The Failure of Facebook Games

As I have been diving in to Facebook games, I discovered that in order to succeed in the games I had to add strangers to my friends list.  Unfortunately, this has a side effect that is quite bad.  As Facebook has become more popular and the use of Facebook Connect and other APIs has grown, my Facebook friend list travels with me lots of place.  I don’t mind my real friends following me around, but game strangers who I only added because I needed more people to advance in a game since no more of my real friends would play I don’t want them around.

Last year I bought a Palm Pre.  Best phone I’ve ever owned or used, absolutely love it.  One of its best features is Synergy, which is what they call the blending of profiles without syncing them.  So, I added my Gmail account, my Facebook, my AIM, my work Exchange account, and so on, and when I look at my contacts it shows them all, in one view, duplicates are combined into a single entry but not sync’d.  For example, I have my older brother as a friend on Facebook, a contact on AIM and an entry in Gmail.  In the Pre, I see his picture with a small subscript 3 telling me that this entry is a blending of three accounts.  If he updates his Facebook profile, that will automatically update in my phone, but items in his Gmail contact entry only change when I update them.

Combining my Pre with my recent use of Facebook games and suddenly I had dozens of people in my phone, with phone numbers, whom I don’t know.  This is the side effect, and this is why I removed all those people as friends on Facebook.  Going forward, playing games on Facebook is going to be harder, slower.

The failure of most Facebook games is this: you have to choose, sacrifice social for games or sacrifice games for social.  That’s a horrid dilemma for a social gaming platform.  Facebook needs a way for people to be game-friends that links them for the game but for nothing else, and gives people the option of allowing that relationship to grow and step outside the game.  Until that happens, I choose Facebook as a social platform, not a gaming one.

Additional Note: I have noticed that in some games you can get what I am calling “former friend benefits”.  Taking Hero World as an example, once I add a person to my Super Team, I can remove them from my friend list but my team size doesn’t decrease. While this prevents me from using them actively in the game (training, gifts, etc), I can still use them passively (my super team is currently 37 people, even though I only have 8 or so that are on my friend list) for content that requires team sizes of a certain level.

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