Kixeye/Inside Network panel: Unity vs. Unreal for the next generation of browser-based games

INJB_KIXEYE_FeaturedImageIn case you missed last night’s jobs event hosted by Kixeye and Inside Network, here’s a quick recap of the panel “The Next Generation of Browser-Based Games: Unity, UDK and Beyond.”

As it happens, each of the panelists involved with the topic are 1) hiring and 2) currently working on games that straddle not only the web browser platform (open web, games network, Facebook Canvas games, etc.) but also mobile and tablet. Toward the beginning of the discussion, Kixeye panelists Dan Rubenfield and Scott Howard revealed that their respective projects — mid-core strategy or combat games, both — were actually being built with different engines despite likely targeting the same platform. Howard, who’s been at Kixeye longer and whose project began development almost a year ago, is working on a Unity 3D game. Rubenfield, whom Howard brought on about 10 months ago, settled on Unreal as the engine for his project.

When asked by an attendee why the two games were being built differently, Howard and Rubenfield explained that the engines and tools selected to craft a social mobile game depend almost entirely on timing. Yes, most of Kixeye’s current games are built in Flash — and they’re very successful on Facebook Canvas. But Kixeye wants to stay ahead of the game in developing social and mobile titles and so its producers consider many different engines and frameworks instead of sticking only with what they know. As Howard explained, when his project started, Unity 3D was simply farther along and had more tools available to developers. When Rubenfield’s project started, Unreal had matured somewhat and had what his team needed to build their game. In six months, who knows — there could be three completely new engines or frameworks that developers could be leveraging to make the next generation of social and mobile game.

Pictured from right to left: Anthony Pecorella, producer for virtual goods of Kongregate; Jordan Patz, lead game designer of nWay; Dan Rubenfield, executive producer of KIXEYE; Scott Howard, executive producer, KIXEYE

Pictured from right to left: Anthony Pecorella, producer for virtual goods of Kongregate; Jordan Patz, lead game designer of nWay; Dan Rubenfield, executive producer of KIXEYE; Scott Howard, executive producer, KIXEYE

The second part of the panel discussion shifted toward actual job experience and interview techniques. Not surprisingly, all three companies represented on the panel (Kixeye, Kongregate and nWay) were actively interviewing for engineers, programers, designers and artists for their current and future projects. Kongregate in particular is looking for producers that can work with developers to increase performance on the game network’s system, which requires a skill set that calls for both technical and design backgrounds. Based on feedback from each of the four panelists, the following advice was provided to job-seekers:

  • Make games — This is the single most important piece of advice the panelists could offer. If a job seeker wants to convince a developer that they can make games, they should actually make them in their spare time. This can be on any platform: pen-and-paper, Flash, ASCII, in a class full of kindergarteners. Just as long as the game works as a finished project that can be demonstrated to the developer. Also, common sense, never plagiarize code from someone else’s project and submit it with an application — the person that wrote the original code might actually be the interviewer.
  • Be acquisitive in knowledge — Many applicants have college or graduate degrees in computer science or even in game design and likely could score high on tests. But this is not enough to convince developers that a candidate is smart enough to learn new ways of coding or scripting and keep up with the fast-paced work environment where an engine might be obsolete in less than a year. Howard tests for this capacity by asking candidates what are the last three things they’ve read and why; Rubenfield asks questions designed to make candidates think through a problem out loud; Jordan Patz of nWay looks for the underlying personality of the interviewee to get a sense of how smart they are; and Anthony Pecorella from Kongregate presents a test where candidates have to adjust the design of a game and explain their changes.
  • Don’t be a dick — This is the second-most mentioned pointer from the panelists. It seems like an obvious point, but in the creative industry, there are many strong personalities with passion for their work. If a candidate is not mindful of how to behave in a tight-knit social situation or cannot present a professional demeanor in a work environment, they’re unlikely to get the job no matter how brilliant a programmer/designer/artist they are. Yes, candidates are likely to be nervous in any interview; but mind your manners, answer questions in complete sentences and don’t trash-talk previous coworkers — the games industry is small and the trash-talked person might actually be working at that company already.

