Archive for the ‘Social Gaming’ Category

September 14th, 2010

Facebook Ban and Local Entrepreneurs – Analysis by Hassan Baig of White Rabbit

Original posted on Green & White on May 21, 2010

When Facebook was banned my first thoughts moved to the apps we covered recently Feline FrenzyCarom Challenge and Fly By, what effects does this have on them the development efforts and traffic etc.

Hassan Baig (White Rabbit) the creators of Feline Frenzy, has provided once again a very insightful view of things. Note to other young entrepreneurs this is the level of understanding of your target audience and market you should have to have a shot at success, you should be able to reorganize quickly in any circumstances. For me I am now a permanent fan of Hassan will try to pick his brain every now and then. Following is his un altered response. And once again thanks for him to take time out to share his thoughts for others to learn from.

This short-term hiccup is inconsequential to Facebook developers in Pakistan. For example, Facebook is completely banned in Iran and China but users who want to access it are still able to do so thanks to proxy servers and such. In other words, developers are still free to develop for the global market.

However, if a developer’s focusing on the local market as a target, they could find themselves in rough waters in case this ban extends beyond 31st of May.

So that’s the short term ripple.

Could there be a longer term consequence too? Yes there could. However, before we get to what the long term worst case looks like, I’d like to point out that Facebook’s facing a perfect storm right now in the shape of the confluence of the following occurrences:

  • Public concern for Facebook’s abuse of privacy policy.
  • Privacy concerns compounded by Zuckerberg’s recently revealed IM transcript. A PR nightmare, that.
  • Farmville’s maker Zynga’s aggressive posturing against Facebook. And though their initial threat of completely boycotting Facebook may have subsided, enough feathers have been ruffled to hint at a mercurial future.
  • And last but not least, the backlash against Facebook emanating from Muslim countries headed by Pakistan’s country-wide blackout.

Clearly, all of these grievances can be dealt with by an efficient, responsible management. However, Zuckerberg’s never been a smooth operator and there exist several question marksover his suitability as the company’s continued leader. So it’s conceivable that even as the social networking giant is getting ready to announce 500 million users, its future may not pan out to be what Zuckerberg dreamed of in his Harvard dorm.

So then, what’s the worst case scenario?

Facebook’s user growth first plateaus and then starts dwindling (much like what’s happeningto Myspace).

And this is how such an eventuality can be catalyzed: A simpler, more private social networking tool with strong VC funding comes to the fore. Or, other social networks jump at the opportunity and cannibalize Facebook’s popularity. Or both.

How can the Facebook development community deal with this? Well firstly by realizing that theworst case scenario described above may not happen, at least not in the short term. In the medium and long term, there are ways to diversify their product offering.

For instance, building social applications with the Open Social standard can open up your social application to hi5, LinkedIn, MySpace, Netlog, Ning, Orkut, and Yahoo. Out of all of these, the highest recommended is hi5 – which is turning out to be a very lucrative distribution platform with good leadership and business sense. And infact, hi5′s looking to sync itself with theFacebook API too, so one doesn’t necessarily have to endorse Open Social to deploy on it. Hi5′s worth a look for any social game development company out there.

Overall, social game developers have the luxury to keep their options open in the long term. The current Facebook fiasco though is a good wakeup call for those who haven’t thought about diversification yet. Never keep all eggs in one basket, and keep researching in this fast-paced, thoroughly dynamic industry. Those who anticipate and plan for future disruptions will truly go big.

September 14th, 2010

Facebook vs iPhone

Excerpt from original posting on Green & White – Apr 13, 2010

The iPhone is a powerful platform, it’s got a cult following, some of the apps developed for it have unique, unparalleled features.

But it’s not a good monetization platform.

First of all, the sheer volume of users Facebook has can trump iPhone users many times over. Second, virtual goods have not kicked off on iPhone the way they have on Facebook. Thirdly, piracy of iPhone apps is huge. Fourthly, Apple’s monopolistic practices are cost-ineffective; Steve Jobs wants 30% of your app revenue. Fifthly, social virality is not as lubricated on the iPhone platform as it is over Facebook’s stream – which means iPhone developers have to contend with higher advertising budgets.

The iPhone is a good way to increase your brand’s footprint. But it’s business-model credentials as a first foray are not superior to Facebook’s Open Platform.

September 14th, 2010

Why and How to Develop Facebook Games?

Originally posted on on Mar 8, 2010

After the introduction of Facebook’s Open Platform in late 2007, the social gaming industry has become hot with hundreds of millions of dollars poured in by venture capitalists.

