Guest column: Five reasons Facebook games are not a fad

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Pet rock: a fad. Facebook games: not.
pet rock a fad -- facebook games, not
No one questions whether sharing news or photos with friends and family is a fad, and when people get together to socialize, they often play games -- from bridge to charades to Trivial Pursuit.As one of the largest social gathering spots on the Web, Facebook is no different. Here are five reasons Facebook games are not a fad.

Facebook games are recommended by friends

Your social network is unquestionably the most trusted resource for making decisions – recommendations and word of mouth from trusted friends and family has always been the most influential factor in purchase decisions. In the past, we used to go to Google to search for something. Today, we ask our friends on Facebook and get the recommendations we need to make a decision.

Game portals have gone further and further in this direction, initially recommending games to play, then integrating user reviews. But it's hard to beat a recommendation from someone's personal network of friends and family, and this is where Facebook excels.

Facebook games provide hours of play for free

My favorite story is a friend who was at a local game store and overheard a family looking at different console games. The wife said, "No, put that down, I'm just going to play that farm game. The fact that a game like FarmVille is now seen as an alternative to paying $35-$60 for a console game should strike fear into Electronic Arts (hence their purchase of Playfish).
facebook games don't require a downloadThe download game portals realize that demand for a $20 download game is drying up – just this year alone the price has come down from $19.99 to $9.99 when Amazon launched, to as low as $6.99 with some of the other portals.Likewise, how does a subscription model of $5 a month compete with free?

There will always be exceptions for really stellar content – I'm going to shell out $20 for great games like Pop Cap's Plants vs. Zombies – but the days of paying for a knockoff or slight variation of a top game are disappearing.

Facebook games don't require a download

Why go through the hassle of downloading at all?Facebook games provide a robust game play all within the browser, eliminating one of the major impediments of getting a user to convert – the download process.

Flash games don't require a download, but ultimately they aren't nearly as engaging. Facebook games are living, breathing entities that are constantly being updated, expanded and made more interesting like a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game.Think of Facebook games as the dawn of an MMO without the eight hour download required of your typical MMO.

There are still some problems with games being able to run smoothly within the Facebook platform, as I noted in my blog earlier this week.But these are the early days of a new technology and infrastructure will definitely improve.When I was in the download business a little over four years ago, the rule of thumb was that a game that was over 11 MB would never sell because the download would take too long. Two years ago games were reaching the 100 MB level, so bandwidth definitely improved to support more robust download games.The same will happen with Facebook games.

Facebook's potential of reaching over 350 million users will continue to draw developers

When developing for a single platform gives you the opportunity to reach 350 million people, even capturing 1% of that audience can provide dividends for a developer.It is still relatively easy to enter the market (although there is an increasing need to develop a robust infrastructure and analytics to scale and optimize) which should guarantee further innovation and great games...

Facebook games haven't shown their full potential yet

...and with a bevy of developers being drawn to the space, there should be a great deal more innovation in games.You are already seeing more sophistication in the sim games – the sheer number of feature and item releases for FarmVille each week is staggering.But we haven't even begun to really leverage the social network (beyond posting social spam to your friends' walls) and create truly collaborative game play.That is where the next generation of games will cement Facebook games as a truly unique gaming experience.

Eric von Coelln was the vice president of marketing at Oberon Media, a leading multi-platform casual games company, and most recently the vice president of Marketing at PowerSoccer.com. He is now a New York based freelance consultant to games, e-commerce and social media companies - including some of the largest social gaming companies on Facebook. Read his blog here.

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