Playing favorites is one of those things that just doesn't sit well with me. It's unfair to everybody else and the person being pandered to usually ends up with an inflated ego that's going to pop sooner than later. All of this is to say that Facebook is the one playing favorites while Zynga's head is slowly inflating.
That's at least what analyst and founder of Digital World Research P.J. McNealy is saying in his latest book, "Early Days: The Social Gaming Market And Facebook's Achilles Heel." USA Today did a quick run through the book and found some interesting insight into what Facebook is doing to marginalize its own gaming economy.
Zynga is really important to Facebook. The social game developer provides a lot of revenue to the social media platform and in turn Facebook provides Zynga with perks. That's a problem says McNealy because it's leaving the other developers out of the loop. He says that while Zynga is getting all these nice perks like increased visibility through "Now Playing" updates; other developers are being left to fend for themselves.
McNealy has also heard word of many developers leaving Facebook. They are moving to other platforms where they have a better chance of being seen. One of the platforms is of course mobile. While mobile has its own problems, like increased competition, developers have more power over their product.
To play devil's advocate for a moment, it's totally Facebook's choice to allocate more resources to Zynga. They are the platform's biggest partner when it comes to getting games on the platform. That means increased revenue from both the games and the advertisements that litter the page. If you have a successful partner, you're going to do everything in your power to keep them around.
That might soon be a huge problem for Facebook though. As you probably know, Zynga has launched its own gaming platform at Zynga.com. Back when it was first announced, I, and many others including McNealy, speculated that it was a move by Zynga to distance itself from Facebook. Without Facebook, they don't have to share any of the revenu they make from their games. It's a big win for Zynga, but a huge loss for Facebook.
So what can Facebook do to keep its best and brightest developers around? I think the impending launch of the App Center is going to help a lot with that. It's currently kind of a pain to find games on Facebook and it's even harder to judge the quality of the game in question. The App Center will hopefully fit into what developers told McNealy they want - "more help and less hostility from Facebook."
The inclusion of paid apps might also help attract more game developers. Zynga has made a killing off of its in-game purchase model, but paid apps might be the next big thing for social gaming. It has the potential to drive up the quality of apps and sales will hopefully follow.