Moreover since 2007, several large Facebook gaming companies have come of age – Zynga, Playfish (now EA), Playdom, Crowdstar being the most notable examples – and have shown the world spectacular spurts in revenue unprecedented in recent business history.  Social gaming is perhaps one of the hottest industries to step into right now in terms of bottomline potential and relative poverty of barriers to entry.

If you’re looking to jump into this niche, here are some pointers to get you started:

Why Facebook gaming?

  • Because it’s fairly simple to build compared to AAA games like World of Warcraft and the like.
  • Because it’s not that hard to monetize through the sale of virtual goods and offers.
  • Because gaining user-base is immensely helped via Facebook’s social stream.
  • Because Facebook is adding around a 100 million users every month (ever-growing potential user-pool).
  • Because these games cannot be pirated.

But then, some may wonder: why not get into iPhone game development? Afterall, it’s an incredibly powerful tool with great production-value potential and never-seen-before mechanics.  Here are my thoughts on the subject:

  • Because Facebook trumps the iPhone in terms of potential user-base by hundreds of millions of more users!
  • Because piracy is endemic over iPhone games. You won’t get a dime for around 70% – 80% of your downloads unless you invest serious resources in anti-piracy measures.
  • Because as a monetization platform, the iPhone undersells your applications whereas Facebook over-sells them.
  • Because as a monetization platform, the iPhone takes a 30% cut in every dollar you earn. Facebook takes none.

Make no mistake about it; the iPhone is a great way to make some money. Just that Facebook is greater.

What technology should I use?

The game itself will have its front-end coded in ActionScript 3.0 (older versions are not supported anymore), artwork done in Adobe Illustrator and/or Flash, animation work done in Flash, and the back-end having your usual mySQL database(s). These are essentially tools you’d need for any flash game.

Here’s where things change: communicating with the Facebook API. You’d probably have Flash communicate with javascript (through an FBJS-bridge), and then have javascript complete the communication loop with the Facebook API from there on.

Confessedly, this is not the only way to do it. But whichever method you end up using (and you can research that on Google), it’s going to be complicated stuff. There will be days (and nights) when you’ll be stuck on something and no one in the whole world would be able to help you. Literally! So be consistent.

Do expect numerous bugs which keep popping up on the Open Platform, coupled with ever-changing Facebook API may bug you hard, but don’t give up. I’m not saying don’t get into this business, I’m saying know what you’re up against. Bet on facts, not hope.

How do I monetize?

There are two answers to this conundrum. The trivial one is this: outsource your monetization platform to service providers such as these. They’ll probably do some sort of a revenue share with you and it’ll be an all-round win-win situation.

Here’s the harder answer: coming up with content which users actually want to buy. The one thing that you’ll need to keep in mind is ensuring your game centers upon sale of virtual items. That’s the real money-maker. You can Google virtual goods if you don’t understand the concept – many blogs such as these are littered with information.

What should be your strategy to get maximum users to fish out their credit cards for you? Take it from the gurus of monetization here. Be very clear about the fact that unless your game is rich in content, it will not be a good candidate for sale of virtual goods. Which means that quizzes and simple games are out. Which means content-rich games like Pet Society or Farmville are good ideas to emulate. Perhaps the least content-rich game which still monetizes nicely is this – you can use this as a least common denominator of sorts.

Last but not least, whatever content you finally decide on – please do not forget thatmajority of Facebook game users are female (around 55%-45% break-up), and that vanity virtual items (e.g. decorations) are the biggest selling category of virtual goods out there.

Where do I gather research from?

First of all, do not forget that those who don’t do their research won’t last long in this industry. In any industry. Even beginner’s luck doesn’t last forever.

  • To find out all about Facebook gaming trends, bookmark
  • To find out Facebook games’ metrics in terms of monthly active users (MAU) or daily active users (DAU), bookmark
  • To understand the psychology that goes behind effective virtual goods monetization, bookmark ZT Online’s classic case study here.
  • To understand what successful viral mechanics on Facebook work best, bookmark this article (though the ‘notifications’ bit of it is outdated).
  • To understand how Facebook’s Open Platform will morph over time, bookmark this.
  • And lastly, to understand virility, bookmark this article.


Facebook game development is a hot industry right now and the time is ripe to jump into the fray. Any later and you would run the risk of missing the band-wagon. If you’re ready to take on the challenges, the rewards can be immense. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m just saying it’s going to be worth it.

Go for it.