Archive for the ‘games’ category

Applifier – cross-promo for social games

May 7, 2010

Applifier logo

Just over a month ago I was really struck by the lack of good options to help us grow Kamu Town in addition to pure virality. I decided to do something about it instead of just accepting the worsening status quo.

We started building what was to become Applifier and talked with a bunch of other independent social game developers. It was painfully obvious that a lot of high quality games had the same challenges we have, so encouraged by the early validation we pushed on. We really hit off with Nabeel of Conduit Labs, who had on his own been working towards the very same goals.

So the rebel alliance was born and you can read all about it on Inside Social Games.

Kamu Town live

March 20, 2010

Kamu Town logoKamu Town, our latest social game on Facebook, is starting to take off on Facebook. Thanks to @fbindie for pointingout, that I had neglected to write about it on my blog (gasp!), so here goes!

We started working on Kamu Town late last year. We wanted to create an “easy fun” game with a distinctive personality and we most definitely wanted to include our beloved Kamus in it. Back then there were no town/city building games on Facebook, so naturally we thought we should have our game in a different genre instead of doing one of crowded farming/pet/cafe genres. Ah, the irony of finding yourself launching into one of the most crowded of the emerging genres on Facebook =).

Not to worry though, Kamu Town is pretty distinctive and we are bringing some pretty unique features to it in the near future that you won’t find any other town/city game (then again, don’t take my word for it, just re-read the paragraph above about my forecasting skills =)).

Have a go and do give us feedback on the Discussions page on Facebook.

Kamu Town screenshotJust building myself a Science Park. That’ll keep my techie Kamus happy!

Facebook: the biggest boost for gaming’s positive image ever

January 18, 2010

Dirty Hands (CC) Bah Humbug on Flickr

Gaming is a dirty thing.

There. I said it. It’s 2010 and still the mainstream press continues to treat games as curiosity for kids, or smear players with sensationalist headlines. Game development as a serious career choice? I’m sure your parent’s and career counselor will tell you to rather become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer.

Could you possibly consider trying to pick up a girl / boy at the bar by asking her / him to come to your place to  play some video games? Just contrast this to let’s watch a movie together, or listen to some good music. (Yeah, kids, don’t try the video games pickup line =)).

But what happens when all your normal friends and family members start broadcasting their gaming? Surely your 45 year old aunt didn’t just ice you in Mafia Wars? What’s with your younger sister hosting a barn raising in FarmVille? Is that a flirting cupcake from your loved one in Pet Society?

Facebook and social games have done more than anything ever for the positive image of gaming and games. By making our gameplay visible to everybody in social graph and making it part of the the stream of your life (baby photos, Country Story achievements, your FML moments, latest movie trailers, helping friends to retaliate in Mobsters, birthday congratulations, …), Facebook has made gaming OK.

(CC) Sean Dreilinger, on Flickr

Gaming is was a dirty thing.

Thank you Facebook.

P.S. Though you can’t pick up (yet!) somebody at bar by “Let’s play Pet Society together”, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a nice touch to send some virtual roses once you start going steady! ;-)

Facebook policy changes are a tectonic shift for social game developers

October 29, 2009

Facebook Platform is under going major changes, which I believe are great for the smaller social game developers and everybody who makes quality applications. This great news, because Facebook is cracking down on questionable practices and spam.

Communication features change

On one front Facebook is revamping the communication mediums available for developers. This includes notifications going away, lot of stuff being moved to the inbox, the algorithmic stream change of last week and the new games dashboard to name a few. The best summary of these changes for any developer is the Facebook Platform roadmap.

I was originally concerned that Facebook would totally nerf application growth thru these changes, but after reading thru the changes, the functionality change isn’t really that drastic. The Stream will continue to be the main mass communication tool, and the Inbox based communication together with the new Dashboard are a great replacement for notifications. The game developers will go thru a round of iteration with these new features, but as we saw a year ago with the removal of profile boxes (then the most prominent application virality feature), the developers are quick to adapt.

The second change is much more important.

Facebook’s platform policies have gotten a lot stricter

(CC) Paul Keleher

Most of the blog coverage of yesterday’s Facebook Developer Garage focuses on the above functionality changes and is missing the real beef of what’s going on. The changes in the Facebook Platform Policy are much more important than the functionality changes.

Zynga is the master of viral distribution and many others copy their best practices (one notable exception being Playfish, who is quite reserved on their viral features). If I were to exaggerate, Facebook has taken a long hard look at what Zynga and its copycats do and decided to forbid many of their most successful practices:

Popup Stream prompt

Apps can no longer popup “Publish to stream” forms. This is done currently extensively at e.g. level ups, achievements. Now stream publishing can only be prompted after a player specifically clicks on such button.


