Facebook is a testing a "Discover New Games" sidebar module that shows several of a user's friends who play a specific game. This new, free discovery channel could make up for some of the lost virality that resulted from Facebook closing several viral channels this year. Therefore, it could potentially help to slightly reduce the reliance of developers on marketing spend to grow their games.
The module displays the names and faces of the viewer's friends who play a game the viewer has yet to install. The name of the game, its thumbnail icon, and a "Play Now" link appear below the facepile. When users see this implicit social recommendation by friends, they assume their must be some entertainment value in the displayed game, and may choose to click and install it.
Modules have been displayed in Facebook's right sidebar since as early as 2008, showing "People You May Know" to help users find new friends. Recently, the site began urging users to complete the demographic information in their profile with a "Which city do you live in?" module. Facebook has shown third-party content in the form of official Pages via the the "Recommended Pages" module, but now game developers can also benefit from the modules.
Developers have been requesting additional viral, communication, and discovery channels from Facebook since it has taken other steps to limit the organic viral growth of applications over the last year. Previously when a gamer published a story about an in-game occurence, such as winning a virtual good or leveling up, it could be seen by all their friends, generating fresh leads to the game. But in September Facebook changed the news feed to only show these stories to a user's friends who already play that game, limiting their worth to re-engaging users, not scoring new ones.
Facebook has since began publishing "Discovery" news feed stories when a user first installs a game, and now offers featured placement in the Games Dashboard as an incentive to developers who use Facebook Credits as their exclusive payment platform. Discover New Games won't fully restore organic growth rates, but will augment other viral and marketing efforts of developers. The module will also reveal to non-gamers that more of their friends are gamers than they might have thought, legitimizing game play.
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