To those of you unable to join us yesterday, we hope to see you at future events. To job seekers in particular, we urge you to look at each of these companies job openings (here, here and here) as well as the Inside Network Job Board.

PlayHaven picks up AdMob’s Charles Yim as COO

Charles Yim_Headshot[1]Mobile game developer resource PlayHaven announced a new hire today with Charles Yim joining the company as Chief Operating Officer. Yim was previously at AdMob, which was acquired by Google in 2010.

PlayHaven’s mission is to maximize the lifetime value of a mobile game player; a large part of this strategy comes from advertising, which is where Yim’s expertise comes in. With more mobile developers turning to native video ads as a monetization solution, it makes sense to bring in a guy that helped AdMob launch mobile video on iPad and Android tablets. PlayHaven has grown to 60 since closing an $8 million third round of funding late last year.

The following is a brief interview conducted with Yim earlier this week.

Inside Social Games: Do you see Tablet emerging as the dominant “mobile” games platform in the next year, or are we already there?

Charles Yim: If you look at the games industry holistically, it’s pretty broad. Each different game genre — a casual game, a casino game, a hardcore game — they lend themselves to different users and tablet is a good platform for certain genres, but not all genres. I don’t think tablets are the end-all, be-all of the industry.

ISG: We’ve seen a lot of advertisers and ad platforms focus on video in the last year — including AdMob. Where can native ads go beyond video?

Yim: The ongoing debate that you find is in the advertising technology perspective — on one side of the spectrum, you have super native and then on the other you have scalable. When I think back to AdMob in 2009 when we came out with our own video ad unit, the companies were developing niche swipable video ad units, but the industry couldn’t scale those. Integrating with a large number of publishers was a difficult process to manage. Whenever you look at a new channel in native ads, there’s a natural dynamic tension between delivering a native, unique experience and something that can be scaled. AdMob’s [ad unit] was the first that really gained traction because it was easy for advertisers to understand. The things you could do outside of video is really a question of how much deep integration are people willing to do and are advertisers willing to buy into that experience.

ISG: What’s the biggest mistake game developers make in implementing ads on mobile?

Yim: Game developers have gotten much better at this, but they think about building their game before they think about monetizing it. They’re very focused on the player experience and afterwards, they slap ads on top of it. Savvy game devs in mobile understand that ads are a important part of the business model and they incorporate that into their game from the get-go.

ISG: Anything to add?

Yim: My motivations for joining PlayHaven are asking what are game developers doing well or not doing well. As the industry matures, the needs of the developers mature. As their business scale and grow, they run into growing pains they haven’t anticipated. PlayHaven has an incredibly talented team and the best perspective on what’s coming and on helping game developers manage their businesses.

W3i’s Erik Lundberg on Android games monetization, tablet dominance, closing the gap with iOS

Monetization and insights provider W3i is stepping up its game with Pocket Gems and other mobile game developers on Android going into 2013. This could be the year that Google’s platform finally catches up in revenues to Apple’s iOS.

Through its expanded partnership with Pocket Gems, W3i now provides monetization solutions to Tap Paradise Cove and Campus Life. Far from being mere banner ads, the monetization service focuses instead on providing a native experience in these Android apps — tailoring ads, offers and video campaigns to the user experience.

Erik Lundberg, General Manager at W3i’s San Francisco office (pictured), explains that the shift toward native experiences comes from mobile advertising finally moving away from online advertising models. With 15 years in online ads before joining W3i just eight months ago, he’s had time to study the changing trends.

“In the early days of ads and mobile apps, people took online models and slapped them on a smartphone like small banner ads that are only 100 pixels wide,” says Lundberg. “Users have tuned those out. More native ads like a full screen interstitial or offer-based ads, we see a much higher CPM, like 10 times higher. We think that trend will continue toward native ads that are a part of the application instead of just throwing up a banner.”

