Tag Archives: Playfish

Expand the Brand: Game Applications on Facebook Not Fully Engaging Their Fans

While game applications have used Notifications to get their message across, they can be seen as obtrusive, obscuring personal updatesThe top games on Facebook typically do a good job of leveraging your network of friends to get users into the game, whether through invitations or you posting to your Wall (and thus the homepage stream) about reaching new achievements or passing a friend’s high scores. Applications also have the ability to post items into the user’s notifications, like the example at right, either triggered by a friend action (like Farm Town) or a straight promotional placement (likeTexas Hold’em Poker and YoVille) to all the application users.

While the notifications are powerful, users may find application notifications as an intrusion (expecting more personal things like “Friend Joe commented on your photos”) and this is exacerbated by lengthy application notifications crowding out the personal ones . Much like Twitter, marketers are hampered by the need to be brief yet still get their message across without irritating a user enough to opt-out.

Another notification platform available to application owners that isn’t as frequently used, but provides more flexibility, is the Fan Page/Application Wall page (NOTE: Applications began to have the ability to do the same thing as Fan Pages on May 20th). This allows the administrator to write a status, post a picture or a link and the status update shows up in the homepage stream for each of the application’s fans. Here is an example from Pet Society that went out on Monday:

Most marketers would salivate at the opportunity to tap into an audience that pro-actively chose to support their brand, yet barely half of the top twenty games have started using a Fan Page or the upgraded Application page and of those, only two have made more than four comments in the last 30 days:

Rank Game Developer Daily Active Users Fans Fans as % of DAU Wall Updates
#1 Farm Town Slashdot 3,580,000 383,911 11% none
#2 Mafia Wars Zynga 2,870,000 2,233,760* 78% 11
#3 Pet Society Playfish 2,790,000 1,447,682 52% 4
#4 Texas Hold’em Poker Zynga 2,480,000 1,637,271* 66% 31
#5 Restaurant City Playfish 1,780,000 220,224 12% 4
#6 YoVille Zynga 1,310,000 274,291 21% none
#7 Mindjolt Mindjolt 1,180,000 170,085 14% none
#8 Bejeweled Blitz Pop Cap 1,100,000 221,351 20% 3
#9 Biotronic Metrogames 559,000 46,475 8% none
#10 Barn Buddy The Broth Inc 544,000 66,861 12% none
#11 Waka-Waka Metrogames 412,660 33,393 8% none
#12 Street Racing Zynga 411,000 63,878 16% none
#13 Vampire Wars Zynga 399,000 4,055* 16% none
#14 Happy Farm Hooma Lee 396,000 3,032 1% none
#15 Word Challenge Playfish 382,000 148,047 39% 3
#16 Mob Wars Psycho Monkey 379,000 141,550 37% 1
#17 Sorority Life Playdom 331,000 34,554 10% none
#18 Geo Challenge Playfish 309,000 100,316 32% 1
#19 Chain Rxn Zwigglers 280,000 199,775 71% 2
#20 Biggest Brain Playfish 244,000 145,126 59% 3

Daily Active User stats as of 6/15 from developeranalytics.com; * denotes the “fans” number is from the existing Fan Page instead of the Application Page

Larger Developers Experiment with Biggest Titles

Of those playing with this communication platform, they are typically exploring what is working for their top games and doing minimal work with the smaller titles.

Zynga, for example, was one of the early adopters of Fan Pages back in April and has, for the most part, kept all communication there (they aggressively promoted the Mafia Wars Fan Page to get over 2.2 million fans, but also have 415,000 fans on the application and need to figure out how to manage the two sites — ideally Facebook could determine a way to merge the two without losing things, but that’s bound to be a bit messy).

Compared to the other games, Texas Hold’em Poker and Mafia Wars have been the most prolific in their use of the Wall to get into the Facebook homepage stream. The majority of content for Zynga sites has been focused on contests, such as the possibility for Texas Hold’em players to win a seat in the World Series of Poker, and new features. Mafia Wars spent the last month giving users an inside look at the developer team, enlisting beta users for their new Mafia Wars: Cuba expansion, and then providing tips and tricks around the new expansion. Beyond the two largest titles though, only Vampire Wars appears to have an official Fan page and Zynga has not made use of the Application pages as of yet.

