Facebook Fatigue? Kleiner’s Gordon Sees Console-Like Cycles in Social Gaming. (Video)

As social gaming on Facebook struggles to retain its luster, experts are searching for an explanation.

Long-time gaming executive Bing Gordon offers one plausible reason: Facebook is suffering from a cyclical process currently found in the games industry, with peaks and valleys driven by new hardware releases.

“The Facebook platform right now feels like it has a life cycle,” Gordon said. “Right now, it feels like PlayStation.”

About every six years, a new Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo comes out, driving new sales for the entire industry. At first, he says, there’s a feeding frenzy, but as the systems age, the frenzy slows down. Near the end, prices drop to keep the platform going.

While Facebook can’t relate to the hardware comparison, it still finds itself at a similar point, where its novelty factor is fading and the number of people playing games on its network is leveling off. The first to really notice this trend was Zynga, the largest game maker on the platform, which missed second-quarter expectations by a long shot. “Right now, it’s kind of flat, and whether it takes another jump up or goes down remains to be seen,” Gordon said. “Is there something else to be done? Sure, maybe it’s mobile.”

As an investment partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Gordon is focused on consumer and gaming technologies; he has a good vantage point of the market from sitting on the boards of both Amazon and Zynga. Before joining Kleiner, he was a longtime executive at Electronic Arts. And since he’s dabbled in theater, including a stint on Broadway, he eagerly agreed to appear in a video (posted below).

Despite what some may consider a dire situation — Zynga and Facebook trading so far below their IPO prices — Gordon takes a longer view of the market. He remembers working at EA when its stock fell more than 70 percent in one week, and points to the way Amazon has recovered after once trading at $2 a share.

Gordon wouldn’t go into specifics on either company’s strategy, but before the camera started rolling, he chatted about Facebook’s ability to maintain its growth as a social games platform — and how it closely affects Zynga, the creator of some of the biggest social games, like FarmVille, CityVille and, more recently, ChefVille.

Gordon said that, thanks to Facebook, gaming is more social today than it has ever been, and he expects that trend to continue. But he does question whether the dominant access point will always be Facebook — or if it will eventually shift to mobile.

If that’s the case, can Zynga succeed somewhere other than Facebook?

“I think so, but it’s not provable,” he said. “Zynga has more talent than any company I’ve ever seen — way more talent than EA had at its peak.” But that, too, is changing. Over the past few months, Zynga has seen a half-dozen high-level departures. So, can that still be true? Gordon confidently and simply responded: “Oh, yeah.”

More from Gordon in the video:


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald