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Facebook Games focusing on development, not data privacy scandal

The difficulty in trying to build hype with “all that other stuff going on”

Mark Zuckerberg Delivers Keynote Address At Facebook F8 Conference Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It’s easy to look at Facebook Games, a division of the largest social media platform in the world, and argue it’s going through a bittersweet moment.

The division just announced new initiatives in its Instant Games and upcoming streaming sphere that Leo Olebe, the global director of games partnerships, hopes will ignite even more interest in Facebook’s gaming ventures. Olebe sat down with Polygon to talk about new developments in the company’s gaming subdivision, but also touched upon the recent controversy surrounding Facebook at-large.

Facebook found itself in hot water once again over the 2016 U.S. election when reports from The New York Times and The Guardian explored just how deep and affecting the actions of London-based data mining and analytics firm Cambridge Analytica ran. The firm, which is backed by Robert Mercer — a financier of the far-right publication, Breitbart News — allegedly misused user data from a possible 50 million Facebook users, according to The Verge.

Questions about Facebook’s commitment to user’s privacy and the data they enter into Facebook — along with the thousands of apps that use Facebook as a security portal — are swirling. People are threatening to leave Facebook en masse, and for a division like Facebook Games, which is hoping to build its user base, that can be concerning, and it’s something that Olebe is thinking about.

“Thinking about the context of where we are and saying, ‘Look, obviously privacy is extremely important, not only to Facebook but to the developers we’re working with,’” Olebe told Polygon. “It’s mostly about our mission on the games team and that’s to try and build incredible experiences for people and help developers be successful. To a certain extent, as long as we’re focused on that mission then we’re able to achieve great things without worrying about the rest.”

Olebe’s philosophy is, “The more that we can focus on those core principles, of building an amazing product and helping developers be successful, then everything else kind of writes its own story.” He means that as long as people are happy using Facebook because the product holds up, the gaming division doesn’t necessarily have to concern itself with the bigger ongoings of the company. A Facebook representative later told Polygon that Olebe mean that “as developers find value, the gaming division can focus on shifting perception of gamers.” This doesn’t take into account, however, just how many people are looking into ways to distance themselves from the company, and unlinking their apps, including gaming apps, as a way of trying to regain control of their relationship with the social media giant.

Olebe doesn’t see it that way, though.

“When you focus on core principles, and this is my true and real answer, when you focus on true principles, then the opportunity for greatness can come as a result,” Olebe said. “So when those core principles ... I know I’ll sound like a broken record, but [when] those core principles are making great experiences for people [and] helping developers be successful, then you don’t have to worry about all that other stuff going on because you’ll either find other great opportunities or you won’t. Let’s let our ability to create amazing things on the platform be the judge of that.”

Even Facebook Games may be trying to distance itself from the scandals plaguing the main company, but only time will tell if Facebook can build a great and popular enough product to convince users to stay when it seems like the sky is falling down.

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