8 Points About Facebook Games (Here’s What I Think of #socialgames)

I made a couple of blog posts about social platform (or Facebook) games, and I try to remove the trolling part in my message and just summarize some points that perhaps reflect what I’m thinking:

  1. First of all, I think gaming market is expanding. Facebook as a platform will bring new players in the genre. Not sure if some leap from downloadable casual games territory (I’d presume they do), but this might happen. I believe FB is a good thing for games. It expands the market.
  2. With that being said. I hate about 99.8% of facebook games: “[Insert something here] Wars” and “Farm [add something here]” clones. Well, hate is too strong word. Let’s say that I just consider these games to be utter piece of crap that I wouldn’t touch with a very long stick.
  3. With that being said, I believe the makers of these games are pure geniuses. These guys have done something that major gaming companies struggle with: tons of donuts.
  4. Sure, you can say that the Farmville whatnot games are “stupid repetitive mouse clicking” but hey, just look at what World of Warcraft is (according to some players). Does word “grinding” ring a bell?
  5. And a word about “cloning games”. Yeh, that’s a bit sucky thing (especially as an indie I sort of dislike the clone wars)… but unfortunately there’s not much what I can do about it. Same phenomena can be seen pretty much in all genres and platforms.
  6. I think the comments like “you bloodsuckers (=Zynga) are not playing farely, you are deceiving the players!” are partially (perhaps for the most part) just jealous talk. My bet is that 7 out of 10 of these talkers are just jealous that they didn’t invent this idea. Okay, Zynga has done bad deals (one could say they’ve been deceiving with ad partners in the past) and shown some bad customer support (I read about some kid who managed to make big credit card bills for the parents without their knowledge, perhaps legally Zynga was right… but morally?), which in my opinion is very unacceptable. Yeh, I think there’s some evilness in Zynga (and perhaps other companies)… but 81%-wise I think that these companies are being successful somewhere where others have failed.
  7. FB can make things go viral. With hundreds of millions of users who have simple way of sharing things… that’s virality. Naturally there’s the risk that the more games there will be the more saturated the FB platform becomes, and the less there’s virality in games. After all, it’s easy to suggest 2-3 great games to friends, but you don’t want to share 250 different games with your buddies, right?
  8. …and one more thing: I’ve never thought that there couldn’t be great games in Facebook at some point. Currently, I think many of the hit games are relatively similar (“snowball growing” games) and there’s quite little on the innovation side of things. But that doesn’t mean a witty indie couldn’t make something totally cool there.


Juuso Hietalahti


  1. A lot of these points have been subject to discussions in great detail during the past months all over the blogosphere and game conferences.

    Traditional (yes, already traditional) farming mechanics have already peaked on Facebook and now more and more classic casual games are taking over.

    An older but outstanding example of this is Bejeweled Blitz.

    Farming out the foot in the door for people who (even now) when asked if they play games will categorically say no. All that while being level 25 in Farmville.

    I believe that as even these audiences mature into casual gamers, we will see increases of quality and numbers of games where game design surpasses the Skinner box.

    – Tadej

  2. The market growing: I’d like to think it as a positive aspect. Who knows what kind of possibilities there suddenly will be. Perhaps those farmville-moms now understand why their kids desperately want to pour money into indie games ;)

    I’d say that I don’t see anything negative in the fact that more people are willing to try games and perhaps even spend money on those.

    [donuts vs game quality]
    Yeh, “better games” and “more donuts” don’t necessarily cross. I just think it’s a darn good job to get some donuts from this industry.

    [zynga & bad deals]
    I don’t have much more comments on those. If Zynga can learn from the past… that’s a good thing. Time will tell.

    [fb & virality]
    I think FB really can help with sharing. Spamming & sharing are 2 different things and I really think that they made the right move. The less spamming there is, the more quality sharing there can happen. Don’t wanna confuse quality & quantity here.

    FB has an established platform: any browser based game can leverage this system. After I started adding friends in there, I quickly saw how easily the network can expand very quickly. Compared to “do some new browser based game” the FB can provide a base for this.

    I look forward to seeing what iphone OS4 will bring. I would also suspect that more sociality might be seen in hardcore games. Think of Steam for example: tons of users… but the games don’t have much “share with friends aspects”. Maybe in the future Steam (and others) will provide APis for leveraging their user base.

  3. I think gaming market is expanding.

    Perhaps, but what does this really mean? Does it mean more people will buy EA games? Does it mean more people will buy indie games? Or is this yet another market segment that might not interact with other segments, kinda like the market for casual games?

    Sure, it’s great that more people are playing games, but if those people are only ever going to be interested in “Something Wars” or “FarmSomething” games, then is this really meaningful to most of the people here?

    I guess I’ve just seen too many people get overly excited about “the market growing!” when some new game comes out.

    These guys have done something that major gaming companies struggle with: tons of donuts.

    Yes, but not because they made better games, but because they could spam people easier on social networks. According to some articles I read, the activity on social games have been dropping for the past two months because Facebook made it harder for games to spam others.

    Also, be careful that you don’t confuse lots of players with lots of donuts. If you really take a look at Zynga’s revenues, last year they made a lot less money than other game companies did. According to research I did, they made only 20% of the revenue Blizzard does despite having about 2500% of the users.

    Okay, Zynga has done bad deals

    Zynga has been sleazy, to the point that the CEO admitted it. “…I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I dont know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it.”

    Is there some jealousy going on? Probably. But, that doesn’t mean that people are necessarily being too hard on Zynga.

    FB can make things go viral.

    Yes, but FB is making that harder because people, not surprisingly, don’t like being spammed. As I said, there has been a decrease in average users for the big Facebook games over the last few months as the notification policy has gotten more strict on Facebook.

    There’s also a general feeling of backlash against Facebook as people get sick of the changes in privacy policies. There’s the story of the decentralized social network Diaspora getting $200k in individual funding via a Kickstart project to come up with a viable replacement for Facebook after the latest wave of privacy issues. Note that their original goal was $10k… that’s a bit of a response.

    I guess I don’t mean to be the prophet of doom here, but I don’t think the future is so rosy with social games anymore. Perhaps I’m wrong and something big will turn around. But, those are my thoughts.

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