Why Are Avatars Unpopular in Facebook Games?

kaneva avatarsDespite the fact that avatar customization is a business, while hundreds of games have been developed for Facebook, almost no successful games have them. Why is this the case?

Bret Terrill, CEO of Tenuki, identified 4 reasons in a recent blog post:

  1. You’re really you on Facebook. In most situations where avatars are successful, users are masking their identities…
  2. Avatar applications don’t encourage repeat usage. I customize my avatar once and I’m done…
  3. It’s all lead-gen. The goal of most of the well-done avatar apps is to drive you from Facebook to another property. That’s not the way to grow a Facebook app.
  4. No virality. None of the existing avatar applications have any viral hooks build into them, except the common “Here’s 50 coins if you add a friend” invite page…

Blake Commagere, developer of the Monsters suite of Facebook games, touched on this subject in a recent interview. Blake said,

I’ve also added some new things recently, including the ability to put your friends in a chicken suit. This is a very polarizing feature – users either love it or hate it. It’s a big deal when you change players’ avatars – you have to make that really expensive (all other weapons don’t affect look).

While developers have not yet created games that use avatars inside the social networking context, there are bound to be people who will get it right over the coming year. Who do you think it will be?