Live-Blogging Facebook’s Gaming Announcement

We’re at Facebook headquarters for a special event, focused on changes to games. Mark Zuckerberg is on stage.

Here are our edited live notes:

5:10 We want to have as few people as possible have negative experiences. We’ve developed pretty complex infrastructure for optimizing this.

For example, the last two months we’ve had a team focused on friend requests, making amount that get sent, that don’t get accepted, go down. The number is down now 40 percent. That’s a big number, a lot of people are active with different motives.

People want to connect to who they want, hear from who they want, without having negative experiences. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drivers of negative experiences has been games. 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. There have been at least 4 really meaningful large companies that have been built on games.

5:15 We have these levers for each type of content, we can see what types are most popular. We tried measuring for games. Whether we turn the feed up or down for games, we get complaints. As we’ve tried to tune, people have questioned Facebook’s commitment to games.

The goal is to give all users high-quality experiences while they’re using the site. We want to make it deeper for people who want it, and nothing for those who don’t.

Jared Morgenstern, head of the new games team on Facebook

There were three things that got me interested in games when I was a young lad. Nintendo Power magazine, the game Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Zelda game.

Changed what he wanted — nice restaurant meal for the family — to getting more games. It worked. Got more games…. found out about video game colleges from Nintendo Power.

5:20 Shut down video games, study harder, score more goals. Studied computer science, now doing dream job.

Facebook games have a different level of interactivity…. How do you build a team? Various teams are building war rooms, taking over the office, surrounding it with people on the project, in as close a surface area as possible to maximize interaction while minimizing distractions. Lots of people. Hot, sweaty. We want the games team to be bigger than this.

Naturally we looked up, we realized there was more vertical space. Maybe we should build a loft.

5:25 We found carpenters on the team. We came in on Saturday…. we had a vision for it. A gaming-focused loft: Two-level, bi-directional… play people upstairs and downstairs so you can see people’s reactions without seeing their screens and cheating. We didn’t want to stop and eat food until we passed the point of no return. We’d recruited 5 or 6 people by this time. Got a Jack and the Box bill of $120. We had it done by 7am. Hired people.

What it means for the Facebook Games team is to have a product vision that aligns with the core company vision — empowering users to share and make the world more open and connected. Games and how they’ve been used in society are a great fit. Rules outside of every day life, let’s people bond in an environment where they don’t need to worry about things. People going to poker and bingo every week. We call it “Mario Party Happiness.”

Now, for the news.