Posted tagged ‘socialgames’

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 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

splash-game2

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!

Casual Connect Seattle 2009 coverage

July 22, 2009

I couldn’t make Social Games Summit 2009 and I’m totally bummed I missing out on Casual Connect Seattle 2009 too (it has an superb line-up of speakers in the social games track). So once again, I’m left observing the event from afar. Like I did for the Social Games Summit, I’m collecting misc tidbits and blog posting about social games from the event into this blog entry. I will update the entry as more stuff comes thru as the Casual Connect is still going on (until the 23rd of July).

Jessica Tams and the team behind the events do a fantastic job on also sharing the information post the event. All slides and audio recordings will be available free of charge (like they are here for the previous events). Jessica is absolutely right that the value of the Casual Games Association is measured by how much they can do for the industry as a whole and sharing information is key part on expanding the industry.

Misc tidbits from tweets (#casualconnect)

  • @gamersvu_abi Playfish/Zynga/Playdom say social games $1.5B industry in 3 years
  • @mikesego: “love is the most important metric” says @sebdeh from Playfish… best answer of the conference
  • @tadej Zynga: games services rather than products. Number of returning players (not play time) correlates with monetization.
  • @katelollar: There are more than 55 million unique [game] players on Facebook every month
  • @amyjokim: why have >1 currencies in a virtual economy? CONTROL. Too risky to have only 1 currency
  • @noahkagan @ what women want panel, #casualconnectwomen focused on collection, keeping active and socializing. 1 knew exact point count on king.com
  • @amyjokim offer your players LOTS of diff ways to spend money (and diff price pts)
  • @danielleleslie Q: How can game monetization models offer scalable engagement and attract branded dollars? A: Anu from Offerpal: Soon, fb app user will watch movie trailer, listen to music clip, etc. in return for virtual currency.
  • @NPDFrazier: Tom Prata – three pillars of successful games: 1) accessibility 2) sense of newness 3) consumer reaction
  • @bonder Trend 1 Virtual Worlds – YoVille, Pet Society
  • @bonder Trend 2 – Customization & Personalization – Farm Town, Sorority Life
  • @bonder Trend 3 – Collections & Wish Lists – Mafia Wars
  • @bonder Trend 4 – Simulations – Farm Town, Farmville, Barn Buddy, Restaurant City (Realtime sim)
  • @bonder Trend 5 – Narrative – Hammerfall, Bloodlines
  • @bonder Trend 6 – Interesting Missions – Street Racing, Mafia Wars, Mobsters 2, Hero World, Sorority Life (mini games)
  • @bonder Trend 7 – Gift Invites – Green Patch, Farm Town, Farmville, Mafia Wars, YoVille, Sorority Wars etc (it works!)
  • @bonder Trend 8 – Donations – Mouse Hunt
  • @bonder Trend 9 – Virtual Items – Mafia Wars, Street Racing, Vampire Wars, Pet Society – lots of opps to innovate here &gift invites
  • @bonder Trend 10 – Friends – Crazy Planets, Mafia Wars
  • @bonder Trend 11 – Social Games and iPhone – Word Fu (Twitter, email, FB Connect), Drop 7
  • @bonder Trend 12 – Using Social Net Data – Photo Grab
  • @hirson tips for fb game success – pt 1 1. Make it fun 2.make it social 3. Think Service, not product 4. Measure everything
  • @hirson tips for fb games success pt 2 – 5. Design for sharing 6. Build your footprint 7. Tailor monetization mix. 8. No spam.
  • @hirson last tips for fb games. 9 use fb resources (verified game and dev garage) and 10. Be a good citizen.
  • @mikesego Over 9.7 million users played a farm sim game (Farmville, Farm Town, Barn Buddy) yesterday on Facebook
  • @mikesego At Gareth’s talk – More people play games on Facebook than any other site on the web. True.
  • @jewlish Wii Mii’s came from Japanese wooden Kokeshi dolls.
  • @NicoleLazzaro Instead of modeling breeds Nintendogs modeled the most important relationship: btwn the owner and dog.
  • @NicoleLazzaro Nintendo keynote: In 2.5 yrs console and handheld market increased by 30 million players.
  • @jmwhite2: 300 new games released per day on the iPhone – 20% of all apps are games – dean takahashi

