What does the Facebook IPO mean for social games? [Interview]

Facebook IPO
Facebook IPO

It's official: After eight long years, Facebook is a public company. Mark Zuckerberg rang the bell this morning, setting off Facebook's initial public offering (IPO) on the NASDAQ. Not only is this one of the largest technology IPOs in history, it's also one of the most loaded. Way too many companies' success rides on whether Facebook does well as a public company.

But no type of company has more stake in whether Facebook succeeds than the game makers. Largely responsible for almost all of the company's revenue through Facebook Credits, developers like Zynga may now depend on Facebook more than ever at the very moment that its motives may change. But according to Seismic Games CEO Greg Borrud, any changes that we'll see in social games as a result of the IPO won't be for a while.

"I don't think it's going to have an impact on gaming in the next couple of weeks or even the next month or two," Borrud tells us. "There's no immediate change that we expect from an IPO." However, Borrud just led the launch of Seismic's first-ever Facebook game, CelebrityMe, which may see the benefit of Facebook's new found wealth soon enough. Facebook's games team only stands to grow as a result of this cash injection, and already that team has proved crucial to CelebrityMe.

"We have a contact at Facebook that has played [CelebrityMe] quite a bit--unprompted, might I add--and was giving us really great feedback," Borrud says. "You know, 'Here's things you can do within the game to drive virality, retention,' which is great because she's looking at it with her tremendous wealth of experience dealing with a whole host of games."

Seismic Games CEO Greg Borrud
Seismic Games CEO Greg Borrud

Concerns of stock prices and quarterly earnings or not, Facebook would be remiss not to continue to try to build up the little guy. "The next big hit game is going to come from the independent developers. It's not going to come from the big guys," Borrud admits. "It'll come from the little guys--it'll be acquired by the big guys. [Laughs.] This will happen more as big guys like Zynga fall more into a role of publisher rather than developer."

That said, Facebook will undoubtedly face a conflict between the company it is today--the one that continually changes the world of social media, arguably helping create an entire new genre of gaming in the process--and the company that investors will inevitably try to sway it to become. Borrud knows this from experience:

"There's a definite difference between a private company and a public one, and I've seen that in my past working with both. I don't think it's in their DNA to want to be a public company," Borrud says. "I'm hoping that they don't change in such a way that they become more risk averse, that they focus too much on the bottom line. In order to stay relevant, they need to keep that entrepreneurial spirit."

Of course, more money can only mean more advancements for Facebook, further solidifying its power as not only the most popular social network, but the most popular social game platform in the world. But there's difference in being number one and being the only player.

"We love having competition. We love having multiple networks," Borrud tells us. "I wish Google+ was doing better--that's ultimately good for us. That worked well in the traditional console space, where you have Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo constantly fighting it out. The developers and ultimately the players win from that competition. Facebook is the only story in town right now, and there is something dangerous in only having one."

[Image Credit: CNET]

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