'The opportunities it offers are unparalleled today'
Mobile may take the headlines for its free-to-play offerings, but Plarium's CMO says Facebook is hands down the best place to release free games.
While many Facebook developers have left for mobile, Plarium has continued to release its games on the platform, such as its latest title, historic RTS Sparta: War of Empires.
Speaking to Develop, studio co-founder Gabi Shalel says his company has consistently grown on the social network for the last three years and believes it is on track to continue its growth on the site for the forseeable future.
"Plarium has been consistently growing on the Facebook platform for the past three years, and we’re well on track to see yet more growth this year as well," he says.
"The fact remains that Facebook offers the best distribution platform for free-to-play games right now hands down. That’s not to say that the Facebook platform isn’t an increasingly competitive and challenging place, but the opportunities it offers are unparalleled today.
"Plarium sees Facebook as an important and strategic partner with whom to grow its gaming audience; we use Facebook's audience targeting tools to attract the right kinds of hardcore gamers leading to engagement with our games.
"Plarium has a loyal following who love free strategy games, and it uses Facebook’s effective marketing platform to stay engaged with the relevant target audience as well as acquire new players. We believe that our titles stand out not just because of their production value but also because we listen to feedback from our players."
Despite somewhat of an exodus, Facebook is still hugely popular for games and is host to a number of RTS games in particular. Shalel says to ensure games can still stand out on the site they need to offer immersive experiences.
But when asked if that's enough to stand out in the first place, and if perhaps other areas such as the visuals also need to be improved greatly to be a cut above the rest given developers are always striving for engagement, Shalel is adamant that creating the feeling of immersion is the most important element of a title.
He admits however graphics could gradually play a more important role in future to achieve this goal.
"Gamers' expectations of gaming graphics have evolved exponentially over the past few years. As game development standards increase and technology flourishes, the level of graphics we deliver rises as well," he says.
"Obviously graphics are an important element of any game played on Facebook, however, with regards to the hardcore genre, it is most important to help immerse players in a specific environment, which can only be done with very high level of game settings. This leads the groundwork towards triple-A level console games which ultimately is what we strive towards."
To match the rising expectations he talks about, Shalel says Plarium has "doubled down on our investment in content, graphics, sound and audio" for its latest title Sparta: War of Empires.
The studio has also made new improvements to its game engine to make performance smoother than its previous releases and create a more detailed world.
"The game map looks better, sharper, more detailed. The cities have been brought to life with more animations, shadows, shading, and higher resolution," he says.
"The interfaces are more polished. The level of detail we went to on our unit artwork and design is far beyond anything we’ve done before – each sword, shield, or piece of armour has been individually designed. We modelled buildings, weapons, and units after actual historical data and information gathered from the Classical Greece period and the Greco-Persian wars – along with a splash of creative freedom."