While there are many more developers of Facebook games that are growing in popularity, two companies – Zynga Game Network (Zynga) and Social Gaming Network (SGN) – are taking a broader approach. Instead of just building games, they’re building “game networks” across Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, and more in an attempt to become the largest game distribution channel in the social networking world.
That means SGN and Zynga are building their own “platforms within a platform” that enable developers access to 1) enhanced services like game feeds and analytics, and 2) promotional opportunities to reach the network’s large gaming audiences, like the game bar.
Zynga and SGN have both launched their own developer tools and APIs and are working feverishly to build out their networks with the best games and developer services. Already, both have acquired smaller game developers and signed up many more.
And the competition is fierce. Recently, SGN announced the acquisition of several independent game developers (Suleman Ali and Jamal Ashraf of Esgut, Zach Allia of Free Gifts, and Adam Gries and Wayne Mak of Nicknames), while Zynga has been quietly acquiring top developers and adding them to its ranks as well. Top game developers have multiple options on the table.
For those choosing to remain independent, joining a network still has its benefits. Both Zynga and SGN have been aggressively courting game developers into their corner.
We switched to SGN near the end of March. We found that despite getting tons of clicks on the Zynga bar, our growth had actually gone flat. While this can be attributed to many factors, we found the most significant one being our users’ experience with the large Zynga bar. Our hypothesis is that our users were confused by the large Zynga bar featured at the top of our game. We decided to try SGN because of its simple approach and smaller footprint.
How will the battle for game developers shake out? Stay tuned. At the same time, Zynga and SGN continue to develop their own games in order to best understand the needs of the developer community – playing the combined role of developer and distributor.