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.

Facebook round-up: carrier billing, Offerpop, Ustream, voter registration

Facebook mobile carrier billing live in select countries – Facebook began accepting mobile payments for its mobile web service via carrier billing in the U.S., UK and Germany this week, according to an announcement from Bango, which is powering the service. Users can buy game credits and virtual goods through their mobile phone operators, eliminating the requirement for credit cards or premium SMS. The Facebook-Bango partnership was first reported in February, but the companies are still rolling out carrier billing to additional countries later this year. Bango provides similar services for BlackBerry’s App World, Opera’s Mobile Store and Google Play.

Offerpop announces new post categories and fan database features – Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer Offerpop this week launched its Integrated Social Marketing Platform in private beta. Offerpop customers will get to use new features like Categories & Posts and Fan Database. With Categories & Posts, marketers can track and categorize their page posts with topic tags to get better insights about what type of content drives results. With Fan Database, Offerpop will automatically create social profiles with Facebook ID & profile data, email addresses and more for every user who lands on a customer’s brand page. Marketers will be able to segment fans based on the categorized posts they Like, comment or share, as well as rank their most engaged, loyal and influential fans.

Ustream adds posting to fans pages and Open Graph to mobile app - Streaming service Ustream this week released an update to its Broadcast For Friends app. The latest update to the application allows page managers to post videos to any of their fan pages. The app also now offers Open Graph integration which helps users share their video activity and history across Facebook.

Facebook now allows ‘Registered to Vote’ story on Timeline – Users can now add that they registered to vote as a life event on their timelines. Users can add details such as where, when and why they decided to vote. If users want more information on how to register, Facebook also provides links to a user’s state election authority. This is similar to Facebook’s recent addition of “Became an Organ Donor” to the life events section of Timeline.

Facebook roundup: shares close at $19.05, Instagram deal progresses, Oregon data center to be expanded and more

Facebook shares sink further – Facebook shares closed at $19.05 today, dropping more than 4 percent as the lock-out period ended and large investors were able to begin selling their shares. The number of shares available for trading increased 60 percent on Thursday, which led the stock to fall 6.3 percent that day. In all, Facebook’s value has been cut in half from its IPO price of $38. Over the next nine months, more shares will be freed up, which could push the price even lower.

Instagram deal could be closer to closing - Facebook is reportedly looking to push its acquisition of Instagram forward by using a California law that allows it to issue shares without approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The deal has been delayed because of SEC investigations that occur whenever companies make large acquisitions. The U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading approved the deal earlier this week. Until the deal goes through, the two companies must operate independently. Instagram, for example, launched a blog for businesses and added a new photo map feature this week.

Facebook looks to expand Oregon data center – Facebook filed an application with the city of Prineville, Ore., to construct a new data center near its existing facility opened there in April 2011. The proposed 62,000-square-foot building is nicknamed “Sub-Zero” and will house a new type of deep-storage device that powers off when it’s not in use. Currently a rack of Facebook servers use about 4.5 kilowatts. Facebook tells Wired that its goal is to have the new servers operate at around 1.5 kW.

Social games and App Center reach new milestones – Facebook shared that there are more than 235 million people playing games on Facebook.com each month, compared to 205 million during this time last year. The number of people playing games on Facebook has grown by 8.4 percent since the beginning of the year. In July, Facebook drove people to the App Store and Google Play more than 170 million times. More than 150 million people used the App Center in the past month. The new section of the site is driving 2.4 times more installs than the previous apps and games dashboard. Facebook also says users who install an app from the App Center are 35 percent more likely than the average user to return to the app the following day and 17 percent more likely to return within a week.

Facebook plans national convention presence - Facebook announced its plans to be involved in both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, including holding events about the social network and its marketing and app platform, giving conventioneers opportunities to share their experience and launching the “I’m Voting” app.

Facebook launches payer promotion API – Facebook released a new API this week to allow social game developers to see whether a person is eligible for a “payer promotion” and then serve them with a custom unit to highlight the offer. The payer promotion, which is subsidized by Facebook, gives certain users a discount on virtual currency. Now in addition to letting users know about these promotions through TrialPay offer walls and DealSpot, developers can create their own in-game units that may increase conversion and lead players to buy more currency.

Facebook subscription payments come out of beta, now available for all app developers

Facebook today announced that subscription payments are now available to all developers with apps on the site.

The company originally announced the program in beta with Zynga, Playdom and Kixeye as partners in June. Now any developer can offer subscriptions for virtual goods, premium experiences or updated content within their apps for a monthly fee.

Developers can set different prices based on a user’s local currency and offer different levels of subscriptions. They can also offer free trial periods. This flexibility could help developers better monetize their apps. The model could also lead players to spend more in games and also makes Facebook a better option for developers of free-to-play browser-based massively multiplayer online role-playing games. It might also be a start to getting non-game developers to try the social network’s payment platform. For example, professional networking app BranchOut or news apps like Washington Post Social Reader might find uses for subscriptions. However, Facebook will take a 30 percent fee from these transactions.

