Facebook gets its mobile game on

Social network unveils program to support, boost small game developers

Facebook today announced a pilot program aimed at helping developers take their mobile games global.

The world's largest social network is looking to use its massive mobile user base to help game developers stand out in what has become a crowded and noisy marketplace.

"With more than 800 million monthly users of our mobile apps and more than 260 million people playing games on Facebook, we are using our unique reach and targeting capabilities to help games in our program find and engage a valuable audience of the right users," wrote Victor Medeiros, a software engineer at Facebook, in a blog post.

"This program is designed to reach people who already play games on Facebook with new games that may interest them," he added.

Facebook plans to help fans of strategy games come up with ideas for new strategy games -- and to help game developers while they're at it, Medeiros said.

As part of the plan, Facebook will also let developers use its analytics tools.

The program for gaming developers doesn't come cheap, though -- Facebook will work with a "select" group of game developers in exchange for a share of their revenue, Medeiros said.

He didn't, however, say how many developers will be included in the "select" group, or what percentage of their revenue will go to Facebook.

"It's a good move for Facebook," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "Games have been a big draw for them."

"In fact, Zynga built its entire business based on a couple of addictive games they made available via Facebook. One of the drivers behind the timing of this move is that the agreement between Facebook and Zynga expired, giving Facebook the ability to push more games while getting a piece of the action," Olds said.

The move is a smart one for Facebook, Olds added.

"It's all about capturing user attention and holding it. Compelling games, particularly those that can be played either solo or interactively with friends, get people on the site and keep them there. The buzz of a great game can also help Facebook get more face time from their more casual users," he said.

Facebook will see direct revenue coming from the game program, and if the games are good, it also will bring users to the site more often and for longer periods, Olds suspects. That, in turn, will make Facebook more attractive for advertisers. he said.

Medeiros noted that Facebook is already working with a group of developers and that others are welcome to apply.

Some of the games created by developers on the current Facebook team include 5th Planet's card battle game, Dawn of the Dragons; Certain Affinity's pirate-themed strategy game, Age of Booty; and KiwiGames' quest-based exploration game, Shipwrecked.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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