Summary:

For Facebook, the name of the game is getting more social gaming hits, using word of mouth and the new App Center to recommend games to friends that will turn users to players to payers, as company executives said Thursday to reporters in Menlo Park.

Facebook
photo: GigaOM

The name of the game right now for Facebook is making money, and there’s no question that games will play a large part of that.

“We need to make sure we have a greater set of games for a greater set of people,” said Alex Schultz, who works on user growth at Facebook. “It’s from users to gamers to payers. So how do we optimize that funnel?”

And the company is getting better at getting gamers to pay up, focusing their efforts on quality games and social games, company representatives said in a discussion with reporters Thursday at its Menlo Park headquarters.

Schultz said the company looks at revenue models and user activity for individual games in three ways: “Hit-based” games are those like Farmville or members of a franchise, which require the constant production of new versions to stay profitable (much like the Batman movies, he said), and tend to move slowly downward in active users over time.

Then the company has a “Success” category, which encompasses pretty solid games that grow slowly over time, a Facebook spokeswoman said, including games like Words with Friends or SongPop. But the category the company really wants to target is the “Awesome” category, which typically starts out strong, experiences a lull, and then grows rapidly, either through the release of a version for Android, or more likely through social word-of-mouth. They said Instagram has actually been a good example of an app with this kind of growth, and they’re hoping more games will soon display this kind of growth as well and keep users engaged.

Facebook game user retention model whiteboard sessionSchultz emphasized once again Facebook’s push to mobile, which was a huge theme in the company’s earnings call Tuesday. All of those principles apply to games as well, which are slowly moving from desktop versions to mobile, or at least toward a platform that adapts and picks up on a variety of devices. He also said the App Center has been huge for Facebook’s gaming growth, connecting users with games their friends are playing without spamming someone’s newsfeed.

Over and over, Facebook’s gaming professionals referred to quality. Quality is what keeps users playing and engaged, and expands Facebook games to traditional gamers used to the deluxe console experience. Sean Ryan, who runs the games partnership team, said the bar has been raised so much higher than it was just a few years ago:

Zynga gaming quality built on Facebook over timeAnd finally, the company pointed to arcade games and “real money” games currently taking place overseas as areas where they expect to see growth going forward. They said they’ve seen arcade and “casual” gaming take off, moving into gaming groups like teenagers who haven’t typically adopted Facebook games yet:

Facebook gaming diversity over time

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