Leadership Perspectives

How to Transition From Facebook to Mobile as a Gaming Platform

Becky Doles

Several years ago, Facebook emerged as one of the most popular gaming platforms thanks to the success of games like Farmville. With its broad and inherently social focus, the game was a defining moment in gaming history. Of course, that was almost five years ago when Facebook was also primarily desktop. Now, as consumers are spending more time on mobile, game developers are quickly scrambling for strategies to transition from Facebook to mobile as a gaming platform.

At the LOGIN conference in San Francisco last week, Kixeye‘s Alan Patmore discussed how game developers must consider that to be successful on any platform, you need to leverage the aspects that differentiates that platform from others to make it successful. Patmore noted that the hyper growth on Facebook in gaming from 2009-2011 was primarily based on unprecedented accessibility and social capacity. He explained that at that time Facebook was accessible from a game-play standpoint but also encouraged thematic games. As a result, he said “games needed to be as broad as possible, and you saw a lot of games with very broad themes such as farming and dining with cheery colored palates and characters with big heads and big eyes.” Additionally, these games had short sessions. At the time, people didn’t want complicated games.

Now, as we transition to mobile, Patmore advises it’s critical to consider what makes it (as a platform) potentially so successful as well. He says that at Kixeye they have looked at building games primarily for tablets, as those are most competitive with current gaming consoles – and, as he explains, people play Facebook games like they play console games, so the transition is easier. Unlike Facebook, however, Kixeye has found that users play games for much longer sessions – over 30 minutes per session up to 9 times per day. In fact, the tablet has become an alternative to the user’s main gaming device or has become the main gaming device. Patmore explains this is largely because mobile is naturally a “great gaming device with great processing power and hi-def graphics competitive to consoles. The touch screen is also incredibly intuitive.”

In fact, mobile is such a great gaming device that Patmore – with Kixeye – is developing games that don’t compromise in the same way developers did for Facebook. Instead of short, “stackable” sessions that were integrated into games for Facebook, Kixeye believes that there is no need to shorten session lengths for mobile. In his words, “We think this is BS. I watch TV shows and movies on my tablet – why wouldn’t I play a game on my tablet?” He said users are demanding more polished, high quality experiences, so he urges game developers to make games that users want – which are games with session lengths consistent with other games. That said, it’s important to make them interruptible, as a connection to the server can easily drop on mobile. Patmore advises figuring out how to reward and penalize appropriately in the event a player drops out for a variety of reasons.

As Patmore explains, “There is a huge opportunity for complex games on mobile. When transitioning from Facebook to browser, developers need to challenge the preconceived notion on what you need to do to be successful on the platform.” As he said, you don’t need to be broad and social. While mobile is getting a little more saturated, you can feed core gamers on mobile. Patmore hit it home with the bottom line: it’s a really, really underserved market. For game developers, there is never a better time than now to consider how to transition from Facebook to mobile as a gaming platform.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.