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Why we abandoned Facebook and went mobile: part 1

By on August 14, 2012

This is a guest post by Douglas Glover of Slime Sandwich

When Alex Welch, founder of Photobucket, and I started Slime Sandwich, Club Penguin was reportedly worth $700M and I’d just received a cute little sheep on Facebook. Looking to launch an online game, we knew F2P would dominate and Facebook would be the viral distribution gas in our marketing machine. We were right about one thing – free to play did dominate, but Facebook didn’t just run out of gas, it lost its engine.

Armed with our graphic rich 3D multiplayer game, SCAPS Agent, filled with free virtual gifts and slick rewards for recruiting Facebook friends we prepared for our Facebook launch. But there were nagging concerns and doubts. The sheep weren’t so cute anymore. If fact, I’d wished people would stop sending me their damn sheep.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone. Nobody wanted the sheep, or cared if Alison on Frontierville had “huge taters,” and soon, the sheep and taters were just white noise relegated to a hardly noticeable globe at the top of my Facebook page where only those seeking sheep or taters would look.

Clearly, in an amazingly short period of time, Zynga and those who had already primed the Facebook pump had vanquished almost any chance a small indie company might have in using Facebook for viral distribution. It didn’t help that Facebook was a willing accomplice. Overnight, Facebook became almost irrelevant to our company’s failure or success, and here’s why:

You can’t buy your way in. In free to play, the CAC is prohibitive. If you’re not in, like Pop Cap or Zynga, you might as well forget it. You can’t afford Facebook ads.

Nobody cares about your virtual gifts. They are no longer seen as valuable and thus make as poor incentives for viral growth.

Players can’t find you. Unless you have an external mechanism to push players in, indie games are very difficult, if not impossible to locate on Facebook.

Facebookers are jaded. They know their friends have become marketing tools and so the much vaunted “word of mouth” is of almost no value.

Facebook is almost irrelevant to the mobile market. Mobile is where it’s at and nobody is using Facebook, or Facebook Connect to shop for apps and mobile games. Facebook is a PC social networking platform which is being substantially cannibalized by the mobile market and may eventually become a dinosaur. We don’t see Facebook’s mobile efforts bringing anything to the table in regard to the sale and distribution of apps.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Facebook is entirely without value and that we don’t use it as part of our community building strategy. We’re still there. In fact we have a Facebook page for our mobile game, Chuck the Chilla, and you can even play Chuck on Facebook. I’m just saying it is now damn near impossible for a good indie game to gain traction on Facebook.

So what strategy is of value to an indie game developer? Facebook is dead to you. The PC market is saturated and being eaten every day by tablets and smartphones. Costs to develop for consuls and similar devices are prohibitive. Enter, the new frontier – mobile game development.

About Douglas Glover