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Facebook, the Gaming Network

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Facebook (FB) claims to be a social network, but it's increasingly a gaming network. That's where the money is.

Gaming takes time, so the market is something of a zero-sum game. Gaming is a bit like music in that tastes differ. My daughter, for instance, is a social gamer, while my son is into console strategy games. The time they take from games is mostly taken from TV. I have the set to myself these days.

The big news in gaming over the last few years has been the rise of social gaming, which started with games like Farmville from Zynga (ZNGA), which my daughter played for months. Notice I wrote "played." In social gaming, trends rise and fall like pop songs.

Social games don't require much bandwidth and they are relatively simple. By seizing this ground, Facebook has become the dominant gaming platform.

During a speech at this week's GameDev Conference in San Francisco this week Sean Ryan, the Facebook head of game partnerships who came over from News Corp. (NWS) in 2011, delivered some big numbers on the success of this strategy.


There are now 250 million gaming users on Facebook, the company paid $2 billion to developers over the last year, and over 100 developers took home over $1 million of that money, as reported by WebMediaBrand's site Inside Facebook. Facebook's big news at the conference was that it's ready to pay developers in local currency.

Ryan acknowledged that Facebook's niche is in casual games, like Farmville. The latest in this line is Candy Crush Saga from King.com, of London, England. But by being the home of such games Facebook is at the center of a $3 billion business, he said.

WebMediaBrand's Appdata site tracks Facebook game usage. Its numbers are revealing.

The top developers are mainly the names you know including Zynga , Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo! (YHOO) along with some new European-based game makers such as King.com.

Ryan wants to grow Facebook with what he calls "core" games, which are deeper, more similar to console games, adding that a number of such titles will come out on Facebook soon.

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