Misleading the player

Apps can no longer mislead players by making the default button e.g. a invite friends function. I can’t count how many times I’ve clicked on the friendly looking green button in Cafe World’s login report screen only to end up at the invite friends screen when I just wanted to proceed to the game. This action button now must have a “skip” button next to it in a similar size & style.


Mafia size

Apps can no longer gate content or reward players based on the number of friends playing. Mafia Wars and its clones are completely built upon this mechanic with mob size based powerups and limitations built-in. It will be very painful to change these game mechanics as it means that every single players’ in-game standing & resources will change.


Get the bonus

Apps can no longer incentivize players to e.g. invite or message friends or publish to stream. This has been pretty much the rule already, but Facebook has been somewhat lax in enforcing it. It remains to be seen if this will be used against features such as “Share the wealth” mechanic popularized by Zynga in FarmVille to incentivize posting to the stream (clicking on Get the Special bonus link shown above gives a bonus to you as well as to the player who posted to the stream).

There are more e.g. a rule that forbids Apps from no longer publishing Stream stories that invite a player to a game or include calls to action “e.g. beat her score”.

If Facebook is really serious about enforcing these policies, this will mean a tectonic shift on how games can grow on the platform. Will Facebook enforce these rules against Zynga,  who is apparently contributing $50 million to Facebook’s revenues thru buying Facebook ads?

I’m sure there will be in a grace period during which developers are expected to change their practices and games. How long that period is, is still unclear. Facebook representatives themselves didn’t go into much detail about the policy changes at yesterday’s event.

To be clear: Zynga has operated according to the existing rules of the platform and has been wildly successful. It takes a lot more than just virality to become the TOP1 company on Facebook. The above is not to dig on Zynga – it is just that many of their most copied approaches are being invalidated. And to be honest, if the rules wouldn’t have been changed, we’d most likely would have also adapted many of Zynga’s approaches – that’s how successful they’ve been.

Why is this great news for smaller developers?

(CC) Richkidsunite

These are great changes for smaller developers because

  • virality is compounded growth: with a high user base, the forbidden practices were useful to getting higher absolute number of new users into those apps. If these new rules are enforced, the bigger apps’ growth will likely slow down and leave room for smaller players
  • game quality matters: with less spam it will take better quality games to succeed. This should also benefit Playfish.
  • originality matters: it will be a bit harder to copy a new original game and grow it rapidly. However, the big players have the marketing spend to boost any new game they want
  • players will be more in charge: with less spam, new players are likely to react more positively to friend’s inviting them to games
  • discoverability improves: the games dashboard should help also new apps surface
  • the playing field is more even – if just for a while: everybody needs to find the new best practices

It is good to note that this is just the roadmap for the next few months for the Facebook Platform. There will definitely more changes ahead.

More coverage about Facebook Platform changes

Kamu World live & Everyplay hiring

August 12, 2009


Last week at ASSEMBLY Summer 2009, Everyplay soft launched a limited feature-set, public beta of Kamu World, our first application on Facebook. More than anything our goal with this launch was to put out a small, but polished application to see what people liked or disliked about it. We intentionally avoided doing press releases or talking to blogs about it, because the application at its current state is just a sneak preview of what’s to come. But we definitely failed miserably on keeping it under the radar as we got covered on Arctic Startup and TechCrunch UK (+ several other blogs) ;-).

So far the response has been very positive – especially for the characters and the art style, which received a lot of love and attention from our art director. It’s great to see people responding well to Kamus!

Even so, I do relate to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman’s slogan “If you are not embarrassed to launch, you are launching too late” ;-). There is a ton features currently under development and we aim to roll out those in the near future. So if Kamu World piqued your interest, do become a fan on Facebook and we’ll let you know as new features become available.

To get those exciting features done, Everyplay is hiring senior developers on server (Java) and client side (Flash/AS3). If you want to work on cool social games with a pretty kick ass team, do get in touch!

Why HeyZap Coins and Mochi Coins fall short

July 21, 2009

Recently both HeyZap and Mochi Media launched virtual goods platforms for Flash games. In short they allow players to purchase game items with hard currency. Want to kill zombies more effectively? Buy this $0,05/600 Mochi coins double-barrel shotgun! With virtual goods being the “new advertising” as far as internet business models go, why does this effort fall short? Jussi, we thought you loved virtual goods!

