Have you ever gotten immersed in a game on Facebook and then been left in the cold because the people you play with simply aren’t as committed to the game as you are? For this reason, among others, Facebook is working to improve the gaming experience for users.
The groups feature has been a part of the Facebook infrastructure for years. The decision to harness it and adapt it to improve gaming via Facebook was announced on the Facebook developer blog in mid-November. Developer Shireesh Asthana posted the update which let developers know that “apps and games can now create and manage Groups…to help people connect and share their experiences.” Previously, only users could create groups around their games.
Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg was quoted by technology blog Techcrunch.com as saying “Gaming on Facebook isn’t doing as well as I’d like.” The article, published in late October, noted that the gaming portion of Facebook doesn’t translate well to the mobile platform. Feature and smartphone users have a tendency to play their online games via download, in a dedicated application rather than an extension of the Facebook application.
Developers can use the Groups feature to improve overall user experience, to get feedback from users to improve the game or both. With such a wide range of game genres and titles on Facebook, it’s hard to predict just how developers will choose to use this new feature. Part of the dilemma for Facebook is that gamers are no longer a specific demographic. Facebook users playing games are just as diverse as the entire pool of Facebook users themselves. Games, to be successful, have to appeal to a huge audience, be easy to understand and use, and be able to hold the user’s interest beyond a trial period.
Inaccurate Game Ratings
Another challenge Facebook is facing with games, is artificial inflation of game ratings. In app marketplaces, like the android marketplace, developers have found ways to work the system to their benefit. Apps can achieve high popularity ratings through incentivized downloads. For example, if you have downloaded a game or app, a popup ad might appear encouraging you to download another product from that developer. The developer might offer you an upgrade for the game you’re currently playing to encourage you to download the product. They might also offer you a free download of an app that regularly costs money.
By driving up downloads of a product, the product appears higher in rankings. Higher rankings give more consumer confidence, leading to more sales or downloads. Sean Ryan, Facebook’s Director of Games Partnerships, told Techcrunch.com the Facebook rating system is something that’s not easily gamed and great indie games and great big games are finding an audience.
So, despite the reported disappointment in games income and performance, Facebook is still working on the interface. Only time will tell how these changes will affect user experience and user loyalty. You may never be a member of a “World of Warcraft” guild, but maybe one day you’ll be part of a “Farmville” cooperative.