Facebook stats glitch highlights need for independent stat reporting

Cafe World had been sitting comfortably at around 20 million monthly users for the entire month of July. So it was a bit of a surprise when Facebook's public statistics (as reported by AppData) showed the game's user base shooting up 75% over a period of three days, to a high of over 35 million monthly players at the end of the month. The change wasn't limited to Cafe World either -- dozens of games saw stratospheric increases in the same period.

Facebook eventually confirmed to Inside Social Games that the sudden increases were due to a bug in their reporting. But this temporary problem highlights the risk of trusting Facebook to report on the success of its own games without independent verification.

Facebook gaming stats aren't just a fun way to monitor the popularity of your favorite social games. For the companies that make the games, these stats provide an important public barometer of their success. As Gamezebo's Joel Brodie points out, "Game companies are trying to go public, sell out, and raise money based on these numbers. Many of the great financial minds on Wall Street and Sand Hill Road who are paid big bucks to analyze these numbers take them for face value."

But it's hard to rely on those numbers if they're going to be constantly buffeted by bugs and changes in methodology. Furthermore, it's a bit strange that we trust Facebook to self-report these important statistics when it's clearly in their self-interest to inflate the numbers. It's like letting NBC report how many people watched The Office last week, instead of trusting ratings agencies like Nielsen with that information."