Facebook and Google have in common. One, they both are the key players to the future success of the multi-billion social games industry. Two, they don’t actually have anyone in charge of games in their respective companies.
That may soon change. Techcrunch has reported that both Facebook and Google are looking to hire people to be in charge of games at their respective companies:
For both companies and the casual games industry as a whole, these hires cannot come soon enough.
Facebook is the leader in social games in spite of itself. By dialing down notifications, Facebook solved the problem of spam on their network but at the cost of destroying game virality. Current social game leaders such as Zynga are holding their own but not growing. Everyone else not big enough to have their user base or millions in marketing are dying. There are execptions, but it feels like Facebook’s changes this year dialed down notifications too much, and is hurting the market.
Facebook can easily make course corrections to correct problems (they have a successful history of doing so) and the changes are not entirely bad (Facebook Credits looks to be a success and there is less game spam). However, I wonder if we would be in the situation we are now if there had been a strong advocate for gaming within Facebook when they started to make such changes (or if we would be at a more proper balance).
Fortunately for Facebook, Google, the obvious heir apparent to take advantage of Facebook’s mistakes, is floundering even more.
At my recent panel at Casual Connect, everyone on the panel (including myself) agreed that Google has a huge opportunity to be a big leader in casual games with Android, the Chrome App Marketplace, and it’s social plans (Google Me). The problem is they are competing against Apple and Facebook across multiple products and they need to focus to succeed.
When they do focus, they seem to be focusing on the wrong things. There is not one person in the press or industry who gets the Slide acquisition this week (GigaOm has a great analysis of why this is such a potential fail). The theory is that they bought a lot of good social-focused engineers, but $182 million for a bunch of engineers? If this is part of Google’s brilliant plan to compete with Facebook, then Facebook has nothing to worry about.
There are tons of very smart people running social game companies (e.g., Mark Pincus, John Pleasants, Alex St. John, etc) but if the distribution channels like Facebook or Google are leaderless, this industry will never reach it’s full potential. The weight of the social games industry does not rest entirely on the people Facebook or Google hire, but enough does to make this something we should be paying close attention to.