Facebook updates platform policies, limits games on third-party sites

Yesterday, Facebook announced a platform policy update for games on third-party websites, limiting the access these titles will have to users’ friends and additional permissions.

The update was announced on Facebook’s developer blog. Developers will no longer be able to cross-link or promote their web games from within the games they have on Facebook canvas. That said, users will still be able to use Facebook Connect to login to a game and have that game publish back to Facebook. While this doesn’t affect Zynga because of pre-existing contractual agreements, it will affect other developers like Kabam and King.com.

We’re told by sources that the change is due to Facebook re-allocating resources toward canvas and mobile, and games using Facebook Connect haven’t seen the same kind of traffic that titles on Facebook canvas and mobile platforms have.

This might also be related to Facebook’s current payments policy. The company requires canvas games to use Facebook Payments (formerly known as Credits), of which it takes a 30 percent fee. Games off-Facebook do not have to use this payment system, even though they have been able to use all the same APIs as canvas games.

Not only that, but if users are spending time on third-party sites, that’s less exposure they’re getting to Facebook advertising. It would be hard for the company to make a case for continuing to support web games that don’t help it monetize. Although Facebook doesn’t yet make money off of iOS or Android games that integrate Open Graph or Single Sign-On, that area is growing more rapidly than desktop web games and likely needs more internal resources.

Here’s the official wording from new Facebook platform policy that affects developers using Facebook Connect for games:

Special provisions for games:
a. Desktop web games off of Facebook.com may only use Facebook Login (Authentication, excluding user connections such as friend list), Social Plugins and publishing (e.g., Feed Dialog, Stream Publish, or Open Graph). When authenticating, these games may not request additional permissions other than age, email, and our Publishing Permissions (effective December 5, 2012).

b. Games on Facebook.com and mobile must not share the same app ID with desktop web games off of Facebook.com. You must not use Canvas apps to promote or link to game sites off of Facebook, and must not use emails obtained from us to promote or link to desktop web games off of Facebook.com (effective December 5, 2012).

We’ve reached out to a few developers for comment but have yet to hear back or have been told they have no official comment.

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