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What is Facebook scared of?

By on November 15, 2011

At the Social Gaming Summit in London yesterday, Julien Codorniou, European head of gaming partnerships for Facebook, gave a keynote on the power of the graph.

For me, the presentation revealed more about Facebook’s fears than its strengths. Facebook is scared that:

  • Developers think Zynga has won and re deserting Facebook
  • In mobile, developers are focusing on Apple/GameCenter, and Facebook isn’t strong there yet.

I think they are right to be scared on both counts, but was surprised by how overtly they displayed this fear.

Has Zynga won?

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Julien showed slide after slide of successful games companies who have launched games on Facebook in the last two years. Companies like wooga, iscool entertainment,Socialpoint and Nordeus were highlighted because they have launched games which have either reached substantial scale or substantial revenues long after Zynga has been declared the dominant winner on the Facebook platform.

Certainly, venture capitalists are less excited about the opportunity on Facebook than they once were. This has nothing to do with the viability of Facebook as a platform and more to do with the opportunity for a start-up to become a billion-dollar company in what has become a crowded and competitive market.

I have previously written that Facebook.com is no longer where the action is; it’s all about Facebook Connect. It looks as if a large number of start-ups agree with me, and that is scaring Facebook.

Can Facebook compete in mobile?

Julien’s second theme was that the future was mobile. There were several unsubtle digs at Apple’s Gamecenter (which, to be fair, is pretty useless with low adoption rates).

The real threat isn’t from Gamecenter, it’s from Twitter. Venture capitalist Mark Suster has blogged about the importance of the tight twitter integration in IOS 5. Given that twitter is an interest graph more than a social graph, Facebook is right to be taking this threat seriously.

Is Facebook peaking?

The presentation (and I don’t mean Julien’s performance) betrayed a certain lack of confidence at Facebook. Julien kept telling us about Facebook’s strength as a distribution platform, which was more true in 2009 before they shut down the viral channel and hence is now seeing developers desert its platform for mobile. Facebook seems to be fighting a rearguard action to keep venture dollars, new IP’s and game developers focused on its 800 million registered users and the social graph that connects them.

I don’t think Facebook is peaking. I do think that it has to up its game if it wants to stop a slow drain of developers to mobile and tablet opportunities.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com