Facebook Hires Sean Ryan from News Corp to Head Games Partnerships

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By Chris Morrison

The small Facebook team that interfaces directly with game developers is growing, with the addition today of Sean Ryan as director of games partnerships, according to All Things D.

Ryan had just joined News Corp in July, and was working on a new gaming unit; he will now report to Ethan Beard, the director of the Facebook Developer Network.

Before his previous position, Ryan had served as the chief executive of Meez, a virtual world turned social gaming company, and as the founder of prepaid card company Zeus Research. The report notes that Facebook had been pursuing him before he joined News Corp, and since that time it has had an open listing for the position he is now filling.

So, this hire has been a long time in coming.

Note that we’ll be getting his perspective at our Inside Social Apps conference in San Francisco later this month.

Ryan makes an especially interesting choice for developer relations. In the past, he has been critical of Facebook’s evolution as a gaming platform, and has encouraged developers to seek out alternatives. Last April, we ran an opinion piece from him lauding the Google-led OpenSocial standard:

I’d strongly recommend producing a great OpenSocial version of your game and trying to strike deals with a set of SNS not named Facebook – there are lots of them around the world with 10 million or more monthly unique users, many of whom are going to adopt the social games that are put in front of them if they’re good games and if they can play them with their core friends on those smaller networks. There is a theory going around that gaming works best on Facebook because it uses real world profiles, but the data from the other social networks shows that tight relationships can form with only online profiles, so that won’t be an issue with gaming. The revenue share idea seems expensive on the surface, but given the resulting increased promotion and reduced competition from other similar games on these sites, it’s absolutely worth it, especially versus the increased costs and worsening odds on the Facebook platform.

Of course, the industry has been changing quickly since then, with Facebook both continuing to gain market share, and also giving more and more positive attention to app developers.

In September, it kicked off a series of changes for developers, including new discovery stories and an announcement that it would put more effort into third-party relationships. The company’s efforts to win over developers may have helped woo Ryan, too.

His addition could also relate to a new round of changes; rumors are afloat that Facebook is continuing work on game discovery and promotion.  We haven’t heard back from either Facebook or Ryan yet about the news, but we’ll be updating when we do.