Is Facebook gaming dying?

Not farmville2-top630too long ago, many people believed Facebook was the Next Big Thing in gaming. Developers debated it — sometimes ferociously — at conventions, while venture capitalists couldn’t fund the companies making those games fast enough.

But over the past few months, the air seems to have been let out of Facebook’s tires. Major publishers are withdrawing their support. Pop culture breakouts like Farmville are far and few between. Most damningly, players seem to have moved on to other diversions.

Read more at Yahoo! Games’s hard-fought battle for Facebook games’ second place

Now in its ninth year, has rapidly become a social gaming powerhouse after pushing its games to Facebook. Amidst rumors of acquisitions and an IPO, Gamasutra speaks with the Bubble Witch house.

While it’s going to be a long while before anyone gets within striking distance of Zynga’s dominance when it comes to social games on Facebook, the fight for the number two position on that site is a fierce one, when it comes to daily active users.

Three companies are battling for the silver medal — Wooga, Electronic Arts and EA’s held the lead for a while, but earlier this month broke away from the pack, largely on the strength of its Bubble Witch Saga game.

Read more at Gamasutra

Zynga sets a date for its IPO

FarmVille has a date with Wall Street on December 16. And we’re all invited.

Four months after signaling its intention to go public, Zynga has finally updated the paperwork to let investors know the date is imminent, with shares set to begin trading in two weeks. But despite speculation about Zynga instantly becoming the highest valued company in the gaming industry, that’s likely not going to be in the cards.

Read more at Yahoo! Games

John Belushi, Dick Clark to appear in social game

John Belushi played several memorable roles in his too-short life: Blues Brother, killer bee, samurai short-order cook, frat house legend.

But he never played a character in a video game.

Social game maker Entertainment Games is changing that, as the man many remember as Bluto has been revived as a playable avatar in ‘Retro World’, a free-to-play game that lets players walk in the shoes of their favorite celebrity icons.

Read more at Yahoo! Games

Analysis: The Next Legal Threat For Game Makers

New changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act could have a wide impact on the industry as traditional game makers enter emerging markets, according to Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris.

The video game industry has barely had time for the hangovers after this year’s Supreme Court victory celebration to wear off, but its next big legal challenge is already gaining strength.

While June’s high court ruling let developers rest easy about the content they put in games, many attorneys at the time warned that privacy issues, specifically as they relate to children, could be the next thing to watch for. Late last week, the Federal Trade Commission announced proposed changes to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that could have a notable impact on many game makers.

Read more at Gamasutra

The Money Making Game #12: The Social Network

We certainly have no problem getting caught up in the fun of playing games, but the people who create them have their pocketbooks to worry about, too. In this column, finance expert and GameSpy contributor Chris Morris guides you through the tricky corridors the gaming industry’s financial side, touching on big-time business decisions and how they matter to the common gamer.

Not too long ago, publishers tended to turn their noses up at social games. Mafia Wars? Poker? Sure, they were mild distractions to entertain people in-between status updates… but a viable economic force? No way! Then FarmVille took off — and the bubble began growing. Big-name developers and executives began defecting. And publishers began investing. Flash-forward to today: No one’s foolish enough to say social (or mobile) games are going to replace console releases anytime in the foreseeable future, but at the same time, no one’s foolish enough to consider the field an afterthought anymore, either.

Electronic Arts, of course, is the biggest publisher to immerse itself in the social network gaming waters. Between its 2009 acquisition of Playfish (which consisted of a $300 million offer with an additional $100 million earnout) and its buyout of PopCap earlier this year (for $750 million and additional earnouts that could ultimately push the price over $1 billion), EA’s not taking the new casual gaming movement lightly.

Read more at Gamespy

Analysis: THQ Needs To Pick A Focus And Stick With It

Following news of a reorganization at THQ, Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris discusses what the company should now consider doing to “right the ship,” such as focusing solely on quality core and Facebook titles.

A few years ago, I came up with an analogy that envisioned the video game world as a high school. EA was the jock. Take-Two was the guy in the leather jacket who blatantly smoked at his locker. And THQ was the guy you wanted your sister to date.

These days, though, THQ’s role in that little drama has changed. Lately, the company has more closely resembled the kid whose attention deficit disorder is so paralyzing that he’s forced to enter special ed.

Read more at Gamasutra

Game Review: Words With Friends (Facebook)

Phone app fans of word games likely already knows about Words With Friends — but adding the popular Scrabble-like game to Facebook should make dwell times on the site soar. You can play multiple opponents simultaneously. And the more games you have going, the more likely you are to stick around. At its heart, the Facebook version is basically the same as the mobile version, but adds a couple new features like Brag Feeds (letting you gloat about triple word scores) and the ability to challenge friends directly through their news feeds.  For word aficionados, this is one Facebook that will be hard to resist.

Read more at Common Sense Media

Bet the FarmVille: How Facebook games are like casinos

Playing a game on Facebook from the comfort of your living room couldn’t be any further away from the loud, smoky casinos of Las Vegas or Atlantic City. But scratch that surface a little and you’ll find that, aside from the complimentary cocktails, the two are virtually identical.

Both are designed to keep you sitting there playing, unaware of the passing hours. Both attract millions of visitors per year.

And both rely heavily on a small percentage of those visitors to make up the majority of their income.

Read more at Yahoo! Games