Frisky Interview: Hands-On Bets on Facebook with WPT Texas Hold ‘Em (Part 1)

Sat, Jul 17, 2010

Facebook, Features, Industry, Social

Let’s talk a bit about the new hybrid genre of online poker play – Facebook. I recently chatted with David McCaman, Head of Marketing for Hands-On (formerly FunClick) about their latest addiction: WPT Texas Hold ‘Em Poker on Facebook.

Hands-On doubled down on Facebook last week, announcing new tournaments for WPT Texas Hold ‘Em and big prizes at stake for winners. Now in addition to regular poker games for virtual chips, players can participate in exciting sit-and-go and shootout tournaments to win some pretty cool stuff.

Grab a Seat

WPT Texas Hold ‘Em on Facebook looks to blur the lines between social gamers, poker pros and celebrities. To do that, Hands-On is first blurring the lines between everything else in their control – from real and virtual experiences, stakes and currencies, to platforms, partnerships and techniques.

Hands-On has been making games since 2001, and has had success with several top licensed iPhone games and apps: Guitar Hero, Marvel and Oprah, to name a few brand partners. Hands-On develops games for iPhone, Android, PSP, and others, with more new platforms planned for the near future. David McCaman said, for WPT Hold ‘Em especially, “Facebook was a natural evolution for the company.”

Meet the Dealer

What’s different in your experience developing games for iPhone/mobile compared to Facebook?

McCaman: “Facebook games are more like a service than a packaged product, and they’re free. Social gaming is taking over iPhone too, but Facebook is more focused on the upsell – a free model with microtransactions (freemium). The iPhone has more developers and a higher turnover rate.”

Perhaps this goes back to the “service” model of Facebook games, although in my opinion, successful iPhone games are also services, not products. Whatever the case, players seem to expect far more from a free Facebook game than what they’re willing to pay for in a mobile game. The bar is simply higher, so to speak.

In fact, McCaman said in experimenting with one of Hands-On’s paid iPhone titles, setting the price to free yielded lower review scores. “Proliferation of free content has been instilled in people – they expect quality games even if they don’t have to pay for them,” he continued.

Poker Face

Hands-On is also one of WPT (World Poker Tour)’s top license partners. They developed and published WPT Texas Hold ‘Em on Facebook, launching the game in March 2010. Seems like a sweet deal for Hands-On, who works independently, but is supported by WPT in many ways – promotions, marketing, tournament entries, prizing, talent, celebrities, etc. Beyond the business end, McCaman says,

“Integration really helps add flavor and uniqueness to the Facebook game. We have authentic WPT features, interaction and prizes – players can (virtually or even literally) experience what it feels like to be a WPT-made millionaire. Increasing this authenticity and excitement is a main focus for Hands-On.”In general, it seems there is a recent resurgence in for-cash online gaming – both gambling and skill-based, does this affect virtual-cash game counterparts like WPT Texas Hold’em Poker?

David McCaman says Hands-On will definitely be interested in for-cash Facebook games if the option is possible in the future. They keep a close eye on the legal back-and-forth, but for now Hands-On’s focus is on offering as much in the free version as they can, to ensure an exciting and worthwhile experience to Facebook users. Virtual chips are absolutely legal, and there’s a lot they can do with the Facebook platform.

McCaman is confident that the game’s avatar system and intimate setting will make WPT Texas Hold ‘Em a top poker title on Facebook. The game currently has around 360,000 MAU (monthly active users). There’s some heavy competition from the likes of Zynga, who holds the #2 spot on Facebook App leaderboards with Texas HoldEm – which rakes in a whopping ~28 million MAU. Still, with all the for-real-cash poker options out there, what’s really at stake for Facebook players?

Check back tomorrow for part 2, where we talk more about ironic coincidences in the online poker industry, as it relates to virtual payments, and the notion of gambling. Meanwhile, check out WPT Texas Hold ‘Em Poker on Facebook and see what you think! Thanks again to David McCaman and Hands-On.

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Related posts:

  1. Frisky Interview: Pay-to-Play Poker Merges with Facebook in WPT Hold ‘Em (Part 2)
  2. WPT Texas Hold ‘Em on Facebook Now Offers Shootout and Sit-and-Go Tournaments
  3. WPT Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Launches Boot Camp Facebook Promotion
  4. WPT Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Comes to Facebook
  5. FunClick Holding Chips for Charity Event in WPT Texas Hold ‘Em Poker
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