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6 Lessons for Game Developers learned at F8 2015

F8 2015, Facebook's annual developer conference, was bigger than ever. Yet, with over 20% of attendees working in the gaming industry, the word 'games' wasn't uttered a single time on Day 1 of the conference. Is Facebook done with gaming? No. Why? Read on

Rik Haandrikman, Blogger

March 30, 2015

8 Min Read

A few short days ago Mark Zuckerberg and co gathered over 2,000 developers, advertisers and other stakeholders at Fort Mason, San Francisco for F8 2015. For previous attendees of Facebook’s (now annual) developer conference, the size of the operation was impressive: A (much) bigger venue, (many) more attendees and two full days of content instead of the traditional one.

As a game developer, chances are you’re involved with Facebook in one form another: You’ll use them as a platform to host your games (Facebook canvas), use some of their tech to power your mobile game, use them for user acquisition or, at the very least, you’ll have a fanpage for your community.

So what relevant lessons or announcements did F8 2015 offer game developers? Read on to find out:


This year’s F8 kicked off with Mark Zuckerberg’s traditional keynote address, interspaced with talks by David Marcus on Facebook Messenger, Tikhon Bernstam on Parse and Deborah Liu on video, LiveRail and Audience Network. In the 60 minutes they spent on stage, the word “games” wasn’t uttered a single time. This while the audience at F8 was estimated to host over 20% game developers and Facebook’s game related income streams are estimated to approach or even surpass 50% of total revenues.

The keynote address and actually the entirety of the first day of F8 seemed to pass with Facebook purposely steering clear of the subject of games. Does this mean Facebook is ‘done’ with games? Probably not. It seemed more as a deliberate act for the outside world and Wall Street in particular. Downplaying the current importance of games for revenues and courting big brands and big marketing Dollars seemed the objective, but the following lessons will show that Facebook is poised to be one of the most powerful forces in gaming for a while to come:


It wasn’t talked about and the launch partners for Facebook Messenger didn’t feature a single game developer (sorry Outfit7: I’m not counting Talking Tom in this case), but Messenger as a platform seems like a perfect fit for (turn-based) gaming. Imagine being able to send a friend a move, only to have (a video of) that move appear in Messenger accompanied by an ‘Install Now’ button. This is going to be an organic growth channel unlike any. I give it a week before the first games start popping up and less than a year before we start seeing sponsored app install units in Messenger for Messenger apps.


Basically a new mobile app install request, Facebook’s App Invites have seen an average conversion rate of 5% during the closed beta. At the same time, with the way the channel is set up (a separate section of App Invites that will fill up with invites over time, accompanied by a push notification every time you receive an invite), that average conversion rate is bound to decrease over time. As more developers implement App Invites, the number of invites any give user receives will increase, but their need for more apps will not.

Implement it now and get ahead of the competition. Don’t be the 999th invite someone gets. Be the first.


Basically Facebook Insights V2, Facebook Analytics for Apps features event based metrics, easy segmentation based on a myriad of filters including Facebook’s own demographic data, custom funnels, cohorts and ad attribution. It’s easy to implement (by having implemented App Events a while back, Analytics just worked from the moment they announced it) and will give some (smaller) game developers a free alternative to a lot of paid services out there, including ingame analytics and mobile ad attribution.

If you’re currently not doing ingame analytics, implement it. If you are doing ingame analytics, implement it anyway, because it’s surprisingly powerful and has several features I’m yet to find in paid alternatives.


Facebook’s quarterly revenue numbers already told us that Facebook Canvas payment revenues were in a steep (11% yoy) decline, but with In-Game Gifting as F8’s sole announcement specific for Facebook Canvas games, Facebook seems to have seen this decline and decided that combating it wasn't worth any further consideration.

In case you missed the announcement, (it was hidden away in a talk on day 2 in the smallest space of the venue), Facebook Canvas now offers an easy way to allow users to purchase ingame products for other Facebook users. Functionality you could easily build yourself, as it uses communication channels (app to user notifications, Messenger) you have access to.

Even though not expressly stated as such, the message seems clear: We’re not going to convert more users to payers, so we’re going to help you get more out of the payers you have now. Definitely worth considering for some Canvas games, but hardly the move needed to ‘save’ Canvas gaming.


Again, without expressly stating so, it stands to reason that at some point we’ll see some form of mobile app install units appear in the new growth channels Facebook announced at F8: Messenger as a platform and the App Invite channel.

This, combined with the integration of Facebook’s Audience Network into LiveRail, is bound to increase Facebook’s ability to drive paid mobile app installs. It’s unlikely you’ll see your CPI prices drop anytime soon (demand has always far outstripped availability), but you might see your volume increase this year.

Even if this year’s F8 didn't shout it from the rooftops, Facebook and gaming are still a powerful combination. Reading between the lines of some of the features announced can give game developers a powerful head start in a world where Messenger is likely to become a gaming platform surpassing similar platforms as WeChat and Line and a world where VR Gaming is likely to be a viable, vibrant market (check out Michael Abrash’ Day 2 keynote on VR: incredibly entertaining).

All the talks of this year's F8 can be seen on https://developers.facebooklive.com/ and you’ll find a roundup of everything announced at https://developers.facebook.com/blog/post/2015/03/25/F8_2015_Roundup

PS. If you watch any of F8's videos, watch Mike Schroepfer's Day 2 keynote: I dare you not to be inspired. Even if you're not a Tolkien fan.

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