Apparently Facebook has a lot work to do to satisfy gaming gurus: A very heated debate at the L.A. Games Conference revealed more negative opinions about the social network than positive ones among audience members and panelists alike.
This all arose during a panel of industry veterans — Alex St. John, president and chief technical officer of Hi5; Geoff Cook, chief executive officer of myYearbook; Mari Baker, president and chief executive officer of PlayFirst; Rick Thompson, chairman and co-founder of Idle Games; and Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, moderating it all.
Alex and Geoff argued against Facebook, Mari and Rick argued for Facebook as a gaming platform. Mike moderated them in 15 minutes of debate team style arguments. Each debater was given 3 minutes to argue their side, and then 1 minute for rebuttals of the other side’s arguments. An audience vote was taken before and after the debate to determine the effectiveness of each side’s arguments.
Alex set a confrontational tone prior to the debate by saying to the audience: “So you all want to be Facebook’s bitch? We’ll take care of that.”
Highlights from the Debate
President & CEO
“Facebook is the place you have to be.”
Mari’s “Pro” Argument:
Facebook has the growth, momentum and opportunity – it is where you will get the best ROI on the games that you develop.
Facebook has 200 M active game players. Facebook has a growing, massive audience and is proven as great platform for gaming
Facebook has grown 76% to 90% of market share in social networking. Are you really going to target the remaining 10% market share and build a business on that?
“We think Facebook has the wrong social graph for games.”
Geoff’s “Con” Argument:
Facebook is the most important site in world. Facebook is the social plumbing of the web. But don’t confuse Facebook’s success with Facebook being the right platform for everything we do online.
Facebook’s social graph is very specific – the people you know in real life, but that’s not necessarily the people you would want to play games with. Facebook’s social graph is not wide enough to really accommodate game play.
Chairman & Co-Founder
“Facebook is a high fidelity, reliable social graph for social games.”
Rick’s “Pro” Argument:
Facebook is the social graph. Facebook is where friends are connected and are connecting.
People buy the most virtual goods when being generous with their friends, not strangers. People spend the most money to enhance their game play when looking “awesome” in front of their real friends.
Think of Facebook’s moves to control games like Google’s “Panda Update” to its search algorithm, when Google penalized “content farms” because those kinds of sites were hurting Google’s search user experience.
Alex St. John
President & CTO
“Facebook is an accidental game platform”
Alex’s “Con” Argument:
Facebook is still small fraction of revenue in online games. And the game industry has 50B in revenue overall. That makes Facebook still a “pimple on a flies ass”.
I’ve seen accidental gaming platforms arise. They come and go. Up until 2008, Yahoo! was the #1 game channel on earth. But new companies like Big Fish and Wild Tangent won the market – because they specialized in online casual games.
For Zuckerberg, games are parasites that invaded his social network. After games sneaked in, Zuckerberg turned off viral channels that made games successful. Games are a nuisance to Mark.
Rick Thompson’s Rebuttal
Sure, Facebook did not design for games. Games fortuitously sprang out of the launch of an open app marketplace.