Facebook launches mobile game platform, edges near IPO price


An illustration picture shows the log-on screen for the Website Facebook on an Ipad, in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, in this January 30, 2013 file photo. (REGIS DUVIGNAU/REUTERS)
July 30, 2013

Facebook is taking new steps to boost its engagement on mobile and tap into the growing gaming market, announcing Tuesday that it has launched a new mobile games publishing platform for developers.

The program, according to a page on the social network’s Web site, says that the pilot program is aimed at helping “small and medium-sized developers take their games global.” Launching a game on Facebook’s mobile platform, the social network noted, gives developers a chance to reach around 800 million monthly mobile users.

Gaming on Facebook has had a mixed history. Companies like Zynga saw early success with games on Facebook, but saw engagement drop off as users increasingly logged in to the network on smaller screens rather than on their computers. With a mobile platform, Facebook is not only working to reach its fastest-growing audience, but also working with a greater diversity of developers to offer games that could catch users’ fancies.

Initially, Facebook is partnering with 10 developers from around the world to build games, including Gameloft and Gamevil, who are already big names in the mobile gaming space. Facebook’s other partners are publishers 5th Planet, Brainbow, Certain Affinity, Dragonplay, KiwiGames, Outplay Entertainment, Space Ape and WeMade Entertainment. The company is also asking developers to submit games to apply to the program through a page on the company’s Web site.

The announcement only bolstered a company that is edging up toward its IPO price for the first time since going public in May 2012. Shares have been climbing since the company reported strong earnings last week, saying that revenue from payments had increased 11 percent from the same period last year. Around 7 percent of the company’s payments revenue comes from gaming. In afternoon trading, the stock was up over $37 — the closest it’s been to its $38 initial offering price since its first day of trading.

Zynga, on other hand, isn’t fairing so well on the news that one of its main partners is courting other developers. An agreement between Zynga and Facebook expired last year, putting an end to some of the exclusivity that kept the two companies in such a close partnership. Zynga, which was trading down nearly 2 percent at a price of $2.98, reported earnings last week that beat expectations but failed to quell concerns that the game company is struggling to find a lasting business model.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Related stories:

Facebook blows the market away with 2nd-quarter gains from mobile advertising

Bloomberg: Zynga shares plunge after abandoning online-gambling plan

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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