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Facebook challenges Apple for games publishers

New partnership program offers smaller games developers less crowded route to market than iOS platform


Published: 31 July, 2013


As Facebook finds its feet in the mobile market, it is moving into the gaming space, taking on Apple in yet another sector.

The social networking firm has announced a pilot program, Mobile Games Publishing, to help independent developers push their games to wider audiences via Facebook's mobile base.

"With more than 800m monthly users of our mobile apps and more than 260m people playing games on Facebook, we are using our unique reach and targeting capabilities to help games in our program find and engage a valuable audience of the right users," wrote Victor Medeiros, a software engineer at Facebook, in a corporate blog post. "This program is designed to reach people who already play games on Facebook with new games that may interest them." Facebook will also let developers use its analytics tools..

This sees Facebook returning to its former plans to create a full content and developer platform around its social base - plans which have been somewhat sidelined recently as it has struggled to work out how to monetize its mobile base, and concentrated on new advertising formats to help achieve that. It is clear that the social giant's attention is back on developers, but this is not a matter simply of extending its reach indiscriminately. Instead, the new initiative will be confined to a "select" group of partners, and they will be expected to surrender a share of their revenue in return for access to Facebook's user base and analytics, and the feedback and suggestions of those users.

Facebook gave no details on how many would be in the "select" group, or how much revenue would be shared, but the firm is on a roll in terms of exploring new revenue streams and mobile usage patterns. It knows compelling games are an important way to attract users, and encourage casual social networkers to spend more time on its platform, viewing more ads in the process.

This will create further dilemmas for Apple, whose iOS leads mobile gaming in terms of download numbers and monetization. However, the iDevices are an increasingly crowded market for app providers to get noticed, and Apple's terms and conditions can be onerous, so the prospect of riding on Facebook's coat-tails, on a platform which is not yet overcrowded, should be appealing for small and medium-sized publishers. Recent figures show that, while Apple paid out $5bn to mobile developers last year (of a total of $11bn in the five years of the App Store's life), this has to be shared among a growing number of developers, since there are now over 900,000 titles in the store.

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