The Road to Credits: Mid-Market Developers Experience Technical Difficulties, Experiment With New Promotions
Social game developers have 40 more days of life on the Facebook Platform until new rules requiring the exclusive use of Facebook Credits go into effect. With the exception of the larger developers we explored recently, mid-market developers are mostly on board, with Credits integrated as a means to purchase certain premium items.
Mid-market developers, with cumulative monthly active users across games in the 3 million up to 10 million range, include the likes of RockYou, Cie Games, Funzio, Kabam, and LOLapps, and several others whose games routinely appear in our top Facebook social game rankings charts.
While a few of these developers were early adopters of Facebook Credits after the integration announcement in 2010, many appeared to be dragging their heels in recent months, beyond adding it to an existing list of payment methods. Only in the last three months or so have many of them successfully introduced Credits as an in-game purchasing means for specific items or as the sole means of acquiring the game’s premium virtual currency.
One reason we’ve heard for the sluggish adoption was issues with the software development kit needed to fully utilize certain Facebook Credit features. Most mid-market developers ran or are still running their social games on an older SDK; in order to make steps toward integrating Credits features, they must upgrade to the new SDK. Some developers have told us they’ve experienced performance issues with their games after upgrading, which delayed or deterred certain developers from integrating specific Facebook Credits features.
Because these developers enjoy fairly large audiences, it’s likely that many of them have felt they could not risk a hit to their metrics caused by technical performance issues linked to integrating Credits ahead of the deadline. Only in cases where a developer’s audience is new or because its games never featured monetization to begin with have we seen deeper Credits integration in the form of Frictionless Credits or other special features available to developers that adopted Credits as a sole means of purchasing specific items or currency. Among larger developers, CrowdStar and Wooga fit this description.
Some of these technical bumps may have been resolved recently. A developer who wished to remain anonymous tells us that Facebook proactively coordinated efforts to reverse engineer support for Credits features within the old SDK to resolve the performance issues. That developer could not say with certainty that the performance problems were completely resolved.
It’s also not clear how serious these technical difficulties actually are — developers’ desire to not pay out 30% of their revenue to Facebook is no doubt also a motivating factor.
In any case, Facebook has been busy removing reasons for heel-dragging. “We’re working closely with developers that are integrating Facebook Credits in their games,” a Facebook representative tells us. “We’re continually working to address any issues that individual developers may encounter.”
It also seems as though Facebook is also going one step further toward helping developers introduce Credits into existing games with large audiences. For example, about two weeks ago, Ravenwood Fair sent players a Notification that the game had rewarded them with one free Facebook Credit. Clicking on the Notification took players into the game where they were immediately presented with a “discount” pop-up screen urging us to spend our one free Credit on one of three items discounted to the price of just one Credit. A “Play Now” button allowed players to bypass the discount offer without spending the Credit and when players exited Ravenwood Fair for the day, the Credit balance remained.
Neither Facebook nor Ravenwood Fair developer LOLapps had any comment on this one free Credit offer, but it does appear to be a special feature made available for the developer to test on its audience. It also could be a tool for developers looking to educate its audience on Credits usage, knowing that many players are either completely unaware of the impending currency change or not completely certain how Credits will fit into their gameplay experience.
Even with these progressive steps on the road to Facebook Credits, some mid-level developers are still holding out on wide-scale live integrations, even now. Take, for example, Kingdoms of Camelot developer Kabam. When we got an early look at the developer’s newest game, Global Warfare, the game didn’t feature any Facebook Credits integration beyond the one-of-several payment methods for its premium in-game currency, Cash. Its largest game by MAU, Dragons of Atlantis, still doesn’t offer Facebook Credits as a means of purchase at all — although a customer support document for the game says players may see it as a payment option in the future. When we spoke with Kabam about the lack of Credits across its titles, General Manager Bryan Bennett told us that Kabam would comply with the integration guidelines “with plenty of time” to spare before the July 1 deadline.
At the Canaan Partners panel on Credits and payments last week, which included Inside Network’s Justin Smith, Credits product manager Deborah Liu, Kabam vice president Sheridan Hitchens, and TapJoy chief executive Mihir Shah, Liu said that over 80% of virtual currency transactions on the Facebook Platform are already happening through Facebook Credits.
As we draw closer to July 1st, we’ll be keeping an eye on mid-market developers’ Credits integrations — it’s still not clear that things are going to go smoothly for developers in the short term. Facebook is of course encouraging any developers with specific questions to reach out either directly or through its developer forums.