If you're at all interested in the world of social and casual games, and the gamification of social media, the stream of major and minor changes from Facebook over the past week or so has got to be top of mind. Besides the major F8 developer conference, which introduced Timeline and an updated version of Open Graph, we've also seen the introduction of Facebook subscriptions and an updated news feed in the past few weeks.
Most of the news seems fairly positive, especially around how game updates can be handled. While social game updates are considered by some to be an annoying part of the social media stream, that doesn't mean we should only have an all-or-none set of options. So now, instead of being forced to choose between seeing game updates in your main news feed or not at all, they can now be safely relegated to the ticker, a real-time stream of new updates, including both ones you and Facebook consider important, as well as more granular updates (such challenges won, comments left on other posts, etc.). Game updates can now go in this new ticker feed, located in the far right corner of the Facebook window, so they can be seen and perhaps acted upon, without needlessly spamming everyone's main news feed.
At the F8 conference last week, the main example used to demonstrate this new functionality was a game of Words With Friends from Zynga. Not only will games between your friends show up in the Ticker stream, but you can hover over the update to get a live view of what the current word being played is, and even click on the thumbnail to watch the game in a larger window.
We're already seeing interesting new Facebook implementations from media companies such as Spotify and Netflix, and being able to watch or join someone's social game experience right from the real-time ticker can only lead to good things for games looking to penetrate into the friends lists of current players. The Sims Social, for example, seems like a perfect example of a game that could benefit from this kind of sharing (not that a already very popular game really needs any additional help).
Open Graph will also lead to a new language for audience interaction. Instead of just being able to "Like" something, you'll soon be able to "Read," "Buy," or more importantly, "Play," something on Facebook, helping separate games from other types of social shared content. At the very least, some of the new Facebook changes should help reintroduce the idea that these game experiences need to have a viral component to them, building an audience based on the chained recommendations of friends of friends of friends.
What do you think? Will the latest version of Open Graph and Facebook's other new features significantly help game makers? Or, if not, what does Facebook need to do to keep its game-playing audience, and game-making partners, happy?