Bubble Witch Saga and Candy Crush Saga.

Many other new companies are arriving on the scene too, all looking for a slice of the action on Facebook and other platforms.

Who knows what the next big thing will be….the only thing that’s sure is that it won’t be far away! It may be tomorrow, next week or next month, but it’s definitely coming.

A $6 Billion Industry

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The industry researchers IBISWorld recently reported that social gaming was one of the hottest industries for startups in 2013.

They stated in a recent report that the social network game development industry has grown at an average rate of 184.3% per annum over the past five years, and that total revenue will reach $6 billion this year.

No wonder there always appears to be a mad scramble for a piece of the cake. It’s a VERY large cake!

The Mobile Factor

The increasing prevalence of mobile computing is quite literally a game-changer. As more and more of us use our smartphones and tablets to connect to the Internet, Facebook is faced with the challenge of making its gaming platform more mobile-friendly.

Social games have often been criticised for being too simple by the hard-core console gamers, but the fact is that they are designed for a different audience. The typical Facebook gamer is a working mother, not a tech-crazed teenager.

So it’s likely that Facebook will continue the trend of promoting social games that are relatively simple to learn and play; they will be able to be picked up and put down again many times and on multiple devices, rather than designed for long attention spans sitting at a desktop; as tablets and phones become more powerful, there will be advances in the quality of graphics and complexity of the multimedia experience these games offer.

But there are other trends afoot, according to those in-the-know…

Other Facebook Priorities in 2013

According to Sean Ryan, Facebook’s head of game partnerships, a key priority for this year is to nurture developers working with multiplayer-focused core genres like first-person shooters and real-time strategy games:

“You’ll see a whole set of games hitting in the next two quarters in particular and throughout the year that really start to redefine what people think of Facebook games.
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“It doesn’t mean we’re walking away from other games, but there’s no question our focus for 2013 much of it will be about becoming a better platform for core gamers and developers who make those games.”

This is an attempt to increase its number of game-playing users and therefore boost its flagging game-playing revenue – partly attributed to the transition away from PC-based games to mobile games recently. Best estimates currently say that Facebook has 1.06 billion users, of which around a quarter play games.

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From the profile of game that Sean Ryan describes, it seems that we can expect Facebook to start targeting not only the casual gamers that have formed its user base over the years, but more serious console-type gamers interested in a more interactive experience.

The Immediate Future

It’s likely that the developers that succeed with Facebook and beyond in 2013 will be those that adapt their games not only for the web, but for smartphones and tablets too…and also perhaps for the TV in the future; multi-device compatibility is becoming key and that’s something that partly explains why King.com is overhauling Zynga as the most successful development company.

Makers of more complex strategy games and interactive, action-based games will also be excited by recent comments coming out of Facebook, as the social network shows signs of changing tack.