Developers and Facebook: New Emphasis on Games and Discovery

This week at GDC, there was some good news from the Facebook games and product teams for developers who integrate Facebook into their apps, including a renewed focus on games, a Developer Center targeted at game developers, and user stats. A few of the more interesting stats announced include:

  • More than 250 million people are playing games on each month.
  • As of February, 55 percent of the top 400 iOS apps are integrated with Facebook.
  • Last month, Facebook drove 263 million clicks to the Apple App Store and Google Play, from mobile News Feed.
  • 20 percent of daily Facebook web users play games on
  • Game installs (on are up 75 percent since this time last year (when compared to March 2012).
  • About 200 games on have more than 1 million monthly active users each
  • More than 100 developers generated over $1M on Facebook last year. (via TechCrunch)

Interestingly enough, the percentage of gamers on Facebook is actually decreasing; in 2010, 50% of Facebook users were active game players, with (at the time) was around 250 million. However, even though the numbers look to be going down, the people who actually pay for games and in-game tokens (level ups, special trinkets, etc.), is increasing.

The statistic regarding clicks driven to Apple’s App Store and Google Play are encouraging, especially when you look at the numbers that Apple recently released about user downloads:

 And even more stats to drool over:

“Flurry estimated that a record-breaking 17.4 million iOS and Android devices were activated on Christmas Day, along with an equally record-breaking 328 million application downloads. Studying the data from December 25 – December 31, additional records were set, now for the highest number of device activations and app downloads of any week in history. Over the holiday week, Flurry estimates that over 50 million iOS and Android devices were activated, and 1.76 billion applications were downloaded.” - source

Games and Facebook

Facebook games partnerships director Sean Ryan spoke about games this week at GDC, saying that Facebook has revised how they present games on news feeds, looking to find the right balance of both effectiveness and popularity. In recent years there has been a bit of a user backlash against Facebook games, stemming from the unbridled flood of game notifications that deluged unwilling participants. There has to be a good mix of game satisfaction for the platform (Facebook), the users, and the developers, and they are working on that, especially from the developer point of view.

Facebook is also looking to make desktop gaming a priority, and not just for clones of a certain popular farming game, either. Multi-platform games for serious gamers are coming to your favorite social network very soon, in fact, here’s a preview (via VentureBeat):

According to Mr. Ryan, desktop games make a lot of money for Facebook – at least $3 billion - and they plan on giving $2 billion of that to developers next year. This focus on higher level games will greatly increase Facebook’s revenue share and it’s obviously very positive for developers as well.

Developers, games, and the social network

Despite all this talk about emphasis on games, according to product manager George Lee, they are not intended to be a “primary pillar” of Facebook, but instead will be woven more into the entire Facebook experience. There are three major goals for Facebook when it comes to games: more desktop focus, more cross-platform games that players can operate on many different devices, and more types of games.

In addition to a revived focus on games and how they are integrated into the social network, Facebook also announced a new Game Center for Developers. There’s a lot here for coders who want help figuring out how to use Facebook successfully in their apps, everything from discovery to distribution to monetization. Facebook is taking developers and what they do extremely seriously, and as users expect their apps to be clued in to their social networks in intuitive ways, this is definitely good news.

Better discovery

Facebook users will soon notice a new addition to their timelines, featuring what games they are playing or games that they have liked. This will be huge for developers who are looking to target Facebook as a platform for their apps, since this makes the chance of viral discovery and app optimization much greater than submission to an app store:

“The game section will give people a way to express their favorite games on their timeline and About page, and will serve as another re-engagement and discovery channel for game developers,” a Facebook spokesperson said. (via TheNextWeb)

This new timeline change added to the recent addition of Facebook Graph Search spells some changes coming for developers who want more opportunities to be found by their users (and they’re all definitely very positive):

“Apps are now more discoverable on Facebook with graph search. In addition to showing up in search results based on your app’s name, they can show up in search results based on criteria like “strategy games my friends play,” or, “apps my friends who live in San Francisco use.” To optimize your app for graph search, please make sure your app details are up to date and your app is properly categorized.”

Graph Search is great for the average user in order to find more connections, but developers will benefit as well, greatly increasing app discoverability. App developers will have to go the extra mile to make sure that the natural language processing verbiage is included in their app descriptions. Each additional like and share will also add to overall page engagement, improving the app’s visibility in graph search. Add this to the new games integration in user timelines, and apps have more opportunity for viral discovery than ever before.

New opportunities for developers

Love it or hate it, there’s no getting away from the power of Facebook when it comes to game and app integration.  This week’s GDC announcement show a renewed focus on games for the social network, as well as a revitalized emphasis on developers and app discovery. What do you think of these new changes as a developer? Share your thoughts in the comments.




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