From 2009-07-22

  • @albertsupdates: “3 min user experiences are too long, 90 seconds (engagement cycles) is more optimal (on iphone)”
  • @albertsupdates Episodic content the future of iPhone games — are there parallels on Facebook?
  • @Jeff Shervin’s stats: Saturday peak days for installs, 25K to $40K daily installs for top paid games (= $250K/day for a $10 game)
  • @GameAddict Interesting numbers about ipod touch making up 30% – 50% of game sales from the panel sales
  • @katelollar 25% of all iPhone games are updated each month
  • @Jeff Bart shares a couple of updated stats on Tapulous: 15M users after a year, half a billion Tap Tap Revenge games played
  • @Jeff AppStore: 68,000 apps, 1.5 billion downloads, 20% of apps = games. Bart points out that apps’ installed base is typically 40/50% iPod Touch
  • @GameAddict Dave Roberts of Popcap: “13% of the market is paying for 65% of the games sales.” 13% = 14 – 24 y.o. Males
  • @gamesdotcom 13% of the population (14-34 men) drives the retail game business. Casual games are after the other 87%
  • brodiegames Day 2 #casualconnect. Enjoyed Arthur’s (@LastDayOfWork) talk. Takeaway: brand building around innovation can win vs high output/low quality.
  • @GameAddict 300 game submissions for mochi coins since yesterday’s announcement by Mochi Media.
  • @johnhcook: Is advertising dead as a business model for games? “No it just sucks right now,” says RealNetworks’ Dan Prigg
  • @johnhcook MSFT’s Hegenderfer at#casualconnect: No Zune phone coming.
  • albertsupdates FB Game Templates Poke/WallApps > MobGames > FarmeGames — What is the next template? Are template going to keep working?
  • johnhcook Hegenderfer of MSFT’s Windows Mobile on app stores: “Anyone who thinks Apple is going to run this thing is sadly mistaken.”
  • albertsupdates “v1.0 of marketplace launching nxt week”-steve/group manager, windows mobile| does anyone care? or is it a greenfield?
  • @lisaopolion Trends in casual online game – Thibaut from Gametap, “casual could become the #1 game genre within 6 mos”
  • gamesdotcom Metaboli.com is learning what casual game portals always knew. The audience plays a HELL of a lot! Casual most played
  • @albertsupdates: “Apple iTunes/Appstore is the new carrier deck” -still sucks w/o strong alternative (social) distribution
  • Kontagent Mindjolt is #7 app: aggregation of games w/ a social wrapper.Whos next to ship something similar from casual game pubs?
  • albertsupdates Thought: 5 stages of game distribution/evolution: box>downloads>flash>social>social/mobile; Can all survive/prosper?
  • @GameAddict: Greg Ballard , CEO Glu Mobile: “there are too many games in the App store and may follow the Atari disaster.

