Touted elsewhere as a clear win for Zynga, I am not whollly convinced this is an actual victory. Two years ago, when I was looking for a home for the products of my fledgling dev/designer ambitions, I naturally looked at Facebook at a possible venue.
A very short time spent observing the platform dynamic and API development returned a response of "No, and hell no!". While Zynga has superior resources for dealing with the fickleness of FB's platform, I question that tying their fortunes to the vagaries of Facebook can bode well for their long-term economic health and stability.
Granted, I am sure contractual preference is part of the package, but I wonder at the sense of this choice from a business development position --
- a long history of poor-to-nonexistant developer relations
- questionable current profitability and future revenue
- platform instability
- increasing user discomfort amidst their target demographic
...are all things a business would generally choose to avoid in their development plans, yet are signal qualities of Facebook. Certainly, continued access to a large and currently engaged user base is a compelling point for Zynga or any other company -- but given FB's history, is there any reasonable assurance of being able to protect and grow that user base? From where I am sitting 'way out here in the cheap seats, that is not a bet I would take.
In contrast, I see a lot of win here for Facebook. Like it or lump it, Zynga (followed by Playfish, Playdom, RockYou and others) drives an ENORMOUS amount of Facebook traffic, and increasingly is a key reason for many people to join the platform. True, Facebook isn't realizing this revenue stream directly, but in their game, numbers are critically important, and these developers deliver the numbers.
Perhaps this is only the voice of my disappointment -- when the news came down that Zynga was planning to launch their own platform, I was intrigued. True, others have done so with varying success, but this would have been the test bird for an online gaming platform natively based upon social networking dynamics, and yes I very much want to see how that could evolve.
I do feel a certain relief that this experiment is possibly not going to be led by a company that is determined to harness all of the most obssessive, destructive and exploitive qualities that urge us to play games.
The down side of is that there are relatively few companies that have the resources AND the motivation to try this -- Google, are you listening?