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What games work best on Facebook? January 15, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, casual games, facebook, game design, game mechanics, games, games 2.0, gaming, platforms, social networks.

Three good blog posts recently about games on Facebook.

Brian Green talks to a developer with two games, one casual and one hardcore, and based on that concludes that hardcore games do better:

I suspect the reason is because people still enjoy a good game, even if it has “hardcore” aspects like direct, zero-sum competition. Even though the party game was less confrontational, it probably didn’t include as many engaging elements as the first game. So, more people played and stuck with the game.

What he is really saying though seems to be that good games are better than bad games. Matt Mihaly checks the list of Facebook games with most daily users and finds that the top ten are all casual games, and notes that:

…good games on FB are as much about communication and/or self-expression as they are about gameplay.

I completely agree. As Matt notes in his post, there have been two paths to success for Facebook games. One has been to build lightweight “proto-games” that spread virally on the back of self expression or communicaiton. The other has been to build true games with complex and engaging game dynamics. These games do not grow as rapidly, but they do draw much higher daily engagement rates.

Nabeel Hyatt extends the analysis to compare multiplayer games to singleplayer games on Facebook.

Facebook games vs apps engagement

He finds that:

Multiplayer social games such as Warbook and Scrabulous average 11.4% active daily users, a good 30% higher than the average top Facebook app (8.01%). I’m sure if we could actually get engagement, attention, and retention metrics we’d see the same trend. This combined with the relatively high percentage of games represented in the top 25 applications (7 games) would suggest that there is simply a lack of quality, socially-focused games on Facebook.

I wholeheartedly agree with Matt and Nabeel. I think that over the next few months there will be a number of exciting social, multiplayer casual games with good gameplay dynamics built on Facebook and the other social networks as they open up. Teams comprising of experienced game designers and experienced social media/viral marketing experts will be best positioned to create these games. I am actively interested in hearing from such teams.


1. preetam mukherjee - January 15, 2008

Have you heard of AvantGame, by Jane McGonigal?

She has some excellent perspectives on this subject: http://www.avantgame.com and has done some really inspirational work.

In active collaboration with prof. greg niemeyer at uc berkeley, she’s also working on “Organum”: http://studio.berkeley.edu/organum/future/index.htm

Let me know if you see anything of relevance in all this…happy to faciliate ‘hello’s all around.

2. Brian 'Psychochild' Green - January 15, 2008

What he is really saying though seems to be that good games are better than bad games.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But, most game developers automatically believe that “casual game” means “better game”, even if the game has poor gameplay. Sometimes game developers need stuff explained to us very slowly. 😉

Since the point of making a game for the person who made the games I mention is to make money, the more popular game is probably the better option to pursue. In this case, the more popular game was the one about medieval knights and swords and zero-sum (one winner requires one loser) game mechanics instead of the one about throwing a party and inviting your friends. Most game developers would assume the former was too geeky with “hardcore” mechanics and that the latter would be the more popular game for a wider number of people. I point out that the knights-and-swords game even attracted a large female audience, something that games of this genre rarely do, in a comment to that post.

The subtle point of the article, aimed at game designers, is that we don’t necessarily need to throw out our development experiences just because we’re dealing with a “casual” audience. A good game will still succeed, and you don’t need to worry about a game having “too hardcore” of a theme like knights and swords and tough gameplay mechanics.

3. preetam mukherjee - January 15, 2008
4. Steve Poland - January 15, 2008

Big investment for Zynga — I think people would love to hear any comments you have, being that you’re on a “games” kick as of late with your blog. LSVP was noticably absent from the round.

5. jeremyliew - January 16, 2008

@ Preetam, I only know Jane by reputation and would love an intro

@ Steve, I think what Mark Pincus is doing with Zynga is fantastic and is absolutely the right approach. Two requirements for building a big company in this space (in my opinion) will be to build a portfolio of games, and to be cross platform; Mark is doing both of these. I believe that the recently announced round was led by previous investors who wanted to increase their levels of ownership.

6. kristian segerstrale - January 21, 2008

Agreed with Brian, I still think it’s all about game design and great games with casual appeal are harder to create than hard core sounding ones.

Still, knowning who your friends are opens up a new dimension for game design that we haven’t seen the start of yet. The next year or two should see a very rapid evolution on entirely new types of competitive and cooperative gameplay mechanics designed to be played with friends. Not multiplayer or single player, but something social inbetween. All that ‘game 2.0’ hype originally created around the PS3 may well come into its own, perhaps not on any home console, but rather on social networks.

