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Facebook Connect: Making Mobile Gaming Social

Note: this is the second post of a four-post series on how Facebook Connect in changing digital media and online marketing. See the others here

Playfish's 'Who Has the Biggest Brain' is a wide popular Facebook Application and iPhone game. While not new, it is a terrific example of how Facebook Connect can be integrated into gaming environments to make the game more social, sticky and engaging. The game itself is very well done (challenging, fun, smart) but I am even more impressed by the role that Facebook Connect Plays:

- Through the iPhone App, users can connect their Facebook social graph through the mobile Facebook Connect integration

biggest-brain-facebook-connect-friends - Once connected, users are notified of where their score sits within their social graph, instantly encouraging competitiveness. When you pass a friend's high score, the screen animates as you move up the 'podium' - its terrificly clever and yet a simple way to bring relationships to an otherwise one-dimensional game


- Users can share their high scores via the Facebook feed or notifications - and, similarly, users are notified when their scores are surpassed

While Playfish's Facebook Connect integration is not unique, it is a great example (SGN, Zynga and others have also done it well). These are all mobile gaming integrations... but it begs the question: why can't this work on traditional gaming platforms like Xbox Live or the Playstation Network? These are more robust, interesting opportunities that already have web interfaces and thrive on social interactions.

Rich Media Advertising Comes to iPhone

We have seen the iPhone provided rich advertising experiences on branded sites like Yahoo and ESPN... but this is unique:

Mobile advertising agency Medialets has created ads utilizing the iPhone's accelerometer and audio capabilities. The below interactive ad is a full take over on the iPhone (shown in SGN's iBowl game). When a user shakes the iPhone, the Dockers model break dances accordingly.

Here's the simplest way to think of campaigns like this: A. The consumer enjoys the ad and interacts with it... often repeatedly B. The advertiser wins because the consumer is proactive and motivated to share C. The publisher wins because A+B = far greater CPMs (supposedly 10x here) If advertisers can effectively and meaningfully engage consumers (the A in this equation), B and C fall into place. That is why I firmly believe that the most valuable ads will also be the most engaging and/or relevant... and that targeting and interaction are critical:

Other formats and ad actions from Medialets:

Available Ad Formats Chiclet - Clickable content that can be stylized to fit app by app developer Icon - Icon which can be manipulated to fit app display. Clickable Banner - Fixed size clickable content Text - Clickable text Overlays - Translucent popup that supports image, text, video, full button, or combination Interstitial - Full screen ad shown between pages of an app Branded Experiences - Custom built applications to your specifications. You’re only limited by the capabilities of the device. Splash Screen Placement - Full screen ad shown before app home screen Home Screen Placement - Full screen ad on home screen that scales down to a banner, chiclet or logo. Custom Brand Placement - We’ll work with you to create a unique brand placement that caters to your needs and imagination.

Available Ad Actions Click to Call Click to Full Screen Video Click to Overlay Video Click to Video In Ad Video As Ad Video Text Overlay Video Graphic Overlay Video Button Overlay Click to Embedded Web Page (Online) Click to Embedded Web Page (Offline) Click to Online Web Page Click to Offline Microsite Click to GeoLocate Click to Email Click to App Store Click to iTunes Library Content Click to iTunes Store (Audio & Video) Click to Lead Capture (Online) Click to Lead Capture (Offline) Click to Share

Zynga Releases Mafia Wars iPhone App; Printing Money?

Zynga may well be one of the fastest growing companies that you've never heard of. And if you haven't heard of Zynga, you've probably interacted with one of its Facebook, iPhone or web apps. Lots of other developers and companies compete in their space... and many do very well. But Zynga has really mastered the UI. Today, they launched Mafia Wars for the iPhone (already a popular application on Facebook). In and of itself, this isn't news. There are remarkably similar games available... I even remember playing the same game on my TI-83 calculator in high school.

What is noteworthy is how terrific Zynga's artwork, user experience and development are. The game is gorgeous. The UI is exceptional. And this is how Zynga makes a not-so-unique game stand out. zynga mafia wars iphone app

It is also how Zynga makes other games and applications stand out: they get viral behavior and they understand how it translates into gaming applications. Scramble and Poker are not huge successes because the games are so differentiated - they are successful because Zynga taps into your social graph and masterfully layers in incentives.

And that is how Zynga supposedly now makes $50 million on virtual currency (tip @VCMike):

By building terrific games that are weaved into your social graph, Zynga attracts the users. That 'social stickiness' allows Zynga to profit from the users' willingness to upgrade, advance their characters, and differentiate from the masses.

The Next Step in iPhone Gaming: Nintendo NES

At the break of the new year, I listed 20 predictions for Digital Media in 2009. The third prediction was: iPhone Gaming Will Progress Beyond Novelty

At the time of that article, the biggest application was iFart which, while not a traditional game, represented what one of three game types to successfully hit the iPhone:

1. Accelerometer based games (SGN is the king here) 2. Role playing games / storyline games (such as iMob and SGN's Agency Wars) 3. Novelty games (iFart, Beer Pong)

I find games like iMob and Agency Wars fascinating because they are perfect for the iPhone: always connected, progressing storylines and ideal for several short play sessions.

I also think that what SGN has built for with their accelerometer-based sports games is terrific - bringing together the Wii's form-factor with the connectivity of mobile (and now Facebook Connect).

But I want more. I find the current gaming offers interesting.... but mostly ephemeral. Nothing, for instance, I would shell out $9.99 or $29.99 for... after all, Playstation 3 games now run $59.99 - and I spend a lot more time with my iPhone.

The next generation of iPhone gaming needs to look back to the original Nintendo. Place the original track pad and A/B buttons on the iPod's touch screen... and use traditional gameplay navigations that have been a staple of controllers for ages:

iphone-game-575 Even though it is less sexy than developing against the iPhone's accelerometer, gameplay would be richer and longer-lasting. Super Monkey Ball is fun... but the novelty wears off soon there after - particularly when the controls aren't terrific.

Imagine connected, online equivalents of Super Mario 3 or Zelda that play on the iPhone and tap into Facebook Connect... it might not be sexy (and I might be dating myself) but it would be powerful. And with the creativity and horsepower developing against the iPhone - why can't the next Mario, Zelda and Metroid emerge?

Update: To be clear, I am not suggesting that the iPhone bring back Nintendo games (see comments); rather, the point was that Nintendo-inspired controls would introduce more compelling games on the iPhone.

Facebook Connects Comes to iPhone, Game-Changing

The best iPhone Apps are those that engage across other properties beyond the iPhone. Zynga, SGN, Playfish and others iPhone power-developers have done a brilliant job of those. For most though, building cross-platform, socially-aware applications has proven difficult and consequently made the majority of applications 'un-sticky'.

But this will all change with Facebook's announcement that Facebook Connect is available for iPhone Applications.

Suddenly gaming becomes social. Applications that before were content delivery mechanisms now have a social graph to relate to.

It's big. In a way it is akin to what Xbox Live does for Xbox... put probably bigger because it is open and more flexible.

InsideFacebook has some screenshots:

Facebook's announcement can be read here:

Now your iPhone apps can enjoy the benefits that Facebook Connect sites and Facebook Platform apps already enjoy, including:

Making API calls so your app can access users' profiles and share information on Facebook. Publishing to Facebook via Feed forms.

Asking users for extended permissions, like offline access, so you can still interact with their data when they're offline.