Inside Network Research finds nearly half of Facebook games players are daily users — and so are their friends

Inside Network Research’s newest report, Facebook Games: Increasing Consumer Engagement, finds that almost half of Facebook’s games-playing audience are daily active users.

The study, on sale now, surveyed 1,418 adult Facebook users in the United States between August and September on their games habits. Of those, 31 percent played games several times per day while 18 percent played at least once per day. This highly engaged audience seems to be enjoying the games that bring their friends into the experience either in turn-based games (e.g. Words With Friends) or competitive games (e.g. War Commander).

Not surprisingly, Inside Network Research also found that niche games and those with coherent cross-platform experiences like Candy Crush Saga increased retention better than Facebook-only games aimed at a broader audience. At our Inside Social Apps conference in New York earlier this month, we heard developers on the monetization panel say that their philosophy toward game design has increasingly become a quality discussion, with platform coming at a much later point in a game’s development cycle.

You can find this report and others from Inside Network Research here.

Liveblogging Social Apps for Marketers and Brands: Maximizing Audience Engagement

We’re at We are in New York for the Inside Social Apps conference at the New Yorker Hotel. Inside Facebook Lead Writer Brittany Darwell is moderating a panel consisting of 360i VP of Emerging Media David Berkowitz, Wildfire By Google Chief Evangelist Maya Grinberg, Salesforce Marketing Cloud VP Myles Kleeger and Fan Appz Founder and CEO Jon Siegal. The conversation deals with how marketers and brands can generate and engagement and increase awareness and reach among key demographics.

Darwell: A lot has changed since we last held ISA in San Francisco. What has evolved over this past year and how has it changed what marketers do? Is it better? Worse? More complicated? More expensive?

Siegal: It’s become increasingly more complicated. There are far more channels. The landscape is very challenging but there’s never been a bigger opportunity to leverage these opportunities. I think the days of just counting Likes and retweets are over and we’re looking at them to try and figure out how to make them meaningful.

Darwell: As far as mobile social apps go, what were marketers coming to you to do?

Berkowitz: Before, there was a lot of motivation to create things that were fun and didn’t have huge audiences. But now, we’re taking things that were a little silly and frivlous, but we now take it and figuring out how to have it help business.

Grinberg: I think monetization is a big theme this year and will be next year. As social networks grow and mature and gets its niche marketing message for brands, goals are going to be really important. Our clients are coming to us with more specific goals like selling more tickets, so having goals is a huge evolution for the year.

Darwell: What are the goals and motivations for creating apps these days?

Siegal: A couple of years ago, people would do throwaway applications, but now they’re focusing on things are really sustainable. You don’t run a website for a month and then stop.

Darwell: Are you seeing changes on the platforms like the types of apps?

Berkowitz: A lot of people have been talking about advertising and marketing changing over the past decade, but it’s gratifying to actually see it in action.

Grinberg: We did some research about whether or not these applications change user behavior; if it differs app by app. We looked at 10,000 apps that Wildfire clients had run and found a distinct difference between the types of apps people would enter into for themselves but not share. There were also apps where there were less people entering the app, but they were way more likely to share about. The main difference between these were that one type would let you show your personality, versus just entering into a sweepstakes or coupon. No single marketer or branch should hone in on just coupons; if you want people sharing your content, you want a healthy balance of these kinds of applications.

Darwell: What are some of your favorite examples of marketing apps?

Siegal: One of my favorites was a thing for Zales where for Mother’s Day, people were asked to share why they loved their moms. So we got to see all these great stories about these folks’ mothers.

Grinberg: I actually have a favorite client- the Washington Redskins. They show an incredible dedication to their fans and are doing incredible things with their social media channels. One of the things they do is host pages where you can launch different looking things and there’s a library of over 95 different templates. Just recently they did around Halloween was let fans vote what costume a player would wear when he was traveling to a children’s hospital: An angry bird, Popeye, Captain America or Batman. Another example is with Google+ Hangouts where they use Wildfire to create a signup for people to interact with their favorite players. They just find really creative ways to use all the tools.

Darwell: It sounds like a lot of marketers are moving towards templates than complex custom applications. Are brands still creating custom experiences or are they  just doing lightweight social media apps?

Siegal: I think there’s still lots of custom work, but the desire to do so has declined because it costs a lot of money to build custom applications. So if you’re partnered with a company that has an app you can customize, I think people will lean towards that.

Berkowitz: I disagree to an extent. I think when you want to do something that doesn’t require customization, groups will create a quick app that can still make the brand look good.

Darwell: What’s next, specifically, what platforms are marketers going to look towards and what applications are they looking to build?