From 2009-07-23

  • @albertsupdates Focus on 2 Numbers – “Avg. Revenue Per User,” and “Avg. Revenue Per PAYING User
  • @RealTweeter Is wellness gaming the next big casual games trend
  • @dwlt NPD: “33% upgrade from free to paid games on iPhone”
  • @georgebray NPD: Gamers spend avg $7 on iPhone games in last 3 months
  • @Kontagent: IMO: 3 metrics: 1. ARPU, 2. Churn & also 3. (v)CAC: (viral) Customer Acqusition Costs
  • @Kontagent 2 years it took Zynga to get to ~$100M+ from $0; How many years does it take traditional co’s to build a MMO?
  • albertsupdates EngagedConf is now going to be hosted next to toyfair – Why? Because VirtualWorlds+BrandedToys = BigTime; Webkins=#1 toy
  • ElaineChase Casual mmos as loss leaders when used as marketing for a bigger property = tough market place for making them a business
  • albertsupdates “MTV has been the most prolific publisher of casual MMOs of anyone in the industry” – Ralph Koster
  • dwlt Koster – Casual & VWs should learn from AAA industry and avoid becoming too enamored with tech
  • georgebray NPD: 25% of online game players use a console. 59% of gamers use a console, 39% on PC and 35% use game websites
  • GameAddict NPD: The most notable changes are increase in women console gamers and decrease amount willing to pay for microtransactions
  • jmwhite2 NPD session – more people playing online educational games than online shooters. (26 pc vs 23 pc).
  • GameAddict NPD: Card/puzzle/arcade/word games are dominating the casual space with 56% of the market for online gaming.
  • GameAddict NPD: $701 mill in Retail PC, $740 mill in subscriptions, and $425 mill in PC Digitial dl’s in 2008.
  • GameAddict NPD Video games sector is the ony category of entertainment to grow in 08′, 33% of entertainment dollars towards gaming
  • GameAddict NPD: Kids lesiure time. Video Gaming and computer use have increased but only by 1 or 2 percent in 2 years
  • @GameAddict 90% of the revenue comes from virtual goods at QQ
  • GameAddict 6 million users on the casual side of QQ. (me: I totally wish more devs looked at asia for advice and tips. They’re on fire.)
  • @albertsupdates Game industry has always been highly fragmented, any market leader (i.e EA) has less than 20% marketshare
  • albertsupdates Game Publishers Focused on “Launch” and “Pushing Users Over $50 Barrier” vs. Social: Virality opt.&commnity building
  • ElaineChase “When NEuropean business does’t know if they can do something they say “no, we can’t” US defaults to “sure, we can do that”
  • albertsupdates Mobile Games 1.0 = BizDev Competitive Advantage; Mobile 2.0 = Content; Mobile Games 3.0 = Social Distribution IMO
  • chriscummings01 Think about this: Tencent in China has 6M simultaneous players at peak; in Q1’09 did $360M gross rev (90% from virtual goods)
  • ElaineChase Swoopo has a ridiculously brillant & evil buisness model based on the premise that humans as a group act stupidly
  • getgambit The ideal competitive model = users who win want to keep playing, and users who lose want to keep playing (until they win)
  • MargaretWallace Nuff said: (Tim) Chang: VC’s are devil-avoid us at all cost. Make it so they call you and want to invest in you.
  • lisaopolion Tim Chang “Content is king, but distribution will be God”
  • GameAddict Chang: Casual 3.0 will be 3d, streaming gaming, cloud gaming (same game on different devices), virtual currency exchange.
  • GameAddict Chang is using the analogy of dance clubs as game business models. Velvet ropped areas easy to see and people pay to get in
  • chriscummings01 “Pitching a VC today? No faster track to the recycle bin than anchoring your business model to advertising.” – Tim Chang
  • @chriscummings01 “From a VC perspective, survival is the new growth.” – Tim Chang, Norwest

Blog coverage

From 2009-07-22

From 2009-07-23 and later

Coverage of Social Gaming Summit 2009

June 24, 2009

sgs2009

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.

Presentations

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

Starting a new (game) business

February 17, 2009

So, what have I learned during the five months Everyplay has been operational? What would I loved to have known before we founded the company? What would be helpful to would-be entrepreneurs? And how much could I cover in 40 minutes?

With those questions in mind I set out to share my thoughts and opinions on how to start a new game business for the good people at the Casual Connect Europe 2009 conference. I was given the prefix “Confessions” so I used Everyplay as an example case in the presentation. We are still in stealth mode, so for those of you looking to learn about what we are building, there are a few tidbits in the presentation ;-).

I had a great time giving the presentation and luckily quite a few people found it to be useful. My thanks to everybody who offered their kind words after the presentation!

confessions

I’ve included quite a few slide notes with the presentation for links to further information, interesting blogs and books. To access those, please download the presentation.

If you found the presentation useful, please share your thoughts in the comments!

P.S. Apologies for the crappy audio timings on the slidecast. After spending three hours battling with Slideshare’s buggy-beyond-belief slidecast tools, thus is the best that could be done.