(more…)

Inside Network Research finds nearly half of Facebook games players are daily users — and so are their friends

Inside Network Research’s newest report, Facebook Games: Increasing Consumer Engagement, finds that almost half of Facebook’s games-playing audience are daily active users.

The study, on sale now, surveyed 1,418 adult Facebook users in the United States between August and September on their games habits. Of those, 31 percent played games several times per day while 18 percent played at least once per day. This highly engaged audience seems to be enjoying the games that bring their friends into the experience either in turn-based games (e.g. Words With Friends) or competitive games (e.g. War Commander).

Not surprisingly, Inside Network Research also found that niche games and those with coherent cross-platform experiences like Candy Crush Saga increased retention better than Facebook-only games aimed at a broader audience. At our Inside Social Apps conference in New York earlier this month, we heard developers on the monetization panel say that their philosophy toward game design has increasingly become a quality discussion, with platform coming at a much later point in a game’s development cycle.

You can find this report and others from Inside Network Research here.

Applifier closes $4M second round for mobile games discovery

Applifier, the Robin Hood of Facebook games cross promotion, has closed a $4 million second round of funding led by Lifeline Ventures.

The influx of funds will be put toward accelerating Applifier’s growth on iOS, where the company currently hosts a video-based discoverability service called Everyplay. Its Facebook video ad service, Impact, will migrate to mobile next year. To that end, Applifier is staffing up both its engineering-focused Finnish headquarters and a much smaller developer relations-oriented San Francisco office. Applifier currently has about 25 employees total.

Everyplay continues Applifier’s mission of leveraging games’ appeal to generate organic growth and retention. The SDK, when implemented into a developer’s game, allows players to capture video of their in-game play experience and post said video to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Everyplay’s site (picture, right — click to enlarge). Since we first saw the service, the site part of the experience has evolved into more of a gamers social network, with avatar creation, status updates and a Follower system similar to Twitter’s. Players can link their Facebook accounts to Everyplay, but that is used more as a means of finding friends instead of a substitution for a virtual identity.

Speaking to Inside Social Games this week, Applifier CEO Jussi Laakkonen explains that gamers naturally prefer anonymity to the use of real identities in games. But at the same time, he admits that the social nature of sharing games — showing them off, beating set high scores, competitive multiplayer, etc. — requires some form of connection.

“We want to make a safe and fun environment,” he says. “So we’re not launching the face-cam part of Everyplay until Q1 next year when we have moderation in place. We don’t want this to be Chatroulette.”

Everyplay is currently live in two iOS games, Fatcat Rush and Stair Dismount, and the SDK is now widely available to developers. A few additional features are planned for Q1 in addition to the face cam capture function — such as a picture-in-picture video display where game developers can choose to show community videos or trailers from a game title screen as an engagement tool. Like Applifier’s previous service on Facebook, Everyplay monetizes through native ads (e.g. sponsored or promoted videos that function on a traditional CPI model) and could potentially branch into other forms of display ads.

Laakkonen — along with many others in the social/mobile space — believes that the next big frontier for mobile games will be tablets, so the sooner Applifier can establish itself on mobile, the better off it will be. This is not unlike the situation the company faced in 2008 when it first contemplated the rapid growth on the Facebook platform.

“We’re hoping for explosive growth on mobile, because [there are] similar market conditions to what we faced on Facebook,” Laakkonen tells ISG. “We don’t know where things will go, but for now, it’s about discoverability.”

Applifier’s second round saw participation from existing investors MHS Capital and PROFounders and from new investor Webb Investment Network. Angel investors include Steven Lurie, Anthony Soohoo, Philip Reisberger and David Wright and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. The $4 million brings Applifier up to $6 million in total funding following a $2 million round closed in February 2011.

