Facebook (FB) Cooks Something Up for Gamers; Exploring Immersive Gaming?

The largest social network in the industry is working on a top-secret project designed for immersive play.

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Just when you think Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is done with games, the social media behemoth announced that it is developing a new gaming service. The problem is, that’s all we know. Facebook remained mum on the details other than saying that it is designed for laptop and desktop computers. The company described the service as a “dedicated, immersive experience we are building solely for gamers.”

A rep from Facebook won’t say when the social network will announce more information. We have a hunch that Facebook will come out with its own VR-based game, allowing players to explore a 3D gaming landscape and interact with the surroundings. Rumor has it that the game allows players to interact with other players.

Back when Facebook’s shares were about to be listed on the stock market for the first time, the social network struck a partnership with Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA). The gaming company came out with a number of wildly popular mobile games, including Farmville and Words with Friends.

The partnership proved to be a profitable one, Zynga reportedly made $400 million in 2011. By September 2012, more than 311 million people were playing Zynga games at least once a month. Almost all of the players were using Facebook to play the games, which means a third of Facebook users were playing Zynga games. However, as mobile users began shifting their attention away from Facebook games and into mobile gaming apps – such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds – Zynga lost much of its players. Eventually, the gaming firm let go of thousands of employees, losing about 75% of its value since Zynga went public.

It is interesting to see how Facebook would tap one of its oldest partners in the gaming segment to attract gamers back to playing on Facebook. A representative for Zynga declined to comment on the details of the project. He did say that more than 650 million people use Facebook when they are playing games. These users access Facebook using desktop, laptop, and video game console.

Apart from collaborating with Zynga, Facebook is also working with Unity Technologies, a company that makes tools to help developers create games. Insiders say the deal with Unity is to attract game developers using Unity tools. Unity tools enable developers to create games at a much faster rate. Interestingly enough, the current CEO of Unity and CEO of Zynga worked together previously for EA Games.

When pressed for comment on the partnership between Facebook and Unity on CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Piper Jaffray senior research analyst Mike Olson said, “I think in general if you look at Facebook’s goal here, it’s to be more open and connected. Ultimately, I think that’s what gaming is all about. I think the old view of gaming, sitting in the basement and playing alone, is over. Now, it’s about multiplayer gaming on consoles, desktops, or even mobile.”

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