"Through the program, we will work with select game developers and provide promotional support for their games in placements across our mobile apps," said Facebook software engineer Victor Medeiros in a blog post. "This will bring new, high-quality mobile games to the millions of Facebook users who love to play games."
The new publishing program arrives following the decision by Facebook and social game company Zynga late last year to have a more open marriage: The companies renegotiated their previously close relationship to allow Zynga to distribute its games through other networks and Facebook to develop its own games.
Facebook hasn't yet taken that step, which isn't entirely surprising given just how difficult it is to create a hit game. Google+ Games, which shut down last month, offers a cautionary example, to say nothing of the fact that most mobile games lose money.
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But Facebook's publishing program suggests an alternate path: Building an audience for its partners and benefiting from any mobile advertising and social network usage that follows.
Facebook isn't acting as a traditional game publisher. It won't be funding game development studios. Rather, it will promote partners' games through various Facebook channels and will provide marketing and analytics guidance, to help developers implement the code required to measure player engagement and sustain player interest.
Medeiros says that with over 800 million people using Facebook mobile apps every month and over 260 million playing Facebook games, Facebook will be able to employ targeted marketing to boost usage of the games in its program.
Access to the social network's masses won't be free, however; Facebook will collect a share of the revenue. The company has not disclosed the terms of the deal it's offering. The only technical requirement appears to be that games support Facebook integration.
Game companies are free to sign up at the program website, but admission to the program might take a while. Facebook is working with a limited number of developers during the pilot phase of the program.
The companies and titles participating include 5th Planet's role-playing card-battle game, Dawn of the Dragons; Brainbow's puzzle adventure game, Dr. Newton: The Great Brain Adventure; Certain Affinity's pirate-themed strategy game, Age of Booty: Tactics; Dragonplay's social-poker game, Live Hold'Em; Gameloft's medieval-strategy/simulation game, Kingdoms & Lords; KiwiGames' exploration game, Shipwrecked; Outplay Entertainment's fantasy game, Monster Legacy; Space Ape's multiplayer combat-strategy game, Samurai Siege; and WeMade Entertainment's endless-running game WINDrunner.