Liveblogging from Inside Social Apps, New York: Social and Mobile Game Product Design and Development

We’re liveblogging our Inside Social Apps New York conference. What follows is a paraphrased account of the panel “Social and Mobile Game Product Design and Development,” moderated by Inside Social Games Lead Writer Mike Thompson.

Panelists include Mike Sego of Gaia Online, Mathieu Nouzareth of FreshPlanet, Doug Scott from ngmoco and Robert Winkler from 5th Planet Games.

The panelists begin by discussing the opportunities presented by the rise of mobile games.

Mike Sego: The audience playing mobile games is more diverse. Our premise has been to develop games for gamers and for those that want to play high quality game on social and mobile platforms. This opens up a whole new opportunity on mobile where new apps and new game types are emerging all the time compared to social, where two of the top three grossing games on Facebook are FarmVille and FarmVille 2 whereas mobile is more titled toward hardcore and games for gamers.

Mike Thompson: Do you find fast follows or original development works better?

Doug Scott: All games are a mix of both. If you look in free to play, it’s a mix of what they love – what they know – and new things. If you don’t bring your creative process into the mix, you’ll always fall flat. I don’t think a straight clone of a game will ever really find true success in the market. It’s always about being inspired from things that exist in the market.

Rob Winkler: What’s always driven us is creating games we want to play. [Card strategy games] weren’t as prevalent on Facebook and mobile a few years ago.

Sego: Fast following has never been as rewarded on mobile as it was on social, but over the last year with the changing landscape for how games are discovered and how much higher the competition, the strategy of looking at what the current top grossing games are and then rapidly iterating on a near identical clone will almost certainly fall flat on mobile. The way that audience discovers games, they’ve already seen the leader — there’s a lot more attention focused in the same place for app discovery, so they’ve seen it already. The arbitrage game trying to acquire users for slightly less than you can make has been crowded out with increased cost of acquisition. If you’re not bringing something users are going to have an emotional connection with, something they’ll want to share… [it's not possible.]

Thompson: What would work on other platforms that wouldn’t work on Facebook?

Winkler: I think the things that really pushed social are set up to be more successful on things like Kongregate, where there are core gamers that aren’t there to post pictures or something. We built our games for Facebook, but we were pushing social features like building a clan system — a hybrid of realtime interaction in your social groups and games and rewarding players for being heavily connected. That really served us well when we pivoted off of Facebook. We put our games [on Kongregate] and they had this realtime chat feature and that [had] and instant effect on us and we had this direct feedback loop. It’s good and bad for sales, we’ve learned, but it’s good for the guild and clan features and the raids. That’s something we felt was lacking on Facebook. We have the number one game on Kongregate and we really felt the platform, the type of gamer on it, really connected with us.

Sego: A game that wouldn’t work on Facebook would be a paid app. That concept does not exist. I think ultimately if you’re looking for a game to have longer term retention and higher monetization, you want in-app purchases and social features. That’s the most dominant style of games successful on all platforms. Browser based games in general as opposed to mobile platforms — mobile has ubiquitous access, but odds are even with great connections, it’s tough to have a great synchronous experience on mobile. With a browser-based game, you see companies making it more realtime. I don’t think it’s just possible, I think it will be an emerging category of game in the coming year.

Thompson: Is there too much innovation on the Facebook platform for you to be successful?

Scott: I think you could argue whether it’s too ambitious — it’s easy to argue. You really want to get that game into people’s hands as quickly as possible. Part of the challenge is knowing where the market is going to go.

Sego: Traffic acquisition changes so quickly in the ecosystem that emerging categories that didn’t have games in them a year ago can be flooded in six months. I think in deciding to play it safe versus building something new, you have to understand your audience and develop for them, not just for yourself. What’s interesting about [mobile/social] is that so much of the development happens after launch. You’re developing something where you hope to have a conversation with users for months if not years. If you are running the risk of innovating too much, it’s because you’re developing too much in a vacuum and not listening to what your users want.

Mathieu Nouzareth: We’ve launched many games before SongPop, but they weren’t successful and then we made a game called Dreamland that was very innovative. It was OK, it was successful. But we decided to move on because it wasn’t working.