Developers can combine subscriptions and in-app payments. For instance, a game might offer a monthly subscription for energy or supplies and sell vanity items through in-app purchases. Users can pay for subscriptions with a credit card or PayPal account, and they can cancel from their Facebook payment settings. Facebook recommends that developers provide a cancel option from within their apps as well.

Developers can learn more about implementing subscription payments here. Daily transaction data about subscriptions will be available for download through the payments reporting API introduced on Monday.

See an example of subscriptions in Disney Playdom’s Gardens of Time below.

Facebook allows U.K. developer to launch real-money gambling app on platform

Online gambling company Gamesys today launches Bingo Friendzy for Facebook, the first casino title to incorporate real-money play on the social network.

Real-money gambling is illegal in the U.S., but if Facebook allows more of these games in other countries, it could be a significant source of payments revenue. Facebook reported $192 million in revenue from games and other payments in the second quarter of 2012, but that was only a 3.6 percent increase from the same period in 2011.

Unlike in the U.S., gambling is a part of the U.K. culture and it’s comparatively easy to operate an online gambling site/app on a global scale. Last month, Christopher Griffin told our sister blog Inside Social Games that his real-money gaming platform Betable is able to operate worldwide because the company’s servers are in the U.K. and the country’s laws allow them to operate anywhere in the world, except in those nations where online gambling is explicitly forbidden.

With Facebook’s age-gating and geo-location technology, Bingo Frenzy and its corresponding News Feed stories will not be visible to users under 18 years old or anyone outside of the U.K.

Real-money gaming is still illegal in the United States because of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, although there are exceptions in the states of Nevada and New Jersey. Many in the industry expect the law to be overturned within the next few years. That said, more and more studios are launching social casino apps on Facebook because they tend to have stronger monetization and retention rates than standard arcade titles. Developers like Zynga and Idle Games have recently gone on record  to say they’re positioned to take advantage of real-money gaming when it’s legalized in North America, and it also seems likely that casino groups like IGT Interactive, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts are poised to do so as well.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Facebook is a place that allows people to connect and share. Real money gaming is a popular and well-regulated activity in the U.K. and we are allowing a partner to offer their games to adult users on the Facebook platform in a safe and controlled manner.”

Gamesys, which also operates the popular Bingo and slots website jackpotjoy in the U.K., requires users to be above the age of 18 years old to play. Bingo Friendzy contains 90 different Bell Bingo and slots games, and The Telegraph reports players need credit cards to play instead of soft/hard currency.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, Inside Social Games.

Facebook introduces payments reporting API, ending email reports

Facebook today announced that it has launched a payments reporting API to allow developers to download daily reports of transaction data, instead of receiving that information through email.

Facebook says the new system, which is available beginning today, will be more reliable, secure and flexible. The API has built-in checks to ensure developers receive all the data. The new report is formatted as a structured csv file, instead of the former flat tsv file. Developers are likely to find this more useful than emails. Previously only one person from a company could receive the payments report. Now multiple people can download the report. It will also allow developers to better integrate transaction data into their own systems, and with the csv file, it will continue to work regardless of whether Facebook adds more data fields in the future.

This API will also support Facebook’s transition away from Credits to local currency later this year and subscription payments. Details about how to implement the API are available here. The payments reporting API can be downloaded securely via https using an OAuth-secured HTTP interface. Facebook will stop sending daily email reports on Nov. 7.

How the shift to mobile is hurting Facebook’s payments and ad revenues

More users are accessing Facebook from their phones than ever before, but during Thursday’s earnings call the company blamed a slowdown in both payments and ad sales on the shift to mobile.

Facebook’s revenues from payments increased by a scant 3.6 percent quarter-over-quarter, rising from $186 million in Q1 2012 to $192 million in Q2 2012, something CFO David Ebersman blamed on the shift to mobile gaming, and to platforms Facebook can’t monetize on. Facebook has tried to address the issue by developing its own HTML5-based mobile platform, but the technical issues surrounding HTML5 and poor discoverability in its platform have hampered its efforts.

In June game developer Wooga announced it would no longer distribute HTML5 games on Facebook, and was making its experimental HTML5 game Pocket Island open source. According to Wooga’s blog post, “installs were initially very low, as users struggled to find the game page… retention rates remained exceedingly low with around 5 percent of users returning to play the next day.”

It was a similar story with advertising. Revenues for Q2 were up 13.8 percent quarter-over-quarter to $992 million, but the total amount of ads Facebook delivered during the quarter actually declined.

“The overall number of ads delivered in the U.S. this quarter decreased two percent year-over-year despite a 10 percent increase in daily users and despite the increase in ads per page as daily web users in the U.S. declined in favor of mobile users, and we are seeing similar trends in other developed markets,” Ebersman said during the earnings call.

That shift is bad news for Facebook, as display advertising makes up the lion’s share of Facebook’s revenue stream, accounting for 83 percent of its total earnings in Q2.

During its second quarter earnings call, Facebook reported it now has 543 million monthly active users on mobile, an increase of 67 percent year-over-year and 11.2 percent quarter-over-quarter. Although the company did not reveal what percentage of its mobile users access the service through its iOS, Android and feature phone apps, we estimate there are about 95 million active feature phone users on the social network, based on analysis from the Facebook ad tool. In March, the company reported it had 83 million members who only accessed its site through its mobile apps or mobile website.

