Facebook wants to feature a wider selection range of video games, including first-person shooters, sports titles, and social games. In order to tempt more users to its platform, the company wants to offer different types of games like those found on consoles, according to Sean Ryan, Facebook's global head of game partnerships.
Ryan believes Facebook's range of games is currently quite small because its gaming platform is only three and a half years old. He admits that the social network doesn't have the "type of breadth" offered by Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation, and Nintendo's Wii (hundreds of types of games). He also notes another issue is Facebook doesn't invest in games or make them, although it does make an effort to promote sophisticated games on its platform.
Some believe Facebook's growth in games is bad news for traditional games firms. Ryan argues it's actually an opportunity for them to reach bigger audiences with their high-end games.
"Look at the earnings announcements from Take-Two and EA – and even Activision now," Ryan told MCV. "They are talking about the move to social. Does it cause a problem for them? I'm not sure. In the last 20 years we have seen the expansion of the game business from what used to be young boys to young men, to now everybody; women and men of all ages. Gaming is no longer seen as something you do by yourself. Everybody games, just at different levels. What Facebook does through social games, as Apple and Google have done in mobile, is broadening the types of users who play games. So is this a challenge for the traditional companies? It's an opportunity."
Ryan admits that Facebook inevitably means gamers spend less time playing on a dedicated games machine. He says most people tell the company they play Facebook games at night and more intense games at night. As a result, the cannibalizing effect that some are worried about simply doesn't exist. That being said, he notes the time players dedicate to more traditional games may be being cannibalized by Facebook.
Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony already use the Facebook Social Graph API for the Xbox 360, the PS3, and the DS in order to let gamers post messages or pictures to their Facebook News Feeds. "But there are few hours in the day," Ryan said. "Our aim is to have more people playing on Facebook or via games on consoles using the Social Graph. There is no question the hours spent on Facebook have to come from somewhere and that may mean eating into other traditional gaming areas."
Some companies are betting on social gaming on platforms like Facebook while others are making a point to avoid the new market. Last month, EA bought casual gaming studio PopCap for $750 million, while earlier this month Activision's CEO declared Facebook games were not a threat.
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