The Future Of Facebook Games Lies In Mobile And Strategy

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook prides itself on being the social network. One of the main ways the site has facilitated connections is through games. Facebook discussed with select members of the press Thursday what makes them successful and how this platform will evolve in the future, using examples such as SongPop and Words with Friends to show how games transcend pixels.

As Facebook pointed out in the presentation, more people are playing games through the site (either on desktop or mobile) than ever before. On Sept. 30, 2011, Facebook games had roughly 226 million monthly active users. On Sept. 30, 2012, that figure grew to 251 million. Dan Rose, who runs the partnerships team at Facebook, said that games were really the first platform to take off on Facebook, in terms of social popularity. He added that he has seen a real increase over the past 12 months in not only the quality, but the diversity of games.

But what keeps people playing games? Alex Schultz, a member of Facebook’s user growth team, said that previously, developers were focused on pumping “as much spam” into the system as possible — continually trying to push games to users through notifications and news feed stories.

Now that Facebook has cleaned up the process, the company reported that more people are clicking through quality notifications to access games and continue playing them. Schultz said that since Facebook relaunched its games notification process, the site has seen click-through rates of 30 percent to 40 percent on these higher-quality notifications.

The biggest factor for success with regard to Facebook games is the number of friends who are playing. Facebook representatives touted the success of games such as Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, SongPop, and Words with Friends. They may not have been hits at launch, but as more users started to play, they got their friends involved, leading to long-term success, as illustrated in this graph:

Schultz talked about how it’s not so much the visual quality of the game, but its ability to go social that really matters:

When you sign up to a social game and only two or three of your friends are playing it, it’s not fun … It’s not as fun as if 10 or 20 of your friends are on the game. As more of your friends join the game, it becomes more social.

Facebook representatives also discussed the future of games on the social network. Primarily, the most popular kind of game has been simulation. But now, as developers reach out to lesser-satisfied demographics, other genres are gaining more popularity, as noted by Sean Ryan, a member of Facebook’s games partnership team:

Ryan says that he sees strategy games — by far the smallest wedge in the pie — growing in 2014. He also offered his suggestions for new games that could become very popular in the near future.

  • On desktop: Plarium’s Stormfall: Age of War, Spooky Cool Labs’ Wizard of Oz, Idle Games’ Fresh Deck Poker, Playdom/Disney’s Full Bloom, Zynga’s CityVille 2.
  • On mobile: Supercell’s Hay Day, Dragonplay’s Live Hold’em Pro, Gameloft’s NFL Pro 2013, NaturalMotion’s CSR Racing, Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride.

Readers: What kinds of Facebook games do you enjoy playing?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.