Mobile Mavens

Is Facebook's move into mobile publishing a farce?

The Mobile Gaming Mavens discuss

Is Facebook's move into mobile publishing a farce?

Facebook has announced the launch of a new mobile games publishing initiative with the intention of helping small to middle sized devs gain exposure on the global stage.

Interestingly, however, of the ten games signed up already, some come from major publishers such as Gameloft and Gamevil, seemingly going against its stated goal.

So, we asked the Mavens:

What do you make of Facebook's move on mobile publishing? Is is a smart decision following the success enjoyed by Asian social platforms such as KakaoTalk and Line, or is Facebook making an ill-advised move?

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

Depending on the terms you're able to negotiate with Facebook, it could either be a great or a terrible idea.

There are many factors in a deal like this - the percentage of revenue that Facebook wants is just one of them. The question I have is the amount of effort Facebook is willing to put behind one of these games.

Does it push it for a couple weeks and then forget it? At what point does Facebook give up on an app? Is there a minimum amount of advertising that any game can expect? How can you verify the effectiveness of Facebook's efforts?

It does seem that Facebook isn't happy with its ability to sell ads for mobile games so it's looking at this as a way to show that these ads work.

I'm just not sure if I buy into its effectiveness to give up a cut. If Facebook ads for mobile games was super effective, most devs would be using it already.

David MacQueen Executive Director Strategy Analytics

To be fair to Facebook, I'm sure it has ambitions to be used by small or mid-sized companies, but when you launch something new, you're going to want some decent names signed up for your launch press release or what have you.

So Facebook probably just went out and did some deals with some relatively established names. Bit early to call it a good or bad move yet with regards the smaller companies.

Facebook is still under performing on mobile despite the revenues it posted last quarter.
David MacQueen

Speaking of which, a definition of “small” developer is also down to perspective. Compared to Facebook, Gamevil is quite small - no offence intended to Gamevil!. Not that I made a fair comparison there, so let's say compared to EA.

One of the more interesting things for me is that you'd expect Zynga to be on the launch list, but I guess Zynga and Facebook fell out of love with each other a while back.

Putting my analyst hat on, Facebook is still underperforming on mobile despite the positive press received around the mobile revenues it posted last quarter. A greater and greater share of its usage is coming from mobile, and although Facebook had a good quarter, a mobile user is still worth much less than a desktop user.

There's only so many ads Facebook can push onto a small screen. I'm sure it's looking somewhat jealously at the revenues of LINE and Kakao Talk, even DeNA and GREE (in Japan at least), and the success they've made of generating revenues from mobile.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I suppose those other companies must be feeling very flattered by Facebook right now.

Eros Resmini Head of Marketing The Mini Fund

Sign of the times!

I find it interesting that the industry is consolidating in this way. Several other ad networks in mobile have already tried these extensions with mixed results.

Resolving the conflict of interest between being an ad provider and being invested in games will be tricky.

Given the success of the Facebook ad business recently - although somewhat hyped up as David points out, it's still remarkable turn-around - I would expect a rough uphill battle for the publishing team to build out anything robust for its publishing partners.

I just hope the games team at Facebook can learn from it's experiences with Zynga and browser games ecosystem.

Jared Steffes Co-founder Muxy

This move by Facebook will probably never be a deal offered to 97 percent of app developers. The fact that we are talking about it is because it is news from Facebook.

I will echo what Eros wrote regarding the conflict of interest of being an ad provider and publisher because we have seen it before from other ad networks who have failed over the past four years.

The most interesting thing out of these relationships is a test pool of games to test new advertising methods by Facebook. This could also lead to packages and more recommendations on how to make games by Facebook – it does have some lengthy recommendations on its publishing site as it is.

It's also made it clear it's doing away with Facebook Coins soon, too. It's interesting because Amazon recently fired up its coin program.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Actually I think this might be a very interesting move.

The Facebook people I've met (and admittedly that's only a few) have had a genuine desire to engage with games. The company has also come through a massive transition after realising (quite late in my opinion) that mobile would dominate its business.

However, Facebook has a way to help solve one of the biggest issues we have in mobile games - discovery. That's something I don't think any other publisher can honestly say they can guarantee anymore (except by spending money).

As a contact of mine there recently described to me, Facebook has the biggest firehose of users out there and can turn it on as fast or as targeted as you could possibly need.

Of course, it can't have the same laser focus (as a general business) as a traditional publisher, but Facebook has already seen how powerful games can be for its platform and I'm certain it doesn't want to mess it up.

Does that mean Facebook will replace other publishers or going it alone? No, but it's a new option with the potential to be disruptive in the right hands.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

Oscar - are you seriously saying that Facebook is getting into games publishing to solve the discovery problem? I don't recall Gameloft needing much help with that.

I also don't recall that it has worked especially well with social games, where a handful of big publishers have dominated since day one; don't forget the 'special' deal between Zynga and Facebook that was revealed in the IPO filing too.

Facebook has the biggest firehouse of users out there and can turn it on as fast as you could possibly need.
Oscar Clark

Facebook is about engagement, because engagement sells advertising. If it wants to publish mobile games, it's because it needs to grow engagement on mobile, and try in some way to serve some adverts or take a cut of the revenues if advertising is not an option.

I doubt very much that this is about supporting the indie developers; if it is, then working with Gameloft as a launch partner is possibly the worst thing it could have done, as you couldn't really get further from what an indie developer looks like.

Hey, no offence Gameloft people, but you have 258 apps out there - hardly the work of an indie!

Mobile games are an issue for Facebook as it can take a 30 percent cut of in-game revenues on the social network, but as soon as the same game goes mobile, that revenue cut goes to someone else; Facebook gets nothing.

And just look at the successes that many 'Facebook first' publishers are having on mobile. While games like Candy Crush still have 45 million MAUs, the opportunity on mobile is potentially bigger, and therefore there must be some worries about publishers shifting loyalty away from Facebook as a major platform.

Do I think it's a good idea? As Dave said, it depends on the terms, and what they class as an indie developer. It could open up some interesting advertising options to drive downloads (yes, and discovery) and become the basis of a viable third party app store.

But I don't for a minute think that Facebook is doing this to solve a problem; it's doing it to try and hang on the coat tails of Google and Apple as games increasingly go mobile.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.