Facebook Games – Where They Are & Where They’re Going

Gareth DavisAnyone who has spent time in the social games space is aware of the size and popularity of the Facebook platform. With approximately 5,000 games running on Facebook, the company plays a vital role in the future of gaming on social networks.

In a recent interview, VentureBeat spoke with Gareth Davis, Facebook’s program manager for games on the Facebook Platform, talking about the past, present, and future of gaming on Facebook. Davis joined Facebook in the middle of 2008, bringing expertise from his background in games production and design.

Of the 600,000 developers on Facebook, Davis says that the top 10 games alone reach 50 million players (with overlap). Overall, Facebook games reach 150 million players (that’s more than the Wii, Xbox Live, and World of Warcraft combined) and growing around 10% a month.

Davis goes on to point out that, with Facebook, there is no need for a huge marketing budget, it’s free to build on Facebook, and developers keep 100% of their revenue.

Of course, it is up to game creators to determine how best to actually make money. There are any number of choices to be found amongst the top applications: Perhaps the most common, according to Davis, is the use of some form of advertising. However, many top developers have also looked to premium services, sponsorships, and microtransactions for virtual goods.

With a gaming space as lucrative as Facebook, it is a wonder that the gaming giants have not paid more attention. Electronic Arts has been the most aggressive thus far, says Davis, with their creation of applications to support their title, Spore. While they don’t contain much in the ways of game play, it is a step in the right direction, as the titan continues to learn “how social games are different from the traditional games, and how casual is different from hardcore gaming.”

Pet SocietyHowever, despite the fact that the cost of developing Facebook titles has historically been low, that’s changing according to Davis. “There is a bifurcation. The social game companies raised a lot of money. They are making money already. The money is being used so they can grow. They are hiring more professional game talent, which is raising production values, their production cycles are getting longer. Games like Pet Society are more like virtual worlds that are an ongoing service. They require more time and investment of money. You will always see a hobbyist environment where you see a lot of innovation too.”

This is the future of gaming folks. Whether you’re a big or small developer, the communication channels of Facebook provide equal chances for distribution within the space. But with huge names like EA slowly moving into the area, where will things go from here? We have already seen high quality games (both 2D and 3D) and virtual worlds from companies such as Playfish and Zynga

To read the full interview, definitely check out VentureBeat.