Kleeger: It’s impossible to say. I’m curious to see where Pinterest makes things go; there’s massive opportunity that has yet to be unlocked. You’re starting to see maturity where some of the other networks are starting to catch up with Facebook’s technology. I don’t think there’s new technology as there is new opportunities.

Siegal: Clearly Facebook is a big player, but we see a lot of new activity around Instagram and Twitter. As Twitter becomes bigger and better to build upon, it’ll expand.

Berkowitz: Groups like Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare. I’m really interested about what they’re going to do for brands, as well looking at what assets can create an experience; like Bravo’s tie in to Watch What Happens Live.

Grinberg: Advertising and analytics. Facebook’s changed or pulled back on ad units, making them do different things. Google social extensions, meanwhile, have been shown to lif click-through rates. Twitter has recently really upped the ante based on specific user accounts’ info.

Facebook and Zynga loosen ties

Zynga.com is no longer an extension of the Facebook platform, according to an SEC document filed today.

Originally, Zynga’s games platform featured an extremely deep integration with the Facebook platform that appeared to be born of the developer’s privileged relationship with Facebook. Zynga.com previously supported Facebook ads and Facebook payments in a deal unlike anything any other developer had enjoyed. As of March 2013, however, Zynga is relegated to using the standard terms of service that every other developer agrees to when integrating Facebook with their own sites.

With the new agreement, Zynga is losing some (but not all) of its exclusivity with Facebook. As the developer struggles with falling stock prices and decreasing returns on investment in blockbuster social games, losing some protection from Facebook might cause stock to dip even lower. Zynga closed today at $2.62 and is now at $2.35 in after-hours trading. Facebook is also slightly down in after-hours, but still trading higher than the company has been since July.

Effective on March 31, 2013, Facebook will no longer guarantee Zynga certain web or mobile growth targets in exchange for continuing to invest in games on the platform. Facebook also will no longer be prohibited from developing its own games, however, it’s unlikely that the social network would get into the game development business any time in the near future. The company has generally taken the position of being a platform rather than producing its own content.

“We’re not in the business of building games and we have no plans to do so,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We’re focused on being the platform where games and apps are built.”

Continue reading on our sister site, Inside Social Games.

Facebook reveals some viral channels for games have recovered

Facebook provided insight on just how much regrowth the games ecosystem has seen in the last year during a whiteboard session on social games today at its headquarters.

First, Facebook’s Sean Ryan said that games are seeing 30 to 40 percent clickthrough rate on notifications. He did not state how low CTR fell for games on Notifications before the relaunch at the end of August, but recall that this was one of the channels Facebook temporarily restricted for social game developers because there had been too much spam.

Second, Alex Shultz from Facebook’s user growth team explained how his team joined Ryan’s 10 months ago to begin updating games’ approach to accessing and retaining users. Since the two have joined forces, we have seen newer games from developers other than those in the top 10 see success.

Finally, by encouraging developers to explore new genres on Facebook in the last 12 months, the category distribution has shifted from sims games and the occasional casual game to an explosion of casual and casino games. Note that more than half of games on Facebook are still simulation — and the strategy category hasn’t changed much despite Kixeye’s much-publicized success with the genre.

Looking ahead, Facebook still has hurdles to jump in user acquisition costs and discoverability — and it has to jump them on mobile, too, as that’s where most game developers are headed. App Center has some promise; the social network said earlier this month that 220 million people have visited App Center. Users who discover apps there are 40 percent more likely to return to the app the next day compared to the old Apps and Games dashboard. Perhaps more promising is Facebook’s mobile ad product, which could drive more mobile game installs for Facebook-enabled games.

Earlier this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the games ecosystem as a whole was growing, though not as much as he would like. Payments revenue from social game giant Zynga dropped 20 percent for Facebook compared to Q3 2011, but revenues from other game developers increased 40 percent over the last year.

The original version of this story can be read in full on our sister site, Inside Social Games.

Zuckerberg: The games ecosystem is growing

Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the Facebook’s games ecosystem “is not doing as well as I’d like” today on Facebook’s Q3 earnings call, though he said it is growing overall.

Payments revenue from social game giant Zynga dropped 20 percent for Facebook compared to Q3 2011. In total, Zynga made up 43 percent of Facebook’s Payments revenue this quarter and just 7 percent of Facebook’s total revenue (including Zynga’s ad spend). This is down significantly from previous quarters where Zynga has made up as much as 63 percent of Payments revenue (last year) and 12 percent of total revenues (at the point of Facebook’s IPO).

Even so, Zuckerberg says the games ecosystem as a whole is growing with revenues from other game developers increasing 40 percent over the last year since Payments was made mandatory for game developers. Payments (and other fees) revenue for Q3 was up year on year almost 13 percent from $156 million to $176 million.

