What a Facebook phone could mean for social gaming

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TechCrunch has reported that Facebook is secretly working on a mobile phone device, having staffed up a team of elite engineers to work on the potential project that could bring a cellular phone with Facebook capabilities right into your pocket. While this rumor hasn't yet be confirmed, we can't help but wonder what this could mean for social gaming.

If Facebook creates a phone, it would most likely mean the creation of a Facebook-engineered mobile operating system that works on whichever hardware manufacturer Facebook strikes a deal with, similar to how Google's Android operating system works on different devices. Facebook is already a platform, meaning that companies are operating upon it with the use of APIs, interconnectivity, and applications. A mobile device would definitely not be out of the question, since Facebook already is intimately familiar with running and monetizing applications.

What could this mean for our favorite games? First of all, if gaming on Facebook is a priority for the company, one would reasonably expect that this phone would support Adobe Flash, since almost all of the top revenue-generating Facebook games require the Flash player in order to work. The alternative move would be offering software that would allow Facebook applications that run in Flash to be ported over to work on the new phone. This seems like an unlikely situation.

A Facebook-branded phone would most definitely have Facebook Credits integrated tightly within the system. Instead of purchasing apps with money (such as the Apple account on the iPhone, or Google Checkout on the Android OS), it is likely that Facebook Credits could become the main currency. This means that applications that are currently monetizing through these credits will see a much wider adoption of the currency.

Facebook could easily integrate their ad platform into all applications on the phone. This could mean that we see interstitial ads on our favorite games that require some sort of click-through to access a game. It could also mean that some mobile screen space (which is already at a premium) could be taken over by these ads. Most likely, it would mean little for gaming because Facebook makes a 30% cut off the sale of Facebook Credit purchases which should mean they have interest in driving players to these games with a good flow and experience.

Notifications could be surfaced to game and application developers via an API, meaning that you could receive push notifications or dashboard alerts when in-game milestones are reached. Think of how great it could be to get alerts to your phone when your crops are ready to harvest, or your cookies are ready to come out of the oven, or your energy is replenished. Imagine a tightly woven achievement/badge system that brings social competition directly into the main layer of your phone. Imagine being able to initiate game experiences with your Facebook friends that could be played both on the phone or within a browser. You could even accept your gifts or neighbor invites easily directly on your phone. The possibilities are endless.

While we certainly hope that the Facebook phone would allow us to play our favorite Facebook games on the fly, there are definitely many technological barriers that stand in the way. The odds of all Facebook games working without a hindered user experience is quite unlikely, and the odds that Facebook game developers will jump right into the porting process to have their games work on the phone are also uncertain. Even so, we can't help but imagine a Facebook app store filled with free and paid games to play while we're not at a computer.

Do you think we'll see a Facebook phone? And if so, what features would you like the phone to have in order to support social gaming?
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