Facebook is testing a new version of the Discover New Games sidebar module introduced last month. Along with showing friends who play a certain game, this version asks users if they want to hear about games more or less often.
How much game content to serve to non-gamers and how to determine who is a gamer have been two long standing questions for Facebook. Now the site looks to be asking users directly, rather than deduce the answer from their behavior. At a press event in September 2010, CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the issue presented by the rift between gamers and non-gamers. “One of the biggest drivers of negative experiences has been games. There’s all these people who want to play games, and all these people who don’t want to play, who view it as spam. Two hundred million people or more are playing games on the site. When you poll users, one of the top 5 things they like is games, and one of the top 5 things they don’t like is games.”
Up until then stories generated by the in-game actions of friends had clogged the news feeds of people who didn’t play games. Facebook then altered the feed such that users would only see App Discovery stories about friends installing games, and stories from friends about in-game actions of games they’ve already installed. This significantly reduced the virality of many games to the dismay of developers.
Some developers complained that there was no way to acquire new users without paying for advertisements, so Facebook introduced the Discover New Games module. However, those who’ve never or only occasionally installed a game might find the module useless.
This tested interface asks “How often would you like to see ‘Discover New Games’?” with buttons to respond “More Often” or “Less Often”. This allows users to inform Facebook of their preference so it can show them different modules such as “Friends’ Photo Albums” or “Unread Messages“.
The data could also be used to refine a user’s news feed to show more game stories. Additionally, Facebook could use this interface to determine if a user is interested in other feature-specific modules, such as “Friends’ Popular Places“.
By getting users to explicitly state how interested they are in discovering new games, Facebook can improve the user experience for gamers and non-gamers alike. Facebook has a large stable of sidebar modules that alternate in a shared space. Developers should be excited that this tested module design could lead those who are interested to see the Discover New Games module more frequently, helping their games to grow.