Zynga’s Q3 earnings call is scheduled for Wednesday. Reports today indicate a large number of its employees were laid off earlier this morning and its Boston studio was closed.

Introducing Inside Social Commerce

Inside Network has a new blog in its lineup of industry-facing publications. We’re pleased to introduce Inside Social Commerce, our site tracking the convergence of social media and e-commerce.

As our readers know, Inside Network — home of AppData, PageData and Inside Network Research — is dedicated to mapping the intersections between social media and various verticals. Our existing blogs Inside Facebook, Inside Social Games and Inside Mobile Apps have all faithfully covered the branching ecosystems of social, game and mobile applications. Inside Social Commerce adds to the diagram by examining apps and pages that drive e-commerce on a variety of platforms.

The concept of social commerce is hardly new; advertisers and product marketers have long understood the need to generate social activity around a product to create purchase intent and enduring appeal. With the rise of Facebook and smartphone applications, marketing and sales practices have evolved significantly beyond direct mailing campaigns and jingles in TV commercials. Now we have consumer product companies building and launching apps to drive audience engagement, micro-social networks emerging around specific demographics of consumer and increasing marketing dollars being dedicated to Facebook campaigns and promotions within social and mobile games. New ad networks have sprung up on Facebook, mobile and the open web to direct the eyeballs and clicks of the most engaged audiences to online storefronts. We even see Facebook itself becoming one of those online storefronts with Gifts and the new Collections feature for retailers.

The point of it all is to make someone somewhere buy something, to guide a user from the point of interaction with social media (e.g. pinning a picture of a baby covered in lipstick to their Pinterest board) to the point of sale (buying lipstick from a cosmetics website). The goal of Inside Social Commerce is to document this emerging area and all of the techniques various product sellers, social networks, ad networks and third-party service providers use to make the process better, faster or at least more interesting.

Using our PageData and AppData tools, we can identify and document the various pages and apps that are successful in attracting audiences and potentially converting them to paying customers. By following relevant news and analyzing the trends of the major players in the social commerce space, we can characterize the rapidly growing field and predict where investors and marketers are most likely to spend their money. Our goal is to keep our readers up to speed on social commerce and help them understand how it can improve their own businesses.

Whether you’re selling something or not, we invite you to check out Inside Social Commerce here where you’ll already find a number of articles tracking current events in social commerce — like ShopIgniter’s new engagement and promotion platform, Amazon’s credit lending to Amazon.com retailers or Yellowdog Media’s expansions beyond its Yardsellr app. Our blog is currently headed up by Damon Brown, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook Marketing among other social media publications. Be sure to follow both him and the blog on Twitter and Like the Inside Social Commerce page on Facebook. You can expect great things in the months to come.

Facebook mobile game users play longer, spend more than users not connected with the social network

Mobile game players logged in via Facebook generate more revenue for developers, Facebook Games Strategic Partner Manager Sara Brooks said today during a Casual Connect presentation.

The session, titled “Unlock New Frontiers of Growth with Facebook,” primarily covered the expansion of Facebook-based social games into both established casual game genres and into international territories. At the end of the presentation, however, Brooks shared interesting statistics reported by mobile game developers that feature Facebook-enabled logins and viral sharing tools. According to Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader developer Ludia, mobile users logged in through Facebook generate 70 percent of the game’s revenue for the platform. Roughly 50 percent of its total mobile player base is logged in via Facebook. Bingo Bash developer BitRhymes Inc. reported that its Facebook mobile players engage in 65 percent more sessions, play 30 percent longer and spend up to 80 percent more than non-logged in players.

These stats are no doubt meant to convince game developers that Facebook still represents opportunity, particularly on mobile devices. Many developers are disillusioned with the platform given Zynga’s dominance, issues with discoverability prior to the launch of App Center and rising user acquisition costs. Even with all those marks against it, however, Facebook still boasts some of the highest average revenue per user rates among games platforms. App Center could even increase ARPU on Facebook. According to Brooks, War Commander developer Kixeye sees higher ARPU from users coming in from the game’s page on App Center.

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Inside Social Games.

Headlines from Inside Mobile Apps’ WWDC 2012 coverage

Here’s a convenient spot to find all Inside Mobile Apps’ coverage of Apple’s developer conference in San Francisco this week. This is the first WWDC since the passing of Steve Jobs.

Day one kicked off with a keynote featuring current CEO Tim Cook, VP of Mac Software Engineering Craig Federighi and Senior VP of iOS Software Scott Forstall.

More as the conference progresses.

IPO snapshot: Facebook’s top 25 apps by size

Facebook began public trading today at $38 a share and a valuation of $104 billion. These are the top 25 apps on the social network the day of its initial public offering, as tracked by our AppData traffic monitoring service.

