Earlier this week, the heads of Facebook met with developers to discuss, among other things, the amount that Facebook takes from purchases. Zynga was notably absent from the meeting. Many have used this as an opportunity to say that Facebook is in deep trouble and will need to start a transition to a more mobile world. This would include mobile gaming and sharing across mobile devices. Many mobile developers host their own networks, and even basic mobile devices are able to get online, take photos and share with family and friends. So, is Facebook doomed to be replaced by developer-based social networks? Would cutting the amount that Facebook takes from sales or, as was suggested during the meeting, replace it with a sliding scale help keep current developers, undercut mobile publishers and help bring in new talent?
Social networks, and sharing in general, is now understood to the point that developers and owners know how to adapt to changes in hardware. This isn't 2003, after all, and basic mechanics needed for sharing are present on devices that can picked up for very little money. Playing a game and posting an update can be done on a $60 device the same as it can be on a $600 device.
What does the more mobile-leaning world have to do with core gaming? It might seem that core game developers should be just as worried as other developers because of the nature of core gaming and the way it makes money. But, core is not necessarily defined by time spent or delivery method, core is a genre that is defined by its challenge level. It's not a casual romp through cartoony fields (although it can have elements of that), and it's not an epic, 40-hour campaign through a massive world (but can have elements of that as well.) So, blending in with whatever the new Facebook looks like in a year or two from now shouldn't be such a massive shift for many core games.
Gaming is very important to Facebook, making up a very large chunk of the site's revenue. Core gaming offers more in the ways of monetization, and pays out as well, so it's possible that this genre will be more invested in in the future. Does this mean that gamers will be hit with more up-front cash-shops and offers? Core gaming already has some issues with monetization having a very loud presence during gameplay, so would the problem become worse in a future when gaming on Facebook is on slightly more shaky ground? While it's possible, it's also possible that a more mobile experience would mean a more specialized or concentrated experience. While playing a mobile, core game on a fresher and more mobile-friendly Facebook, the noise of the standard browser might be fazed out. This could mean that mobile players would still get the offers and still be offered the chance to share their experiences across the network, but that it will be done in a way that fits on the smaller screen. The smaller the screen, the less room for pop-ups or annoying offers. Perhaps the whole thing would become more streamlined, polished and seemingly private?
However it plays out, core gaming's future is probably secure. Many of the largest or established IPs go to core gaming when they need to be translated to social gaming. Look at titles like Marvel: Avengers Alliance, King's Bounty: Legions or others. The point is that core gaming is where Hollywood or big gaming often goes to when they need a social version of their latest blockbuster. Core offers the challenge level that is perfect for a wider audience, an audience that is often populated by older consumers who have grown up with these popular IPs and appreciate gameplay that offers more depth.
In five years we will likely see a very different Facebook. It will look differently and handle advertising and gaming differently as well. Core gaming will likely play a role in that future, thanks to its flexibility and ability to meet an older audience who might be new to social gaming, but ready for a challenge. Does this mean the future is bright for core gaming? It'd be smarter to call the future open, but core gaming can meet the challenge.
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Beau covers MMORPGs for Massively, enjoys blogging on his personal site and loves social and casual gaming. He has been exploring games since '99 and has no plans to stop. For Games.com News, he explores the world of hardcore Facebook and social games. You can join him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.