Facebook and gaming debated at LA Games Conference

Do you play games on Facebook?  At the , in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, there was a heated debate about whether or not Facebook is a gaming platform.  For those of you Call of Duty players, waiting for the Playstation Network to come back up, you probably don’t think of Facebook as a place to play games.  Even a good number of those that play games on Facebook don’t consider it gaming.  That is a portion of the argument Alex St. John, the President of gaming site Hi5, championed.

His argument is a good one on many levels.  Facebook has listened to users and cracked down on the amount of irritating wall spam the games are allowed to generate.  This limits a lot of the free advertising that made creating games for Facebook appealing to publishers but, Facebook has no intention of allowing their social index to be hijacked by anyone.  This leads to another point.  Facebook is not a destination for gaming and is not intended to be.

There is however, an appeal for free browser games.  An increasing number of people work on computers for extended periods of time.  A good amount of them either, work where companies don’t allow software to be installed or for other reasons, don’t want the commitment of buying and installing games.  These types of games need to lend themselves to multitasking by allowing asynchronous gameplay or a large number of shorter levels.

Alex St. John’s Hi5 is a destination for this type of gaming.  It is a social hub for free browser gaming and as result has a large international youth following.  The profile creation process and gameplay screens don’t let you forget about the social aspect with tie-ins to Facebook and other social networks as well as your email.  In addition to polling your existing friends to entice them to play with you, the site makes it easy to make new friends with similar gaming tastes.

Making games is a tough business to get into and while companies like Hi5 offer a welcome platform for new and small development groups, they are still a business.  That means they have to make money.  Consumers are not willing to pay to purchase these types of games and it requires something of value to compel them to buy into one.  Due to the framework of Facebook, it makes it increasingly difficult to consider it a viable platform for gaming particularly, since the days of Mafia Wars and Farmville spam-shaming you into playing are gone.

The amount of people on Facebook make the social platform appealing to business, but it is difficult enough to use Facebook as just a marketing platform.  This is not to say, there is not a pet rock to create but the odds of being successful, decrease as more companies jump into the same pool.  It is hard at this point, to see anyone being able to build a business entirely on the back of Facebook.

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