Big box publishers such as Electronic Arts, Activision and Ubisoft have reacted too slowly to Facebook as a gaming platform, allowing smaller companies to establish significant and market leading businesses on the format which will prove difficult to challenge.
That's according to Scott Triola, chief operating officer of Blue Fang Games, who believes that the slow corporate culture and established development methods of big companies has left them playing catch up in a rapidly changing sector.
"Publishers can prognosticate and speculate all they want, but as we sit here today they have allowed Facebook upstarts to kick open the door, take their milk money and eat their lunch," wrote Triola, in an exclusive editorial for GamesIndustry.biz, published today.
"Organisational delay is inherent to most large organisations, even the most successful ones, and I’m not solely singling out game publishers for this. In our industry, however, the negative consequences of this delay are exacerbated due the supersonic rate of change on Facebook and other online and mobile platforms," argued Triola. "Moving to action typically requires the consent of multiple stakeholders across multiple areas with often competing priorities and incentives. It can take a lot of time and effort to run the approval gauntlet and a positive outcome is far from guaranteed."
"In many cases, the champions of a new opportunity make a rational individual decision that the personal effort and political capital required to attempt to push something through just isn’t worth it. I am sure this has been the cause of death for many Facebook initiatives over the past year or two."
Development for Facebook has confused traditional developers, says Triola, with such a huge audience difficult to pin-down in terms of gaming demographics.
"In addition to the typical organisational delay, Facebook poses an additional challenge in that it is not necessarily clear what internal group should own this platform. Facebook does not fit neatly into the traditional categories our industry has been built on," he wrote. "By not clearly fitting into an existing organisational structure, delay has only been increased as internal turf battles have played themselves out for the rights to own this new space."
Companies such as Zynga, Playdom and RockYou have already become market leaders, with Triola pointing to EA's recent acquisition of Playfish as an example of how big publishers can quickly get in on the Facebook gold rush in 2010.
"I have no doubt that by the end of this year, every publisher will be bringing its major gaming IPs to Facebook and other online and mobile platforms. They may be able to buy their way into the competition, but their inaction to-date has allowed a new class of competitors to gain a substantial foothold in the gaming industry and they will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
"It’ll be fun to see it all play out, but in this race I think the hares are going to make a whole bunch of money before the tortoises catch, or more likely buy them."
The full opinion piece by Scott Triola can be read here.