When Facebook is viewed as a console, it seems all the glamor and flash surrounding it gets violently sucked into a bottomless pit and all the power it boasts as a gaming giant turns out to be a charade. Hardcore console and PC gamers may view this statement and say, “good riddance. Enough said. Let’s move on with our day.”
We would be remiss, however, not to ground the ‘Facebook as a console’ concept in tangible facts. Also, what is a good news article without a comment from EA? So, let’s get into the nitty gritty and see how Facebook is setting itself up for a serious beating in the gaming world.
Fact #1: Each console has a set of standards.
Did you ever notice that in Xbox 360 games, if ever a controller is shown in the controls menu, it is specifically a Microsoft Xbox 360 licensed wireless controller? Check it out next time you pop in a game. Turns out if a developer wishes to publish their game on the platform, it must adhere such things as picturing an actual controller versus an approximation or drawing. PS3, Wii, DS, et al. all have these set standards enough to make up novel-sized documents.
Fact #2: Facebook has its own set of standards for games, which makes it a part of the console family.
Facebook’s standards include the proper use of viral channels such as messaging and invites. They also include the newly implemented Facebook credits. So not to bore you with the details, we’ll cut straight to the problem – Facebook keeps changing its standards. As a site focused more on social networking, it makes changes to keep people logged on. Gaming is almost just an afterthought.
So, unlike the Xbox 360 or PS3 which have set standards that rarely change, Facebook actually creates an ever moving target for developers; and they have begun to talk. CEO Heiko Hubertz of Bigpoint, publisher of MMO Poisonville, told MVC, “It’s really difficult if you rely on Facebook – they can change the rules whenever they want when it comes to viral user effects and promotion of your game.”
This is why Bigpoint is not putting all their eggs in the social network basket. They actually host games on their own web portal and a bunch of other third party sites. But what does that say for those who rely on Facebook alone? You know who we’re talking about, EA’s social gaming rival.
EA made recent headlines when CEO John Riccitiello commented on social gaming. Just like Bigpoint, EA sees Facebook in all its limitations and opts to use it more as a tool than anything else. According to Bloomberg, the gaming giant chose to acquire social game publisher Playfish to ‘exploit’ its own intellectual property. This brings much needed context to the recent announcement of Dragon Age II’s Facebook application instead of a rash of social games that bare the EA logo. It seems the company is not even trying to deal with the gaming headaches Facebook comes with.
Of Zynga itself, Riccitiello said the company “has the chance that ‘Farmville’ will stand the test of time successfully, but it’s far from clear to me that that’s a certainty.” It’s more uncertain now given the clear fact that the company which has out-valued EA has to deal with the uphill battle that is the ever-changing standards of Facebook.
Will Zynga fail? I choose to air on Riccitiello’s vague (but somehow ultimately doubtful) comment and say that it’s uncertain. One thing is for sure – whichever way you look at it, Facebook is not a good gaming console.