Game discovery on Facebook is still no easy task

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By Mike Thompson Comment

A year after Facebook began taking numerous steps to bring back some of the virality it cut from social games, things appear to be back at square one: There are a lot of titles out there to play, but bringing new users to them may be harder than ever.

The core problem is that the site can’t seem to come up with a reliable way to get the word about new games out to users. The game bookmarks, which launched in August, have been expanded this week to display double the games (pictured). Bookmarks, however, only highlight what the user’s played most recently. Games posts on Timeline don’t always group consistently, which makes it hard to keep track of who’s doing what.

Other game discovery tools don’t work quite like they should. The games-only live app ticker was put down after it turned out the feature wasn’t driving a significant amount of new user traffic to games. The “Discover New Games” module that recommends games to users based on what their friends have played recently suffered a bug that showed some people games their friends never actually played or already uninstalled. Meanwhile, a News Feed module that shows genre keywords beneath game titles that friends are playing doesn’t have any functionality to display other games of the same genre.

Competition from other games-related social networks — like GREE, Mobage and Google + — continues to heat up, potentially drawing developers away from Facebook. Though Facebook has been making changes to move game discovery in the right direction, such as  tweaking requirements for app activity featured in sponsored story ads, the social network could do more to make game recommendations timely and relevant. Example, Facebook could integrate bonus items into games-related Timeline activity  — where the user receives in-game rewards for clicking — and achievement posts like “New High Scores,” where the users can click on the post to compete to take the top spot.

The Facebook Platform team will be on hand at GDC on Monday, March 5 with a full day of events — including how to maximize a game’s reach with the Facebook audience.

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