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What is Facebook for?
The writings are on the wall. Zynga has won Facebook. Facebook is over. And Facebook is very afraid. At the Social Games Summit, it was generally agreed that virality never comes for free anymore, and the rising cost of targeted advertising has made it prohibitively expensive for small start-ups to acquire enough customers on Facebook to make a decent turnover (see Social Games Summit Stats). Nevertheless, Facebook is not going away – this is merely the end of Facebook.com.
At the Social Gaming Summit, many were asking where to go next. There was a huge amount of optimism about mobile gaming, and speakers brought up a number of different options for approaching mobile. Fragmented platforms can provide smaller ponds for young projects to thrive in, but on the other hand iOS provides a large audience and, importantly, streamlined payments for in-app purchases. Android currently lacks a smooth payment system, but radical improvements are anticipated in the near future. The upcoming Kindle Fire has sparked a great deal of interest due to its low price point.
In the context of this rising potential of mobile, the role of Facebook is changing. Facebook is no longer an appealing platform for many social games devs, but it might still be an integral part of the sales funnel. Dan Borthwick of Playfish said that Facebook can offer a lot in connecting to a richer experience on more powerful platforms. As yet, no other service can rival it for permission marketing, social branding and removing barriers to sign-up with Facebook connect. Since mobile registrations are less likely to churn, greater integration between Facebook and mobile sign-ups would be very valuable. It could be that as the movement to mobile gains momentum, Facebook will become less relevant as a games platform while still being a vital part of the social gaming landscape.