We’ll start with daily active users, which is a measure of the most engaged portion of an app’s audience. Note that of these apps, nine are Facebook canvas games. The others are mobile apps, web integrations, desktop apps or a combination. For example, Words With Friends is a canvas and mobile game, Spotify is a desktop and mobile app, and Socialcam has a mobile app, website and canvas presence. The top app, Microsoft, is a web utility that connects Windows Live to a user’s Facebook account.

1.  Microsoft 12,100,000
2.  Draw Something 9,100,000
3.  Texas HoldEm Poker 7,100,000
4.  Words With Friends 7,100,000
5.  Bubble Witch Saga 6,400,000
6.  HTC Sense 5,900,000
7.  CityVille 5,600,000
8.  CastleVille 5,200,000
9.  Yahoo! 5,200,000
10.  Spotify 5,000,000
11.  Astrology 4,900,000
12.  Hidden Chronicles 4,700,000
13.  Yahoo! Social Bar 4,700,000
14.  schoolFeed 4,600,000
15.  FarmVille 4,500,000
16.  Diamond Dash 4,300,000
17.  Socialcam 4,200,000
18.  Zynga Slingo 4,200,000
19.  Bing 4,000,000
20.  Samsung Mobile 3,700,000
21.  DROID 3,500,000
22.  Tetris Battle 3,500,000
23.  Photo Love 3,300,000
24.  Bejeweled Blitz 3,200,000
25.  Daily Horoscope 3,100,000

Next, we present the top 25 Facebook applications in size by monthly active users. This is a measure of an app’s overall reach. By launching Open Graph integrations, many of these apps have rapidly climbed our rankings in the past months, and drawn excessive media attention whenever traffic plateaued or decreased. Of these apps, nine are Facebook canvas games — and they’re not all the same games that appeared in the top 25 DAU list above.

1.  Socialcam 51,500,000
2.  Yahoo! Social Bar 39,500,000
3.  CityVille 36,900,000
4.  Viddy 36,900,000
5.  Texas HoldEm Poker 35,000,000
6.  Draw Something 30,600,000
7.  Static HTML: iframe tabs 29,700,000
8.  MyCalendar – Birthdays 29,000,000
9.  Bing 25,700,000
10.  Microsoft 22,800,000
11.  FarmVille 22,400,000
12.  Scribd 22,200,000
13.  CastleVille 22,100,000
14.  Hidden Chronicles 21,800,000
15.  Angry Birds 21,400,000
16.  Bubble Witch Saga 21,200,000
17.  Spotify 19,700,000
18.  TripAdvisor™ 19,300,000
19.  Diamond Dash 18,900,000
20.  Samsung Mobile 18,700,000
21.  Static Iframe Tab 18,500,000
22.  Metacafe 17,900,000
23.  Words With Friends 17,600,000
24.  Instagram 16,700,000
25.  Tetris Battle 15,800,000

Be sure to catch up on Inside Facebook’s IPO coverage and stick with us to see how the app ecosystem evolves with the social network’s new status as a public company.

Facebook replaces Apps and Games Dashboard with App Center, introduces paid app model

Facebook is replacing the current Apps and Games Dashboard with a new App Center feature that sorts Facebook apps by category and user ratings.

Detailed on Facebook’s developer blog, App Center will be viewable from Facebook.com, mobile web and Facebook’s iOS and Android apps when it rolls out over the next few weeks. Clicking on an app from within App Center directs a user to that app’s native platform, where the user can install the app. The new feature also introduces app detail pages, which is where users will land when typing an app name into Facebook’s search function. Apps are also filtered into additional categories for “top grossing,” “recommended” and “trending,” as well as module that displays friends’ apps.

In order for an app to appear in App Center, developers must follow a set of submission guidelines and wait for review from Facebook. The company says it will use a variety of signals — including user feedback and engagement within apps — to determine whether or not an app will be listed in App Center. Details about how to submit an app to be listed are available here.

As we can see in the screenshot below, star ratings figure prominently into App Center’s categorization. Facebook has been playing with the ratings system a great deal in the last three months, introducing new modules to solicit more ratings from users. A new app ratings metric is being added to Insights so that developers can track user ratings over time.

This is a reversal of the social network’s position on app discovery a year ago, when Facebook relied on algorithmic discovery of new apps. By creating a centralized app hub, Facebook hopes to drive more growth to higher-quality apps — and to new categories of app that are currently difficult to find. The social network will also likely drive more mobile app installs.

Facebook is also announcing a new paid apps model, though it still expects the bulk of transactions to be driven by in-app purchases. Interested developers are being asked to contact Facebook directly for more details.

App Center will go live in the coming weeks.

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