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Is Facebook gaming 'the next big thing'?

James Egan

Worlds in Motion recently covered events at the InterPlay Conference in San Francisco. InterPlay is devoted to social gaming, and is billed as 'the premier conference on the business of games on the Social Web.' Among the speakers at InterPlay were Charles Yong and Jing Chen, co-founders of Developer Analytics. The company offers a social networking metrics platform that provides a leaderboard of the top Facebook applications, where casual games predictably rank high. Their talk focused on the monetization of social games and the feasibility of adding greater depth to casual games, an opportunity that's drawing a 'significant surge of venture capital funding,' Worlds in Motion reports.

On the topic of generating more revenue from social games, Charles Yong said, "Social gaming is where the really great monetization is at. You can prototype with little to no money down. The whole premise of this is that marketing cost is really, really low, compared to a real game, like Grand Theft Auto IV." Before casual gamers could take offense at this statement, Yong clarified that casual gamers can be hardcore about their chosen style of play, but "they haven't seen GTA IV, they haven't seen Half-Life 2, and real money is coming out of virtual goods and currency."

The premise of this monetization is that "the goal is to have something, virtual or real, that the users are willing to spend time on it, and if you're willing to spend time on it, you're willing to spend money on it," Yong continued. He believes that casual game content that is more engaging will be key to improved monetization of social gaming. To date, most casual Facebook games have been built with limited budgets and developed over relatively short periods of time, at least in comparison to games of the non-casual variety. "Imagine what you could do in a couple months with decent resources," Yong said. "I am really interested in seeing what kinds of metrics, what kinds of longevity we could get out of a game like that. Social gaming on social platforms will be the new console."

Jing Chen also spoke on adding depth to Facebook-style gaming, stating that although consumers are more-or-less happy with the current game offerings, she believed more depth would be beneficial. "An app that started out very simple can definitely evolve into something more complicated," she said.

Where do you stand on this? Should casual games on social networks remain simple, or would you welcome more engaging gameplay?

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