As a shameless plug, here’s one team you, jeremy, may be interested in. Check out http://www.playfish.com and our first title ‘Who Has The Biggest Brain?’ (http://apps.facebook.com/biggestbrain/).

We’re a fast growing team of industry veterans backed by $3M in seed focused on social games and playing together. Some further comments about social networks as game platforms also and more information at http://blog.playfish.com.

7. nabeel - January 21, 2008

Brian and Kristian, of course the stats would help bear out that “good” games do better than “bad.” But part of the point was something quite different.

Namely that if you take all single-player games on Facebook (both good and bad) and all multiplayer social games on Facebook (both good and bad) the mean was higher for multiplayer social games. And that was with, imho, a relatively low quality level of multiplayer social games. Essentially that the context of the game actually matters, and in this case Facebook will lean (not surprisingly) on more social game mechanics.

8. CashCompare, Inc. - October 14, 2008

We want to make a plug for CoinCan (Please visit: http://apps.facebook.com/coincan/).

CoinCan game is the first fictional banking and stock market trading casual game available on the Facebook platform. CoinCan game demystifies financial products and services, not to mention the amazing artwork that is by far the best graphics on Facebook applications today. CoinCanTM game encapsulates what is often considered mind-numbing field of personal finance into a fun, educational, and sometimes addictive casual game which they can play alone or against their friends.

Slideshow of CoinCanTM game ( ) in action: http://picasaweb.google.com/tiffany.i.lin/CoinCanScreenshotSlideshow#

9. BS - December 2, 2008

I found Battle Stations is an excellent game in facebook


it is a flash based mulitplayer game and there are some any deeply invloved players (of course I am one of them)

Just feel like these type of game will become a majority.

10. mich109 - December 13, 2008

i think my current fave can top all the games in facebook right now..i find this game great as it has good concepts and ways that it will keep you going..btw,this fame is called “realm of empires”
i think everyone should try it out..


take your time and you’ll soon be enjoying it, just as i am (not to mention that i am bit addicted to it now)

11. Rohit - March 16, 2009

Lets step back and flash back to games like Where in the world is Carmen Santiago?, Dave, Space Invaders etc… games with minimal or no user experiences but lived on curiosity and intrigue. These spread like wildfire before Prince of Persia, Sierra Games, etc started the meteoric rise of graphical games and finally culminating in the RPG and MMORPG games of today… I would think this evolution will come on the web as well. Playfish with it’s cute and appealing experience just exploded on the scene bringing much needed life to facebook.

You should also check out the new entrant built in India by an extremely creative team that named “iPlaySocial”. The game on facebook is called GRABBLER.

Grabbler is a true multi-player turn based board game that rivals Scrabble. There are various word games out in the web space but apart from Scrabble I did not find any other board game that can really engage a multi-player environment. Game play requires the players to create interlocking words using alphabets placed on cubes while strategically grabing your opponents cubes.

(Disclaimer : I am associated with iPlaysocial)

12. Rohit Regonayak - March 16, 2009

Forgot to include a link to GRABBLER.


To continue the train of thought. Casual gaming works great as a no-brainer passtime but with the volumes of games out there these seem to have lower and lower shelf lives. Games become very popular for a short while and then just as suddenly they drop off the radar. Focussed and Niche games on the otherhand don’t command the volumes of followers but if they can achieve the stickiness and challenge the user on some level, players seem to become extremely addicted and protective of the game.

Maybe the count for how long players have been with a game and how much time they spend on a game are more important than just MAU. Advertisers too love this because the demographic of the user is far more targetted in such cases.

13. Social gaming is a tactic not a category « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog - March 25, 2009

[…] goods. trackback I’ve been blogging a lot about social games over the past couple of years and have been a big proponent of the space. However, over the last few months I’ve started to […]

14. Torry - August 3, 2009

‘Battle Stations’ is another good Facebook game with lots of ways to advance, so it never gets boring.

Check it out 🙂


15. Facebook Applications - August 4, 2009

Hey its great info about facebook applications. Thanks

16. links for 2009-11-29 @ Webmaster Chronic Blog - November 29, 2009

[…] What games work best on Facebook? « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog circa 2008, but still interesting info… "I completely agree. As Matt notes in his post, there have been two paths to success for Facebook games. One has been to build lightweight “proto-games” that spread virally on the back of self expression or communicaiton. The other has been to build true games with complex and engaging game dynamics. These games do not grow as rapidly, but they do draw much higher daily engagement rates." go read the whole thing (tags: facebook facebook2008 facebookgames facebookapps) […]

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