Pincus: iPhone Not Easy to Monetize, Needs Better Facebook Connect Support

As the iPhone platform grows, leading social game developer Zynga has made a number of its popular Facebook and MySpace titles available for the Apple device. These include Live Poker, Mafia Wars, Vampires: Bloodlust, and Scramble Live. Of the four, only the latter does not utilize a business model based on virtual currencies and goods.

However, during a recent interview with PocketGamer, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus expressed disappointment at what the platform has yielded monetarily so far.

“We’re super excited about the platform for its ability to get a whole group of consumers who we might not get to through the web and social networks,” he says. “But the part that’s below my expectations so far is that monetizing the platform effectively is still elusive.”

Prior to the release of OS 3.0, there wasn’t support for in-app microtransactions on the iPhone. This forced many games that would utilize these elements to sell multiple SKUs at different prices, compensating for the inability to sell directly to the consumer. With the new OS comes the long-needed micropayment support. As a result, iPhone app developers are hopeful for better monetization opportunities.

For his part, Pincus doesn’t believe that this will serve as a complete solution to the problem, however. In the interview, he points out another (and perhaps more prominent) issue plaguing iPhone developers today: distribution. While there are thousands of apps within the App Store, the basic directory navigation for iTunes makes it hard for users to discover games unless they know what they are looking for. This begs the question: How can a brand new game thrive, especially one created by a brand new start-up? The game could be worthy of awards, yet it will be lost in a sea of mediocre titles.

Pincus says Apple should make better use of the Facebook social graph to combat the problem, suggesting a more baked-in integration of Facebook Connect. This would allow for a greater outreach amongst the millions of Facebook users. It would also enable social developers like Zynga to send users back and forth more easily between its web and mobile versions.

Nonetheless, 3.0 is a step in the right direction. The support for in-app micropayments alone should do wonders for many of the applications currently in circulation. It is likely that Apple will see the need for greater social integration as well. Should such upgrades occur in the future, the monetization opportunities ought to increase significantly.

[via Virtual Goods News]

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