Cow Clicker survives FBML retirement with limited features

With all Facebook Markup Language apps ceasing to work today, it wasn’t certain if parody game Cow Clicker would survive the FBML retirement. It turns out the game was successfully migrated to the new iFrame platform, albeit in a limited form.

Persuasive Games co-founder Ian Bogost launched Cow Clicker in July 2010 as a satire of other Facebook games. The game lampoons standard social game mechanics like microtransactions, repetitive gameplay and viral posts. Word of mouth spread, and the game peaked that August with 54,000 monthly active users and 6,000 daily active users, according to AppData. Cow Clicker still has 3,000 MAU and 200 DAU. With FBML being phased out, the game’s future wasn’t certain, as Bogost made a post on the game’s Timeline at the end of May that implied the game might not survive the migration process.

Part of FBML’s appeal for some was its ease of use – even if a user didn’t have much programming expertise, but it’s functionality was limited. Facebook’s move away from FBML has been a long time coming, going all the way back to 2008 when the social network started recommending designers create canvas apps in iFrames instead of FBML.

Bogost says he wasn’t sure about how easy the migration would be, which made him unsure about updating the game. “I had dreaded that the transition away from FBML would be very time consuming and technically involved,” he explains to us. “It turned out to be less awful than I expected, but still quite time-consuming.”

According to Bogost, the transition turned out to be more annoying than difficult. Although major changes like the retirement of FBML happen a few times a year, Facebook regularly makes other changes that can break app features each week.

“It’s demoralizing to rebuild features that once worked fine just because Facebook decides to change their platform arbitrarily,” he says. “And of course, the people who play games and use apps on Facebook have no concept of how the platform works — or doesn’t — so it’s very hard to explain what’s going on.”

Bogost recently posted to Cow Clicker’s Timeline, stating how the FBML retirement would affect the game. Bogost was able to bring over Cow Clicker’s core features onto the new platform, but he had to disable a number of mechanics. While he hopes to eventually migrate these features over to the new platform, he isn’t promising until he sees how easily they can be transitioned.

“For the time being, note that you cannot take new cows out of your barn, send new invitations, buy new cows, or gift new cows,” he wrote in the post. Bogost now says he’s planning to migrate all the old features to the new platform, but doesn’t have a specific time frame in mind.

When asked why he decided to keep the game going instead of letting it phase out, Bogost tells us, “Cow Clicker is a weird game, in that it doesn’t really make money and I have a very well documented love/hate relationship with it. But people are still discovering the game anew, and I wanted to keep it going for historical reasons at least, as best I can.”