Enough Farmville? Facebook revamps game updates

As Facebook becomes the fastest-growing social gaming platform, the company came by unique challenges that continue to follow its growth. The platform-holder has had to balance the needs of game developers who depend on exposure with providing a good experience for users who simply want to interact with friends without receiving notifications about their friends' FarmVille pets.

At a recent media event in Palo Alto, California, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that games are one of the primary reasons some people visit Facebook, confirming that 40% of its userbase is using the site for social gaming. At the same time, this means that about 300 million members of the world's largest online social network don't.

"Our goal is to make it so as few people as possible come to the site and have negative experiences,” said Zuckerberg. The event was held to discuss the latest changes the company is making to the ways games interface with its user experience.

Developers can now implement a counter to notify players

Essentially, users will be generically notified if multiple friends are currently playing a new game, but successive updates about their play will be concealed unless the other users are also players of that game. The various improvements are expressed in detail on The Facebook Blog.

"In real life, if one of your friends plays FarmVille and you don't, they probably wouldn't come up to you and say 'Hey, I just got this new cow on my farm,'" he explains. "They might say 'Hey, I found this new game that's really cool that you should check out.'

"Giving this kind of context is what we want to emulate on the site," he adds. In the spring, the company made changes to the kinds of notifications Facebook games were allowed to send their users, aiming to keep "join my game"-type spam in check. As a result, numerous popular titles on the social network experienced steep declines in their userbases.

Games are a major force on Facebook, but it’s bittersweet: "One the one hand, games are a phenomenon -- 200 million people or more are playing games on the site," says the CEO. "On the other hand, game [notifications] are also one of the biggest complaints that we get." Games drive userbases, but they also threaten to drive userbases off, and finding that balancing point appears to be Facebook's current goal. 

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