Tag Archives: Facebook

What is Counter Worthy in New Facebook Design? Mafia Wars Gives Us a Preview

While Facebook has already communicated the elimination of bookmarks in the bottom bar and the addition of “Counters” next to each application listed in the left column navigation for bookmarked applications, the rules about how to use counters appears to be up to developer interpretation.

While you can’t see counters live yet, you CAN see how Zynga is planning to use it for Mafia Wars as their homepage has been redesigned to highlight a number of things and the counter-looking icon is in place in the upper right corner:

mafia-wars-counters-ex1

Besides Game News, the list of items includes Bookmark Me, Become a Fan, Join the Email List, and Social Job (where someone has responded to your request for help on a job). A user can hide them to reduce the counter down, but these straight forward tasks already created a counter with 13 items in it.

mafia-wars-counters-ex2

Initially, applications with high counters might get a user’s attention, but if these don’t provide value, they are likely to be ignored by users, much like the shotgun notifications were (several developers got in the habit of posting the same notification multiple days in a row). If instead, there are useful reminders, like when a crop is ready for harvesting or a energy pack is available, then users may find an enhanced utility around counters. Instead of having to police notifications, Facebook is probably hoping user reaction and market forces will ensure counters aren’t abused.

notifications-sorority-lif-count

Much like email marketing (and notifications before), the key will be optimizing frequency and the message, mixing in marketing promos and game-specific activity. Given a core of notices with utility for the user, developers are also likely to benefit most in that users will actually be able to find their notices, which before were lost in a sea of messages in the old Notification tool.

Sneak Peek of Facebook Credits Payment Issues Process

While the full release of the Facebook Credits system (nor the release of the full API to developers) has yet to be announced, there have been a handful of games that have been testing the Facebook Credits integration. As we reported back in mid-December, Happy Island, developed by CrowdStar, was the first game that exclusively used Facebook Credits for all in-game purchases. Recently, we’ve noticed that a “Payments Issues” link has been added to the footer of Happy Island, which provides a sneak peek at what options users will have to dispute payments.

happy-island-credits-dispute1

See the a break down of the user flow and more questions regarding what this means for developers at InsideSocialGames.com.

Developers Revamp Viral Marketing Tactics to Comply with Changes to Facebook Policies

As originally posted on InsideSocialGames.com

While we recently attributed some of the across-the-board declines in daily active user numbers for Facebook games to seasonality, it’s becoming clearer that recent policy changes by Facebook may be contributing to these declines as well, forcing developers to completely revamp their viral activities. Here are three viral practices that have been reined in and examples of how developers are attempting to cope with the changes.

Pre-Game Gifting Interstitial Screens are Gone

The policy:”You must not prompt users to send invitations, requests, generate notifications, or use other Facebook communication channels immediately after a user allows access or returns to your application.”

How developers are coping: This was viral-marketing 101 for nearly every Facebook game: every time you went to the application, you first had to go through a “gifting” screen before you could actually play the game. Only Playfish refrained from this practice in the past. Now that it’s been taken out of the arsenal, developers like Zynga and CrowdStar are trying different ways of getting users to get back in the gifting habit. Most games have opted to add an icon on top of the game play area, specifically prompting users to send gifts, like in CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium and Zynga’s Roller Coaster Kingdom:

Zynga’s PetVille has incorporated the gift icon into the basic navigation on the screen, with little balloons that highlight an action they want users to take:

Zynga’s Mafia Wars is more aggressively integrating prompts and banners into the page:

And still, some games still have the gift interstitial, but they are generally smaller games, like Hive7’s Youtopia, which Facebook might not have gotten to yet:

Pop-Ups to Prompt Users to Share Achievements…Revamped

The policy: “You must not display a Feed form unless a user has explicitly indicated an intention to share that content, by clicking a button or checking a box that clearly explains their content will be shared.”

How developers are coping: Instead of the standard Facebook news feed form windows popping up, each game is experimenting with different in-game prompts that users need to activate to show their intent to publish to their wall. PetVille prompts users by having a new icon show up in the bottom right, with a balloon prompting users to share:

Playfish’s Pet Society has a somewhat confusing choice between a sharing icon and a green check mark icon (used to close the in-game pop-up and NOT share), whereas Farm Town by SlashKey prompts with a simple binary choice of either sharing (green check icon) or not (red X icon):

CrowdStar’s Happy Pets uses the check-box approach – although the prompt is by default pre-checked to share so the user must un-check it before clicking on the green check mark icon:

Gating Content Based on Number of Friends…Not Enforced?

The policy: “You must not provide users with rewards or gate content from users based on their number of friends who use your application.”

How developers are coping: This common developer practice often prompted users to request perfect strangers to “Add Me” so that they could unlock levels or items in the game without having to pay for them, thus running amok of Facebook’s intent to keep your social graph strictly to your direct friends (we recently offered up an alternative). In response to the policy being enforced, Treasure Madness by zSlide no longer requires you to have a number of friends to dig under certain heavy rocks. Instead, they now make users pay for “contractors” at 150 in-game gold pieces per contractor. So a rock that would have required 10 friends to lift, now requires 1500 gold pieces:

Yet it’s still a question as to how intense Facebook plans to enforce this policy. For example, Zynga’s Roller Coaster Kingdom still appears to be gating items based on the number of friends, gating the options for booking guests, upgrading park attractions and for expanding the amusement park area:

We fully expect these policy changes to have an impact on growth and retention rates as developers adjust their viral marketing tactics to comply. But with the seasonal impact of people getting away from their computers to celebrate the holidays, plus developers quickly reacting and optimizing new tactics, it may take several weeks to fully understand just how severe the impact of these changes will be on growth and retention rates.