At San Francisco’s Game Developer’s Conference, Facebook‘s program manager for games put out the call for his platform’s Halo or Mario, that iconic game that defines the platform. It’s not hubris–Facebook, it turns out, is just as vital and vibrant a gaming community as Xbox Live, just different.
Nearly 75% of Facebook’s 400 million users participate in games ranging from traditional turn-based games like Scrabble to more complex strategy games like Farmville. And these social games aren’t labors of love for their creators; social games have grown to a $1 billion industry, attracting users who would never consider themselves gamers.
Farmville is at the forefront of this movement, with some at the festival naming the farm simulator as the closest thing Facebook has to an iconic game. Farmville has 80 million users monthly, which in console terms would be a monster hit, and represents many of the hallmarks of Facebook gaming. It’s a slow-growing game in which you create your own avatar, interact with friends, family, and random Facebook users, and it can be played in short bursts rather than long periods of protracted gaming.
But despite its success, Facebook developers see Farmville as the beginning, rather than the pinnacle. “We are going to see multiple games with more than 100 million people playing each one. That is as many people as watched the recent Super Bowl, the
most watched TV program in American history,” said Gareth Davis, the aforementioned Facebook games program manager. Facebook has the potential to be an entirely different games platform, in much the same way as Apple‘s App Store changed the way mobile games are played. Who knows when Facebook will get its Halo, or what it will look like–but Facebook’s potential as a gaming platform is tremendous.