You mad, Zynga? Facebook gaming is a $2B industry

Facebook App Center
The Facebook App Center: keeping FarmVille out of your News Feed since 2012

At GDC 2013, Facebook hit share on its latest success story: Its games are a now $2 billion business.

This finds the blue-bordered social network eager to expand its role as a gaming platform across mobile and desktop devices.

That's the point it hammered home at its Facebook Developer Day today at GDC in San Francisco. After putting out a call to action to the Game Developers Conference crowd, it hopes attendees won't forget that its still has a strong online gaming presence.

According to Games Partnership Director Sean Ryan, Facebook wants all the genres including "MOBAs, FPSs, RTSs, RPGs, any other acronym you can think of." Whatever kind of game people want to play with their friends, Facebook wants to host it.

Desktop not dying, just in recovery

"Our desktop business is healthy and growing," said Ryan, who had the numbers to back him up. A slide show touted 250 million monthly users playing games, with $2 billion dollars paid out to developers last year. According to Facebook's statistic, more than 100 were paid a million dollars in 2012.

The go-to success story is Candy Crush Saga, a puzzle game that's "crushing the competition" in the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

With Facebook playing the role of "identity provider," players get a seamless experience, allowing them to jump from desktop to mobile with out losing a millimeter of progress.

What's more, as of February 55 percent of top 400 iOS apps use a Facebook login.

Nobody cares about your farm

Lee laments games that over-share

Lee on the woes of facebook

Obviously, Facebook games are a business, and as we know, a business must grow. But in order to properly do so, Ryan says titles must achieve the right balance of "virality and effectiveness." Basically, games need to be able to promote themselves without totally annoying users.

That was a point that Growth and Revenue Product Manager George Lee focused on. He referred to early 2011 the "dark days of Facebook gaming."

In response to user friction over notification spam, changes to the Facebook News Feed had crippled games engagement. Developers were beginning to doubt Facebook's commitment to gaming.

Something 'Zuckerberg doesn't let us do very often'

Staring down the potential kneecapping of a hot revenue source, Facebook put a team together, the Facebook Games Team. They were tasked with adapting a "platform [that] was never built for games," Lee explained.

The answer became app recommendations, among other things, but the team's crowning achievement was a banner for games published on Facebook's homepage.

Lee stressed that publishing to the homepage was something that, "Mark Zuckerberg doesn't let us do very often."

The bright days of Facebook gaming?

Facebook games made $2 billion last year

A more visual News Feed will help games grow

After that $2 billion bumper year in 2012, Facebook is now hungry for new titles, new developers and new genres, seeking developer engagement the way its games crave user engagement.

In addition to "recruiting across the board for games," Facebook says the new, more visual News Feed will make it easier for games to succeed.

Only time will tell whether Facebook gaming has plateaued or can continue to rise, but with Facebook now taking a more active role in encouraging gaming development, more titles are certainly on the way.

Hopefully, it won't mean the return of updates about artificial farm animals, and digital mafias.