Facebook's gaming revenue may have disappointed in recent quarters, but the company says more people are playing and paying than ever before.
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Facebook on Tuesday said that Facebook games are booming, countering claims made at the Game Developers Conference on Monday that the difficulty of breaking into the Facebook gaming market is pushing game developers toward mobile platform projects.
"There are actually more people playing, and paying for Facebook games than ever before," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.
The company released new data on Facebook gaming to support its claim: Over 250 million people play games on Facebook every month. As of February, 55% of the top 400 iOS games integrated with Facebook. In February, Facebook sent 263 million clicks from its mobile News Feed to the Apple App Store and Google Play. And some 20% of daily users of Facebook on the Web play games.
Furthermore, Facebook said game installs by Web users have increased 75% compared to a year ago, more than 100 developers generated more than $1 million on Facebook last year, year-on-year growth in game players on Facebook increased 24%, and more than $2 billion was paid out to game developers in 2012.
Facebook had 901 million daily active users a year ago and its last official update in September put its user count at over a billion, so its gaming growth rate appears to exceed its user growth rate.
However, Facebook's statistics dump doesn't entirely reconcile with CEO Mark Zuckerberg's acknowledgement in his company's Q3 2012 earnings call that "Overall, gaming on Facebook isn't doing as well as I'd like," even as he insisted that declining payments from Zynga are being made up by growing payments from other game companies.
Nor do the figures undo the cautionary message about game-related Facebook payments delivered by CFO David Ebersman during the company's Q4 2012 earnings call in January. "[W]e continue to face an offsetting headwind from declining desktop usage in developed markets since our games payments revenue is essentially all from desktop computers," said Ebersman.
Nonetheless, this headwind may become less of an issue if more game publishers follow the example of King.com's Candy Crush Saga, which launched on Facebook.com in April 2012 and has become the most popular Facebook game, with some 50 million daily average users. (Facebook does not say how effectively game's popularity has been translated into revenue.)
Many factors contributed to the game's success, but Facebook calls attention to one particular decision by King.com's developers in a case study of the game: The release last fall of iOS and Android versions of the game that synchronize game play across platforms. (Often mobile versions of desktop or Web games do not let the player pick up where he or she left off on a different device.)
"Allowing people to play on mobile and desktop helped generate more engagement for the app and clearly made a difference," Facebook said in its case study. "Users who play Candy Crush Saga on mobile and desktop are almost twice as engaged as single platform users (for example, some players start to play on the bus and finish at home/work)."
At the review of free-to-play games presented at the Game Developers Conference on Monday, the panelists who expressed doubts about the viability of Facebook's platform for less established developers cited game-state synchronization across devices and platforms as a practice that they expect to become a de facto industry standard this year.
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