TechCrunch reported, and then later confirmed via Facebook, that the social network who’s platform has been responsible for a shift in how casual games are played and developed will officially be making their Facebook Credits currency mandatory for all games on the service as of July 1st.
As it currently stands, some games use Facebook Credits, but some use their own currency so that they can keep a greater percentage of real world money (RWM) that is used to purchase the virtual currency used in these games. Facebook is saying that come July, companies must use their currency, which nets Facebook a 30% cut on all sales. However, Facebook is allowing companies to keep their own currency standards, so long as they are purchased with Facebook credits; as the TechCrunch piece points out, an example would be using 90 Facebook Credits to purchase 75 CityCash in the game CityVille.
This news is going to rankle the feathers of a few developers, especially those that haven’t had the open dialogue with Facebook that the bigger companies have had, but it’s been in the works for a long time, and Facebook is simply exploiting their dominant position. After all, Zynga and everyone else who made a large chunk of money developing these games would not be anywhere without the userbase that Facebook established. The 30% cut is the same cut that every other platform holder takes, so it’s an industry standard at this point. In fact, Facebook was the only platform holder – among those including Apple, Nintendo, etc. – that wasn’t automatically taking a huge cut off of revenues for every game on their service.
My only issue is actually the one concession they gave to developers: the ability for them to charge X amount of Facebook Credits for Y amount of whatever their own currency is. This is going to be massively confusing for players if developers take advantage of it. For one, that means there’s essentially a second purchasing level; you have to buy the credits, and then redistribute those credits to the virtual currency that your game of choice uses. In addition to this, there’s the potential to raise the rate of virtual items in these games without the consumers really knowing what’s going on. This added level of proverbial red tape is going to create a level of opacity that isn’t really necessary. Now, companies will be able to raise the prices of their own currency since there’s no really accurate way to gauge the prices in one game vs. the prices in another. If everyone had to use Facebook Credits, the same way everyone has to use Microsoft Points for 360 and Windows Live games, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue.
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