As investors agonize over Facebook's future, the online social network
used by a seventh of the world's population isn't forgetting the
importance of play.
Nearly a quarter of Facebook members play online
and developers of game applications are keenly tuned into the trend of
using smartphones or tablets to connect to the social network.
235 million folks taking part in games at Facebook, the Northern
California company sees a potential revenue source in the mobile arena,
where it has been lambasted for failing to profit from its popularity.
really are important to us at Facebook because they are something our
users love and our developers build businesses around," said Matt
Wyndowe, head of the games and applications team at Facebook.
"We've seen mobile greatly increase the amount of time people spend playing games. It is a rapidly growing ecosystem."
play has evolved rapidly since San Francisco-based Zynga rose to
stardom with titles such as "FarmVille" and "Zynga Poker" tailored for
Facebook friends sitting at desktop or laptop computers.
launched its own website for games and made a priority of tailoring
titles for Internet-connected mobile devices in the fierce competition
for people's time and interest.
There are now more than 185,000
Facebook-synched game "apps" available for smartphones or tablets
powered by Apple or Android software that jointly dominate the mobile
Videogame titans such as Ubisoft and Electronic
Arts not only design games for Facebook but use the platform to extend
or augment play of blockbuster titles on consoles such as the Xbox or
"There used to be a limited set of genres of games on
Facebook, but now there is everything from casual to hardcore and the
demographics have exploded," Wyndowe said.
"You see developers
spending millions of dollars on games," he continued. "Particularly
European companies have been hitting it out of the park."
"SongPop" smartphone game that challenges people to guess tune titles
rocketed to the top of the charts in recent months, with its rapid
spread being credited in part to sharing by friends at Facebook.
"Developers provide the great games and we provide the social layer that makes it more fun for users," said Wyndowe.
like SongPop, Words With Friends or Draw Something wouldn't be nearly
as fun with random opponents or against a computer."
ranked as one of the most profitable developers on the Facebook
platform, with more than five million people each month playing its
creations such as "Battle Pirates" and "War Commander."
Francisco-based company has grown from 40 employees to 280 in the past
year and is hiring more than two dozen people per month, according to
Online games portal King.com took its titles to Facebook
last year and quickly became one of the social network's top five game
developers with hits "Bubble Witch Saga" and "Candy Crush Saga."
is helping King.com and others follow members onto smartphones or
tablets by letting people playing on desktop computers know when mobile
applications are available, and then guiding them to downloads.
Facebook opened an App Center in May, setting the stage to get a piece of the action as games spread at the social network.
"It introduces a huge mobile discovery mechanism," King.com spokesman Alex Dale said.
like to be able to play casual games where ever they are and on
whatever device they want," he continued. "If you give them the chance,
they will play more."
Games by nature are social and the potential
is great to thrive in the Facebook "social graph" that recently passed
the billion-member milestone, according to Dale.
"How popular do
you think the iPhone would have been if games hadn't been available on
it?" Dale asked rhetorically. "People like to play together, and
Facebook made it really easy to be social."
Facebook has no plans
to make games of its own, according to Wyndowe. Instead, the social
network wants to be the venue where people can connect to play using
whatever devices they wish.
"I think people are going to be blown away by games they see at Facebook.com and on mobile on Facebook."