Facebook Loses “The Godfather” Exclusive to Google’s Game Network

Kabam has chosen to exclusively launch its newest big title, The Godfather: Five Families, on Google’s game network instead of on Facebook.

“It was strictly a business decision,” said Kabam’s COO Chris Carvalho, quoting a line from The Godfather.

Carvalho said that in return for Google getting a 45-day exclusive, Google has agreed to drive traffic to the game through various marketing techniques. In addition, Google only takes a 5 percent cut of revenues from virtual goods sold inside the game, compared to Facebook’s 30 percent cut.

Together, those two incentives could make for a more profitable game, even if Google’s audience is much smaller.

“We’ve found our games monetize very well on the Google+ platform, and their team to be incredibly responsive and willing to get things done quickly and efficiently,” Carvalho said.

At last count, roughly 40 million people have joined Google+, and to date, it has a total of 28 games. In comparison, Facebook has more than 800 million users worldwide, and literally has too many games to count.

Getting heard above all those distractions on Facebook can be costly, so clearly Kabam feels it has a better chance to stand out on Google.

It will be important to see if other developers feel the same way and follow in Kabam’s footsteps. If so, Facebook may feel pressure to make games easier to find (other than the developer purchasing more ads), or even adjust its revenue cut, as some have suggested may occur with increased competition.

In all, Kabam has three other games on Google+: Dragons of Atlantis, Global Warfare and Edgeworld.

The Godfather will not be the first exclusive on Google+ Games. Rovio launched Angry Birds first on Google+, and still hasn’t officially launched yet on Facebook (probably due to the large costs, since Rovio is known for being outspoken about Apple’s 30 percent revenue cut on mobile devices).

Kabam has licensed rights to “The Godfather” movie from Paramount Digital Entertainment to build a big-budget social game for Facebook, based on the American Mafia classic.

Kabam, which is based in Redwood City, Ca., is known for making hardcore social games that appeal to gamers typically found using videogame consoles. That differs from Zynga, the leading social games company, which makes mainstream games for the largest audience possible.

The game, which launched today, is set in the Prohibition era of the 1930s, preceding the setting of the first film by about 10 years. Players and five crime families will battle for money, power and respect, with the goal of becoming the “Don” of a family.

The illustrations are cinematic, with extremely dark and menacing graphics, which is a dramatic shift from the cartoonish art and happy, smiling characters found in most Facebook games today.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik