Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm.

How the social games business on mobile is different than on Facebook

Facebook’s web platform has helped social gaming companies like Zynga attract tens of millions of users and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. But replicating that success on mobile is a much different challenge: App development, marketing, discovery, and commerce are much more fragmented experiences.

Facebook itself is working on a new mobile apps platform that may help. But in the meantime, here are some of the challenges that social gaming companies have to deal with when it comes to mobile, courtesy of Moblyng president Stewart Putney, whose company is working on some interesting things with hybrid HTML5/native apps.

Discovery:

  • Viral / Social discovery vs. App stores. Social app discovery is only limited by how many people share the app. On app stores, users can’t easily discover apps out of the top 50-100 apps unless your app is featured.
  • Effective advertising and marketing solutions exist on the web to aid discovery vs. few good options on app stores. Apple banned incentivized installs and mobile advertising has not proved to be a cost effective way to acquire users for most developers. The Android store ranks apps in somewhat mysterious ways- but also on “lifetime” achievement — this is not a dynamic environment that makes for easy discovery.
  • There is limited evidence that solutions like GameCenter or OpenFeint can drive massive adoption of new titles.

Building, Distributing and maintaining apps across platforms:

  • The social web is unified around Flash. Mobile apps are Objective C, Java, C++, etc. No unified code base to build on. It is very expensive to have multiple development teams.
  • On the web, Flash code works (and can be easily updated) on almost all browsers. On mobile each platform has its own app store with different approvals and rules. Even if you have them, multiple apps become expensive to maintain, slow to update. This is a key for social apps that tend to be constantly tuned.  HTML5 makes multi-platform development and tuning much easier.

Payments / Monetization:

  • The web has FB Credits, PayPal and offerwalls. Mobile payments are fragmented.  iOS has a great payment solution. Android (or other) payments are weak with limited carrier billing offerings and few credit card #’s on file. Still a huge cross-platform opportunity here.