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Inside Mobile Apps.

Unilever’s charitable app uses Timeline and subscription billing; Facebook agrees to take only 5 percent of transactions

Unilever today launched a charitable Facebook app called Waterworks, which integrates Open Graph and the social network’s new subscription billing option to raise money and awareness to help bring clean drinking water to areas in need.

Users connect the Waterworks application, allowing permission to post to Timeline, and set a daily donation between $0.10 and $1.00. Users are paired with “Waterworkers,” women in water-poor communities who help distribute water purifiers and sachets of drinking water. Each Waterworker is given a mobile phone that includes a custom Waterworks app to allow her to share photos and stories that will show up within the Facebook user’s app and through notifications. Stories will be published to News Feed and Timeline about the progress a user’s donations have made.

The innovative app was produced by Betapond, a Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer that had early access to APIs announced this week, including subscription payments and the new Open Graph-enabled Like action. Betapond says Facebook agreed to take a 5 percent transaction fee rather than its traditional 30 percent. As we’ve written about previously, the social network has a history of working closely with charitable organizations, and groups that are looking to run large-scale campaigns to support a cause should consider talking to Facebook directly or working with a Preferred Marketing Developer that has a close relationship with the company.

Facebook updates payments terms to reflect addition of subscriptions, Credits phase out and more

Facebook has updated its payment terms for both users and developers following Tuesday’s announcement that it would support monthly subscription billing for apps and games on its platform and phase out Credits in favor of a user’s local currency.

Note that Facebook’s transition from Credits to local currency is not an indication that the social network is getting out of the payments business. In fact, it is expanding it to be more similar to Apple’s iTunes App Store model, rather than emphasizing virtual currency. This should give Facebook more flexibility as it looks to monetize apps beyond games.

Overall, the new policies are more comprehensive and better organized, which is important as the number of users and developers who use Facebook’s payments platform expands over the next year to include more non-game transactions.

For users, the social network added more information and terms about various payment methods, and made it clearer that users under 18 cannot use Facebook Payments only with the involvement of a parent or guardian. The age stipulation was previously one of the final points on the user terms page. Now it is in the second paragraph. The payment methods section, including a definition of Facebook Credits, is completely new.

In the new payment methods section, the company expanded its payments terms to explain its policy around gift cards and introduced terms around mobile billing. For example, Facebook noted that it is not a bank and that gift card balances are not deposits and do not earn interest. Surprisingly, Facebook didn’t make any mention of mobile billing in its previous policy. The social network recently rolled out a two-step payments flow for mobile apps, but has supported mobile carrier billing for years.

Readers can compare Facebook’s new user payment terms with its previous policy from March 27 here.

For developers, Facebook changed its “Facebook Credits Terms” to the new brand of “Facebook Developer Payment Terms.” The terms page now includes more explanation of payouts and introduces the term “developer balance.”  Whenever developers complete a sale on the platform, Facebook will credit the proceeds, minus a 30 percent service fee, to a developer’s balance. The new policy is reorganized with clearer headlines and explanations, for example, including a section called “Your Responsibilities and Risks.” The section compiles conditions that were previously incorporated into several different areas of the document.

Developers can compare Facebook’s new developer payment terms with its previous credits policy from November 2011 here.

Facebook rolls out 2-step payments flow for mobile web apps

Facebook today begins rolling out a new mobile payments flow that brings the number of steps down from seven to two, the company said in a blog post.

The new carrier billing option, announced in February, is now live for the U.S. and the U.K., but will be available worldwide soon. Mobile app developers will be able to charge their players’ monthly phone bills in only two steps and without requiring users to type anything. Having a fluid payments flow could encourage developers to focus more attention on HTML5 applications than they have in the past.

Mobile web developers who already integrate Facebook payments don’t need to make any changes to their apps. Those who want to use Credits on their mobile website can use Facebook’s Payments API. Developers can see an example of the payments flow in Gamzee’s Skyscraper City.

Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodaphone, Orange, O2 and Three will support mobile payments for users in the U.S. and the U.K. A list of participating carriers by country is available here. Though it’s hard to be sure exactly what percentage of its revenue share Facebook is giving up to facilitate the new payment option, the company could be losing a substantial portion of its 30 percent cut. Earlier this year Ray Anderson, the chief executive of carrier billing company and Facebook service partner Bango, revealed carriers often provide large company like Facebook with much more favorable carrier billing terms than smaller players receive. However, even with some carriers now remitting 90 percent of carrier billing revenue, by the time Facebook pays the carrier and any third-party payment processers, it could be losing up to half its share. We suspect the company is willing to make the sacrifice to bolster HTML5 applications and work around the barriers Apple and Google have set up to prevent Facebook from monetizing native apps that integrate its platform.

The social network is also beginning to monetize its own mobile app with advertising. On Tuesday the company announced that advertisers can now choose to run mobile-only ads, which introduces new opportunities for app developers to acquire users with Sponsored Stories.

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