Facebook credits as virtual currency, or not?
There is a really interesting article on Inside Social Games that cautions against using Facebook Credits as a payment method. This is something that I’m trying to reason through in regards to my game.
An example is Amazon gift certificates — you could buy them but there’s always a large amount of remnant value on the card that isn’t used. In an economy like [the Facebook] platform, that will lead to developers never seeing the value even though they created it.
…we all know at this point that Facebook is not that straightforward for distribution — we all have to spend money on distribution. So you’re not just paying 30 percent for payments, you have to spend on top of that for advertising.
Apart from some of the things mentioned in the article, there is one big issue that bothers me: I don’t want to be controlled by outside forces. That’s the reason I don’t work at a company, and I don’t want outside funding. I’m freakin’ independent, ya know?! I want to reap the full benefits of my potential, not give it away after all this hard work.
If I exclusively use Credits for my game and Facebook makes policy changes to either pricing, their fees, or how Credits can be used within an app, my business and livelihood becomes subject to their whims. In my game, the currency is integral to the game design, not just a slapped-on form of payment like a PayPal button. Can I risk that being controlled by a third party who doesn’t have my best interests in mind?
There is a counterpoint article which supports the idea of Facebook Credits as a universal app currency, and the main gist is that, overall, this will increase the market size by way more than the 30% fee. I see the logic there, and that sounds great. But my biggest beef is that I lose so much control over my own product by using Credits.
This feels a lot like the argument in the downloadable games world between relying on portals for profit versus staking out your own chunk of territory on your own website for the long term. I’m really tempted to host my game off of Facebook but use Connect for logins and social features to get the benefits of Facebook’s reach.
One solution might be to accept Credits in exchange for hard currency in-game (a separate currency from Credits). Essentially, this would abstract Credits away and still allow me to control the in-game economy. Then, players would not spend Credits directly in the game, but would only use Credits to fund their in-game account. Would that work? I don’t know.
But it’s a tough call. What would you do?
Update: Tangential, perhaps, but with features such as the new behaviors of the Like button that can be used off of Facebook, it seems more and more compelling to host a game on its own site, because you can still leverage a lot of what makes Facebook such a “viral” platform without being hosted on Facebook.