Scott: The most important thing is being able to move on when you find yourself in that position. Particularly in a freeplay environment it’s difficult to get around that direct feedback and you have to listen to it and be able to move on. The most important thing you can do in a category is embrace opportunities.

Thompson: Is it too late to get on the mid-core bandwagon?

WInkler: We’ve been in that genre for two and a half years now and I don’t think so. I think there’s still an appetite for it. It’s been successful for us and I think there’s quite a lot of room there — as Mike was saying, more synchronous play, more innovation. People are going to try new things. There are 3D first-person shooters on Facebook right now that have traction, but they’re just starting to pick up. And I think there’s still a lot of room.

Scott: I agree. It was “too late” to go after mid-core/hardcore audiences in 1984. There are a lot of great genres and a lot of great gaming experiences, so the genre is wide open.

Sego: There’s a lot of debate about what mid-core means. I think it was created in response in trying to define a game and its clones. If you build a game that’s identical to Kingdoms of Camelot, is it going to be successful? Certainly not. You can try to use the things that made it successful in your game design and create something new and fresh, and that would be successful because a lot of those things are sound, will support the gameplay. But I think of mid-core more broadly as games for gamers — those that enjoy competition and interesting decisions. It continues to be the largest opportunity in that sense, but if you define it too narrowly, you’ll end up with Mafia Wars but with another theme. And the ship has sailed on that. But if your thing is taking a game that was successful on other platforms in a previous decade and creating a polished experience for free to play or mobile, that’s a fantastic opportunity.

Thompson: We’ve heard people say social games are dying. Why are they wrong?

Nouzareth: Social, if you mean Facebook and mobile together, is doing well. Canvas is not, but otherwise, social games are doing well.

Winkler: I think too much of social games have been defined by what Zynga is doing by people on the outside looking in. But there’s a lot of other stuff out there.

Nouzareth: Zynga is declining, but King.com and wooga are growing very fast.

Thompson: What do you make of Adobe Air?

Nouzareth: I don’t know if you can do that with our space. Adobe is committed to making their products better and better. We can do very high quality games with our technology.

Winkler: We have had a good experience with them. It is great for porting a game that we already made and want to do a cross platform launch and can be synchronous. We’re not convinced adobe air is ready for this, but adobe is never going to be out of town. With our CCG’s, we’re not sure if it will be ready for what we want it to do.

Sego: For us, Adobe Air, it provides a solution to a problem we’ve had. we’ve built up the talent that built flash games because it was the main for web based games. you want to build on mobile so you can’t rule out android. for us, adobe is doing things that indicate that are moving in the direction of being everywhere.

Crowd Question: We are seeing people moving toward paid games. Do you think they will suffer from this?

Scott: I think that we are going to see everyone going to Free to Play. Thinking about the motivation, why people choose to pay can be positive and negative.

Winkler: I think it is important to find the right way to do it because if you do it the wrong way, the product ultimately suffers.

Sego: It is really interesting to hear the backlash on free to play games. Free to play developers aren’t learning. It can be painful to experience how developers nickle and diming their players. It is about having users pay for something that they enjoy. The different trade offs that developers have with how they structure their free to play games are something that need to be understood fully.

Crowd Question: What is you think about the barriers between console gaming and mobile games?

Winkler: It’s important to realize the genre. I’m not going to play a FPS on a mobile device.

Scott: UI is the biggest challenge, but it also presents an opportunity. It reminds me of back in the beginning of television when you see the virtual sticks on mobile FPS.

Sego: We’re not at a point where genres are figured out. It’s not about maxing out your number of polygons anymore, it’s the way you are having players interact with your games and how you design their interactions.

Crowd Questions: What are specific game design elements or mechanics that have been successful on Facebook or social and how have adjusted to mobile?

Nouzareth: Push notifications on both iOS and Android are useful.