Oh yes, I still love virtual goods. There is nothing wrong with the basic premise of the service offered by HeyZap and Mochi Media, but plenty of issues with trying to monetize primarily single player Flash game experiences. It’s the classic “If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to see it, does it really fall” problem. I can buy a better shotgun, but without other players, my friends and my rivals , what is the point? Why would I bling out my virtual house if my friend’s can visit? Is there anybody to listen when I boast about my exploits? Is there anybody to best? Anybody to share this experience with?

Due to the nature of the games they serve HeyZap and Mochi Media are currently limited to effectively selling you “cheat codes“. It’s a hollow experience without the social context offered by persistent multiplayer games (e.g. MMOs or social games), and I don’t expect this to save Flash games developers. In HeyZap’s and Mochi Media’s shoes I’d be investing heavily into providing the tools to let Flash developers create these persistent multiplayer experiences (Nonoba is doing it). However, as a Flash developer I wouldn’t wait – I’d jump ship to social games this instant (massive & free distribution, social context, paying customers = the win).

Further reading

Coverage of Social Gaming Summit 2009

June 24, 2009


I’m catching up on the Social Gaming Summit 2009 on the net, and here’s my bounty of news, twitter tidbits and links to further coverage.


Blog coverage

Misc tidbits from #sgs09 backlog

These are misc tidbits from the backlog that stuck out.

  • Social Gaming ARPU’s: top games $1-2/month, good FB $0.30-0.40, good MS $0.60-.070
  • Conversions to paying users for social games 0.5% to 1.5% much lower than traditional MMOG’
  • Greg Tseng/Tagged: The most important social network conversion rate is # of monthly users that become daily users look closely at conversion from monthly active to daily active — and see 50% as a gold standard.
  • Jia Shen/RockYou – 5-7% of daily returning users is good (discounting promos), Shukla – RPGs can see 40%
  • Panel on retention/acq: use FB and provide free virtual goods at a staggered pace to bring user pack to app/game
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: Vanity URLs help with branding and discoverability in Facebook. Finding apps is still hard
  • Simplest thing for retention is to give incentives or alerts at a specific amount of time. Mafia Wars’ alert says New Jobs available
  • jnusser/vindicia: in RMT, friendly fraud 100x real, malicious fraud
  • Women, 34 to 50 in the US is the best audience you can get for monetization
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: FB retention is easier. Nobody uninstalls apps, devs can always try to reingage. MS has signif churn on apps
  • Jia Shen/RockYou: News feed momentum is important metric for distribution that is overlooked now. The reciprocation must happen quickly
  • Jia Shen/RockYou – the new FBook redesign is creating the same engagement growth as FB had during prev peak… but less spammy
  • Super Rewards: Free-mium social game monetization rates ~5% of users playing on any given day.
  • Zong: Fraud chargeback rates often in 5% range. Developers usually very happy with 1-1.5. Paypal: greater than 0.5% a concern
  • Virtual goods business in China is worth $4.5-$5Bn this year. Many games have over 1 million concurrent users
  • Playfish:5 weeks ago, we launched RestaurantCity with no cross promotion & grew to 5M users.
  • MySpace interesting stats: 70MM monthly in the US, 30MM are active app users
  • Playfish sold 20 million christmas trees and ornaments mirroring social behavior in real world
  • Zynga invested $2mil in guild of heroes. Seems kind of high!
  • on FB, there are 100 games with 100,000 players 30 games by 1 million, 3 games with 10,000,000 games
  • Zynga: Building social capital can go beyond your real friends” – Pincus; but 70% of the time you log into Poker, a ‘real’ friend is there
  • Playdom sold $100K worth of virtual pink Volkswagon’s on Sorority Life in 2 days
  • Keys to a successful social game by Mark Pincus at Zynga: 1) real friends, 2) self expression, 3) stored value
  • Zynga (Pincus) games have to give you 1) feeling of playing with friends, 2) social outlet, expression 3) invest in game
  • 3rd secret to Pincus – buy items (i am paraphrasing). Result is that players has social capital. Pincus is master of buzz words
  • 2nd secret: Pincus from Zynga – social games must be playground for your personality. Express yourself (channeling Madonna)
  • 1st secrets:  Pincus:  Games must appeal to your friends
  • A pillar of social game is to invest in game over time and give players a sense of value. This is why virtual goods are valued.
  • Design games as objects of social interaction, you get the benefit as a user of inviting your friends into the game
  • game themes (pets, farms, restaurants) in top 10 apps – starting to mirror the over 35 crowd (similar to casual games)

Read the full backlog via Twitter search