Tag Archives: Appointment Gaming

For Fish Sim Games, Does Stealing Make Them Stickier?

As you might expect with the Thanksgiving holidays, the growth in the top fish sim games appeared to wane as we focused on real-life relationships and turkey dinners:

All the fish sim games remained flat or declined their daily active user numbers over Thanksgiving

Across the board, daily users for each of the fish sim games flat-lined during Thanksgiving (although the reporting tool failed to provide new numbers for Sunday the 29th and Monday the 30th of November, most games were flat or down Thanksgiving week). In addition, for Zynga’s FishVille we’re seeing the social game sticky factor (Daily Active Users/Monthly Active Users) declining and it looks like it might settle at a 28-30% Sticky Factor similar to CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium and TallTree Games’s Fish World:

As FishVille's sticky factor comes down to the level of rivals Happy Aquarium and Fish World, My Fishbowl maintains a sticky factor 33% higher than any of them

In this group, 6 WavesMy Fishbowl continues to have the strongest sticky factor, a good 33% higher than other fish sim games with over 1 million Daily Active Users (DAU). I believe their success is primarily due to the fact that it is the only one of the four top fish sim games natively coded in Chinese, which is allowing it to take advantage of Facebook’s rapid growth in Southeast Asia. In addition, it may also have something to do with the fact that My Fishbowl has a strong game element of “stealing” from your neighbors’ tanks (if your friends are late to collect the treasures produced by their fish, you can go in and steal these treasures for yourself).

Read the rest of the analysis, plus the impact on developers looking to grow into Asia and other fast-growing Facebook regions, at InsideSocialGames.com

CrowdStar Builds a Crowd: Happy Aquarium Jumps into Top Five

CrowdStar is making a push to join Zynga and Playfish as one of Facebook’s big multi-game developers, with the top fish sim game, Happy Aquarium, passing Farm Town to take the #5 spot in daily active users with 5.47 million. The application saw a nearly 22% increase in traffic to the site over the weekend and is now using the traffic from it’s hit to promote two other new games: Sexy City (a Mafia Wars clone broadly based on Sex in the City) and Restaurant Life (another restaurant sim game albeit with a real-world look and feel).

The toolbar (above) is a fairly new addition for CrowdStar, but has been a strong contributing factor in the growth for publishers like Zynga and Playfish. Happy Aquarium has been doing a god job of retaining users, posting a strong 30% Social Game Sticky Factor™ (monthly active users/daily active users), partially driven through the ability to earn coins by visiting friends’ fish tanks. While visiting your friends, you can clean their fish tank and send a notification to them that their fish are hungry, providing a very contextual message. Also, unlike Fish World, your fish do not appear to die. While this may make for less appointment gaming and thus less need for a user to come back often, it does help retain a user (nothing is more depressing than coming back to a tank full of dead fish).

Sexy City has been around for a couple of months and focuses a great deal on exclusive fashion items to equip your character and move forward in the game. With just over 180,000 daily active users and 1.7 million monthly users, it’s sticky factor is a borderline 11-12%.

Restaurant Life looks like it was launched in mid-September and mines a similar restaurant sim vein as Café World and Restaurant City, but with less cute animation and a bit more real-world look to it. It definitely positions the game a bit more like dating, with random people you can visit (other than you friends) presented like a cell phone. It too has a borderline sticky factor, with 110,000 daily active users and around 1.1 million monthly active users.

While CrowdStar has a winner with Happy Aquarium, the big question is whether it can improve the quality of the supporting games (generic slots and trivia games round out the cross promotion in the toolbar) to become a publishing power house. In the meantime, one wonders whether CrowdStar would be better off renting out the valuable spots in its toolbar to other developers till it can enhance its offering.

UPDATE: It appears both Sexy City and Restaurant Life are not games produced by CrowdStar, but actually games done by other developers: http://www.insidesocialgames.com/2009/11/11/with-hit-social-game-happy-aquarium-crowdstar-steps-into-the-spotlight/

Is Appointment Gaming Where the Money Is?

When 36% of American households have a DVR, the age of “appointment television” – being home at an appointed hour to watch a show live – is clearly waning. Yet with recent changes to Roller Coaster Kingdom and the launch of Café World in the last week, Zynga appears to be doubling down on the “Appointment Gaming” mechanism of FarmVille.

Roller Coaster Kingdom – a sim game where you run an amusement park somewhat similar to Rollercoaster Tycoon although without the fun of building the coasters yourself – came out July 31st in beta, went through a great deal of fixes, and then on September 23rd rolled out a change to the basic game mechanic. Instead of guests coming to users’ amusement parks randomly based on park popularity, they had to “book tours,” wait for the buses to arrive, and greet them at the park or, according to the post by the developers, “If you do not meet and greet your guests in a timely fashion, they will become crabby and leave.”

Similarly, with the release of Café World just last week, you have to select dishes to serve to your restaurant patrons, prepare it and wait (anywhere from five minutes to two days) for it to be cooked. If you don’t serve it in a timely fashion, the food spoils (the 5 minute to make bacon cheeseburger lasts about 5 minutes before it goes rotten; the hour-to-make Tikka Masal Kabobs last about an hour and 15 minutes).

This is not hugely different from the game mechanic of FarmVille, where crops spoil if not harvested in time. So while it’s hard to argue with the success of FarmVille, it’s also hard to ignore the response from the users of Roller Coaster Kingdom since the game was modified:

  • “I think the whole booking a tour bus is stupid.. now you want me to plan my life around a game… I gotta be here at certain times just so i can keep playing…”
  • “I get bored waiting for the tours to get to my park because I didnt schedule them correctly. Needs to be a way of getting guests while you are waiting for tours.”
  • “Its no longer fun now that you have to book things. What made it fun was getting more people to come to the best park”

This takes the game from a more casual play, to a much more involved one. On TV, users see what is on and if nothing good is on, they go to their DVRs to find something to watch; Using Facebook is somewhat similar, where users see what their friends are up to, and then might dive into a quick game. For the most part, the social games offer that release, but with these sim games, you are forced to check in within a certain time.

In addition there doesn’t appear to be anything to do in between waiting for things. While you wait for dishes to cook, customers come in and leave in Café World; in Roller Coaster Kingdom the amusement park just sits their empty, with no one riding or walking through the park. Compare this to Zynga’s other big hit, Mafia Wars, where you may have to wait a couple minutes to get more stamina to fight, or for energy to rebuild, but you can pretty much count on being able to do something if you happen to log in every 3 or 4 hours. Even in FarmTown there are often trees to harvest or animals to collect things from while you wait for crops to grow.

If appointment TV is dying, why is Zynga putting marketing muscle behind two games that require this scheduling? Both games got placed in the Zynga toolbar atop FarmVille and Mafia Wars over the weekend, driving huge increases in traffic: Roller Coaster Kingdom jumped from 860K to 1.67 million daily active users in a day while Café World (with a healthy helping of Facebook ads) jumped from 250K daily users to over 2.7 million and into the top ten applications on Facebook in just two days.

I can only guess that when Zynga compared the monetization metrics of a more free-flow Roller Coaster Kingdom experience to those of the more scheduling-based game play of FarmVille, the users who ended up really investing time in scheduling were the ones that Zynga could better monetize. While an engaged user is in most cases easier to monetize, I think it’s equally important to ensure there is some joy there whenever the user can spare 15 minutes to go check on the game – otherwise you may only end up monetizing a small niche of users and hurt your opportunity to reach the masses.