Agreeing to see other people — Zynga.com ending Facebook payments, ads in March

Zynga.com is no longer an extension of the Facebook platform, according to an SEC document filed today.

Originally, Zynga’s games platform featured an extremely deep integration with the Facebook platform that appeared to be born of the developer’s privileged relationship with Facebook. Zynga.com previously supported Facebook ads and Facebook payments in a deal unlike anything any other developer had enjoyed. As of March 2013, however, Zynga is relegated to using the standard terms of service that every other developer agrees to when integrating Facebook with their own sites.

Here are the cons: Zynga is losing some (but not all) of its exclusivity with Facebook. As the developer struggles with falling stock prices and decreasing returns on investment in blockbuster social games, losing some protection from Facebook might cause stock to dip even lower. Zynga closed today at $2.62 and is now at $2.35 in after-hours trading.

Effective on March 31, 2013, Facebook will no longer guarantee Zynga certain web or mobile growth targets in exchange for continuing to invest in games on the platform.

Also with the new agreement, Facebook will no longer be prohibited from developing its own games, however, it’s unlikely that the social network would get into the game development business any time in the near future. The company has generally taken the position of being a platform rather than producing its own content.

“We’re not in the business of building games and we have no plans to do so,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We’re focused on being the platform where games and apps are built.”

Here are the pros: Zynga can now feature, cross-promote and launch just about whatever game it wants on Zynga.com — even real money gambling games. Third-party games no longer need to be available on Facebook before hitting Zynga.com and Zynga can redirect players to mobile titles at its own discretion. Even better, Facebook’s standard terms of service allow Zynga to use Facebook data collected from mobile titles (e.g. email addresses), so it’s not as though Zynga is cut off from Facebook, even if it is less privileged than it was a year ago.

The amendment is also careful to state that any games launched on Zynga.com will “generally” be available on Facebook, though not in cases where the game is mobile-only or available in regions where Facebook isn’t allowed (China). If Facebook opens up its platform to real money gambling, Zynga plans to launch its real money games on the platform after the fact. Additionally, if Zynga buys any social game that was on Zynga.com but not on Facebook prior to the buy, Zynga plans to bring the game to Facebook after closing the acquisition.

Facebook provided the following statement in response to Zynga’s updated SEC filing:

“We have streamlined our terms with Zynga so that Zynga.com’s use of Facebook Platform is governed by the same policies as the rest of the ecosystem. We will continue to work with Zynga, just as we do with developers of all sizes, to build great experiences for people playing social games through Facebook.”

Zynga chief revenue officer Barry Cottle made the following statement:

“Zynga’s mission is to connect the world through games. In order to do this, Zynga is focused on building enduring relationships with consumers across all platforms from Facebook and Zynga.com on the web to tablets and mobile.  Our amended agreement with Facebook continues our long and successful partnership while also allowing us the flexibility to ensure the universal availability of our products and services.”

 

Rumble ready to roll out Nightmare Guardians to tablets, preps multiplatform publishing

KingsRoad developer Rumble Entertainment activates on its multiplatform strategy with a second game, Nightmare Guardians, launching on tablets in early 2013.

The company has an aggressive growth strategy aimed at being both developer and publisher right from the point of launch. Rumble secured a $15 million first round of funding nearly a year ago before any of its games had been released. But, as CEO Greg Richardson tells Inside Social Games, Rumble was already hard at work on developing a suite of titles to straddle mobile, social and open web platforms. By covering all the rapidly growing bases, the company is better set up to act as a publisher of third-party titles on any or all of these platforms.

“We [wanted] to be a publisher from day one,” Richardson says. “We needed a platform that could reach multiple devices and [support] multiple genres. KingsRoad and Nightmare Guardians work on the same backend, which shows the strength of our [publishing] platform.” (more…)

CityVille 2 follows on FrontierVille design philosophy

After a slight delay brought on by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, Zynga’s CityVille 2 goes live today.

