According to AllThingsD, Facebook has finally filled its Head of Game Partnerships position. And the winner is . . . Sean Ryan, the now-former EVP and GM of Games at News Corp.
Sean Ryan is a very interesting, and dare I say, good appointment for this position.
In addition to his stint at News Corp, Mr. Ryan has served as CEO of Meez (virtual avatar social gaming world company), founder of Zeus (prepaid card company), and CEO of Livejournal and Listen.com. He was also the founder of Rhapsody (acquired by Real Networks back in the day).
He has the chops for this position, and he’ll definitely need it.
As Head of Games Partnerships, Mr. Ryan will have to satisfy both the whims of his new bosses at Facebook (a.k.a., Time’s Person of the Year, Mark Zuckerberg), while at the same time building relations with its key game partners (e.g., Zynga).
The problem is that while Facebook and its game partners need each other, their interests have increasingly diverged over the past year.
Facebook wants to support games while not alienating it’s non-gamer members, while it’s game partners want to leverage the virality of Facebook’s social graph. As Facebook builds out its discovery engine and starts to charge more for game promotion placement, this conflict will only become more apparent.
No where is this challenge more prevalent than in Facebook’s love/hate relationship with Zynga. Though Facebook is Zynga’s biggest partner and vice-versa, both companies are on a collision course over the next year as Zynga will most likely launch it’s Zynga Live game platform and use all its tools it has built in its games (such as Zynga’s cross promotion bar) to siphon its Facebook users (which probably make up 99% of its 300 million users) to its own social game network. Now that Facebook is hiring an executive gaming team, they will take steps to not make this so easy (e.g., ban the usage of cross-promotion bars and replace it with a Facebook cross-promotion bar of its own, which it’ll charge for).
Facebook is also facing more competition in social games from Google (which does not have a coherent strategy yet) and Apple (which does have a good strategy is a formidable competitor).
The key for Facebook is to balance the needs of its gaming population with the desires of its non-gamers, while at the same time creating an ecosystem for all game companies (including those without the massive scale of Zynga) to make money.
On the other hand, the Head of Games Partnerships is the greatest job in the world. Based on yesterday’s Goldman Sachs news valuing Facebook at $500 billion, Facebook obviously plans to go public soon. Social games is a huge driver for Facebook growth and revenue success. Being a games executive at a company about to have the biggest Internet IPO since Google is not a bad position to be in.
More info: InsideSocialGames