When nWay began a trial of its dark, sci-fi combat game "ChronoBlade" on Facebook last year, the San Francisco-based start up felt sure it had a hit on its hands.
"First of all, what comes is, 'Wow, I had no idea you could actually do a game of this quality on Facebook,'" said Dave Jones, Chief Creative Officer of nWay, who has worked on "Grand Theft Auto" and "Diablo."
Then came some resistance: Jones admits some potential investors and partners questioned how an action-focused game with slick graphics can play to a Facebook audience more accustomed to "Farmville" and other less time-consuming casual games. Others wondered how the game – which launches this spring – would gain significant users and revenue on the social network.
But Facebook Inc is betting nWay and a clutch of other developers this year can extend console-style action games beyond Microsoft Corp's Xbox or Sony Corp's PlayStation onto the world's largest social network.
Facebook is spearheading the launch of 10 high-quality games created by third-party developers in 2013 that squarely target so-called hardcore gamers, an atypical audience overlooked thus far against the wealth of family-friendly offerings like Zynga Inc's "Farmville" that now dominate the social network's gaming landscape.
The effort, which began late last year but will accelerate in 2013, is part of Facebook's ongoing objective of making sure its 1 billion-plus users log in and spend more time on the network, which in turn boosts ad revenue. Facebook also takes a cut of its applications' revenue.
Facebook's push into action and battle games follows a meeting in January between companies that make games like "first-person shooters" and Vice President Joe Biden to look for ways to curb gun violence in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings.
Based on the console gaming industry experience, hardcore gamers – typically men 18 to 30 years old – spend more time and effort to master fast-paced games such as first-person shooters (Microsoft's "Halo") or real-time strategy games (Activision Blizzard's "StarCraft").
"You'll see a whole set of games hitting in the next two quarters in particular and throughout the year that really start to redefine what people think of Facebook games," Sean Ryan, head of game partnerships at Facebook said in an interview.
Facebook will embrace games from "casual all the way up through first-person shooters, massively multiplayer online games, real-time strategy games - all those types of more core player-versus-player games."
Just as hardcore gamers interact