Trip Hawkins on why the social echo of Facebook games will overcome mobile's solo experiences

Friendship is the glue

Trip Hawkins on why the social echo of Facebook games will overcome mobile's solo experiences

Two blog posts in the space of a week have illustrated just why Digital Chocolate's Trip Hawkins believes that, when it comes to games, Facebook and smartphones are following two different paths.

The worrying thing for mobile developers is that, if he is to be believed, it's the Facebook model that will eventually come out on top.

Indeed, over the past six months, Digital Chocolate has moved its business focus from mobile to Facebook.

Echo calls

It's all down to what Trip describes as the 'echo'.

In short, Hawkins believes what separates Facebook from iPhone and the like is that users on Facebook play games based on their friend's recommendations, whereas on mobile platforms, game discovery is largely a solo process.

"They are trained and in the habit of going to an app store but when they do so they are looking to be entertained and not bringing their intention or attention to a social graph," Hawkins says of mobile consumers.

"As a result, first-generation mobile social game networks like Digital Chocolate's Café Series, OpenFeint and Ngmoco's Plus+ have not become genuine social destinations. Mobile gamers are not in the habit of going to such a mobile social Café, they are instead going to a game that they remember and want to enjoy playing alone.

"Thus there is very little echo in mobile because we don't have a massive audience checking in to a social service that is reminding them to try new games and return to existing games they have."

Model dilemma

While such an assessment initially caused Hawkins to label Facebook as 'not a game platform', he also suggests the smartphone model's days are numbered, purely because as things stand, mobile games currently follow the traditional model of shifting serious units at launch, before falling away again.

"Combined with pricing pressure that results from Apple policies, the Apple platforms offer very short game lifecycles and limited revenue, despite Apple products enjoying a great reputation as game devices," Hawkins summarises.

"By contrast, Facebook can support games as a service and incredible game revenue while not even being perceived by its customers as a game platform."

The upshot of all of this is that Facebook's echo – the idea of games existing as a social stream, both in their promotion and delivery – will replace the packaged goods model that Hawkins believes is still practised by mobile marketplaces.

"Over time, we will indeed hear the echo on all these platforms and devices. This makes mobile social games an even more exciting longer term bet because, after all, there are billions of these devices."

[source: Trip's OMG Blog]

Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.