Facebook tweaks game platform to increase 'virality'
A day after Google Inc. rolled out games for its Google+ social network, Facebook announced several tweaks to its game platform, including one major concession to reverse an earlier decision on posting game-related feeds after game publishers loudly complained.
To Facebooks' 200 million players, the changes may seem minor. The site now presents bookmarks for games more prominently on users' pages and features a slightly larger window for games.
Facebook also serves up a "ticker" of friends' gaming activities when users fire up a game, so players can see what games their friends are playing. (Boss alert: You can turn off your own notifications to prevent work colleagues and supervisors from seeing that you played Pet Society instead of working on that department budget report.)
Mostly, however, the changes benefit game developers.
One in particular rescinded a Facebook policy made last year to not show a game feeds to users who had not signed up to play that game. That meant users who didn't play FarmVille no longer got the waves of requests from their friends who did play. Facebook had made that policy in response to users who complained that their feeds were cluttered with game posts they didn't care about.
After Facebook restricted game posts, developers saw a 20% to 50% drop in traffic when users weren't bombarded by requests to come help water someone's virtual crops or fight off a rival mafia, according to ThinkEquity, a research firm.
Now, however, users will see game feeds even if they don't play.
"This is probably the most important change in the platform and could help drive up discovery of games and bring back virality to the platform," ThinkEquity analyst Atul Bagga wrote in a report released Friday.
Bagga is also bullish on the "ticker" feature, which he wrote "could help users discover new games, improve virality and user acquisition for publishers."
Facebook's developer-friendly announcements came on the heels of Google's debut of games on Google+. With games driving a sizable chunk of the social network's traffic and revenue, through a requirement that 30% of the sale of in-app commerce go to Facebook, it's not surprising that the company is trying to keep developers happy.
-- Alex Pham
Image: A screen shot from a Facebook page.