Facebook plans to improve both discoverablity and virality of social games in the second half of 2011, according to an Inside Social Games interview with Sean Ryan, Director of Game Partnerships at Facebook.
How? It’s all about the algorithm.
Ever since Facebook dialed down virality in its news feeds and focused its attention on game stories, it has been tracking what games get played and game stories get clicked on. The good news is that after a year, there is enough data in the algorithm for Facebook to increase the amount of game stories in the news feeds for people who play games, thereby increasing virality and discoverability.
The bad news is that this works better for older members of Facebook with lots of game data than new users. A possible solution is a games destination site but Sean Ryan eschews that. Game destination sites end up becoming Top Game Lists and just getting on the lists encourages “gaming” the system as well as makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy who gets and stays on the list. Marketing can trump originality, as you can spend your way to get on the list and once one, you never leave (does this sound familiar, Apple?)
The article suggests Sean Ryan and his team at Facebook is working on solving this problem, but does not hint at the solution.
They better figure it out. Google is planning to launch Google Games soon and they are going to use games to drive usage to Google+.
Surely, Google will be offering game developers a better deal than Facebook, because they have as the underdog and because they can. Google Games can be a loss leader for a long time if it earns Google+ market share.
Facebook doesn’t have to look behind its shoulder for a long time, but they surely are beginning to see Google Games far away in its rear-view mirror.