The game is a citybuilder not unlike the original CityVille or SimCity Social. Players are tasked with constructing a thriving metropolis by adding residential and commercial buildings to a preset grid, unlocking more available land as the buildings generate resources for the player to spend. CityVille 2 diverges from other citybuilders mainly through a daytime/nighttime mechanic where different events and certain resources can only be seen or collected during specific times of day. A camera feature allows players to view their city from several different pre-set angles, which resolves a common issue in other citybuilders where players lose access to buildings behind larger structures. CityVille 2 also follows SimCity Social’s lead in introducing a concrete narrative where the player (as the town’s Mayor) must discover the identity of an arsonist that blows up the mayor’s mansion during the game’s tutorial. Like FarmVille 2, CityVille 2’s graphics are full 3D.

Click to view a larger version of this image:

CityVille 2’s design takes several cues from FrontierVille, which also came from the Zynga East studio. That title took the successful FarmVille and layered on additional mechanics  such as the “bonus bar” system — a meter that provided additional bonuses based on how fast a player clicked on dropped resources like coins and experience points — and created a new gameplay experience. We see similar mechanics in play in CityVille 2 with oscillating progress bars that appear whenever the player interacts with an activity (e.g. clicking on a burning building to put out a fire with fire trucks). A shaded-in portion of the bar is the “sweet spot,” where the player tries to land a marker with a well-timed click for an additional scoring bonus. This creates a more engaged sense of gameplay than the original CityVille in much the same way FrontierVille felt more active than FarmVille. (more…)

Facebook games whiteboard session reveals how some viral channels have recovered

Facebook hosted a crowd of journalists today for a whiteboard session on social games. While much of the information is old news for most of our readers, a few standout talking points provide insight on just how much regrowth the games ecosystem has seen in the last year.

First, Facebook’s Sean Ryan said that games see 30 to 40 percent CTR on Notifications. He did not state how low CTR fell for games on Notifications before the relaunch at the end of August, but recall that this was one of the channels Facebook restricted for social game developers because there had been too much spam. Second, Alex Shultz from Facebook’s user growth team explained how his team joined Ryan’s 10 months ago to begin updating games’ approach to accessing and retaining users. Since the two have joined forces, we have seen newer games from developers other than those in the top 10 see success. Finally, by encouraging developers to explore new genres on Facebook in the last 12 months, the category distribution has shifted from sims games and the occasional casual game to an explosion of casual and casino games. (Note that more than half of games on Facebook are still simulation — and the strategy category hasn’t changed much despite Kixeye’s much-publicized success with the genre.)

Looking ahead, Facebook still has hurdles to jump in user acquisition costs and discoverability — and it has to jump them on mobile, too, as that’s where most game developers are headed. App Center has some promise; the social network said earlier this month that 220 million people have visited App Center. Users who discover apps there are 40 percent more likely to return to the app the next day compared to the old Apps and Games dashboard. Perhaps more promising is Facebook’s mobile ad product, which could drive more mobile game installs for Facebook-enabled games.

As a final note, Facebook shared a brief list of upcoming games it’s “excited” about. On Facebook canvas, shoutouts went to Zynga’s CityVille 2, a game called Stormfall: Age of War from Plarium, a licensed Wizard of Oz game from Spooky Cool Labs, Fresh Deck Poker from Idle Games and Full Bloom from Disney Playdom. On mobile, Facebook announced a handful of games that have or are currently adding Facebook integration, including Hay Day from Supercell, CSR Racing from NaturalMotion, Live Hold’Em Pro from Dragonplay, NFL Pro 2013 from Gameloft and Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder.

Earlier this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the games ecosystem as a whole was growing, though not as much as he would like. Payments revenue from social game giant Zynga dropped 20 percent for Facebook compared to Q3 2011, but revenues from other game developers increased 40 percent over the last year.

We’ll be talking about the move to mobile and all the challenges social games face on Facebook, iOS and Android at Inside Social Apps in December. Find out more about our speakers and agenda here.

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