Playfish has only begun to start using the application pages to promote their games, having not created Fan Pages in the past to support their titles (an unofficial Pet Society fan page has just under 800,000 fans). To date, the content has comments have been sparse, focused on new features (Pet Society’s new garden, Restaurant City’s new rating feature), sales on the premium package (Word Challenge and Geo Challenge) and a reminder that the monthly high-scores have been reset. Pet Society, the top Payfish title, just launched its first contest this week using the application wall to post it. Pet Society has a pretty frequently updated blog highlighting new items made available and it would be a surprise if they didn’t start replicating some of the content on their application page.

Again, I would assume that a lot of the lagging around these promotional opportunities is simply a matter of bandwidth, with the larger developers focusing on the top games and the smaller developers just not having the time to dig in yet. But it may prove that retaining users by integrating pertinent content into their fan’s stream may be an easier way to extend revenues than gambling on a completely new title.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at how users are responding to posts, an example of the typical timeline for user responses and some ideas about developing a content strategy for games that might work in the Facebook homepage stream.

Going Beyond Daily Active Users: Which Game Applications Engage Users on Facebook

Six of the top ten applications on Facebook are games as measured by Daily Active Users – here are the top six games and their daily active users from DeveloperAnaltics as of June 4th:

Game Developer Daily Active Users (DAU)
Farm Town Slashkey 3.15 million
Mafia Wars Zynga 2.94 million
Pet Society Playfish 2.77 million
Texas HoldEm Poker Zynga 2.46 million
Restaurant City Playfish 1.60 million
Yo’Ville Zynga 1.10 million

But as with any game, a developer has to ask, do they have legs? Will there be a sustainable audience that makes it worth developing a sequel (if you are in the casual download game business) or extending the application to other platforms (as most start out on Facebook and then move on to MySpace, Bebo and Hi5). While daily active users and of course revenue factor into those decisions, what role does user engagement outside the game play in helping make that determination? Facebook Lexicon (below) gives us some indication of how the games are trending, looking at the number of mentions of key phrases on user walls and status updates:

What, no Texas Hold’em Poker? Well Facebook Lexicon only allows you to use two word phrases and there is not a way to filter out generic mentions versus game-specific mentions, so we’ll have to pass on them for this analysis.

The other thing about the Facebook Lexicon tool is that there is no absolute number of mentions, only a relative graph that shows the overall trend. To solve for that, I’m introducing the Facebook Lexicon Activity Pixel Index ™ (or FLAPI) that measures the number of pixels from the x-axis and to give you a number you can use to benchmark competing brands when using Facebook Lexicon graphs. You can then figure out the FLAPI per user to see how engaged individual users are with a specific application.

Here’s an updated chart with the FLAPI and FLAPI per million daily active users:

Game Developer Daily Active Users (DAU) Facebook Lexicon Activity Pixel Index ™ FLAPI per Million DAU
Farm Town Slashkey 3.15 million 131 41.6
Mafia Wars Zynga 2.94 million 300 102.0
Pet Society Playfish 2.77 million 68 24.5
Restaurant City Playfish 1.60 million 50 31.3
Yo’Ville Zynga 1.10 million 55 50.0

Note that I took the pixel distance using the LAST date where Facebook Lexicon presented data, which was May 31st. The resulting data looks a lot more interesting when you chart it like this:

Now you can see that when you take the FLAPI and adjust it for the audience, you get a great feel for which brands , relative to their audience, have users talking about their game in their Facebook status and wall pages. In the example above, if you took a 45 degree line as a baseline, both Zynga games (Mafia Wars and Yoville) would appear above the line and infer that they are better at getting their users engaged on Facebook than their competitors.

So while a game may wane based on game play, like Pet Society which clearly shows that it’s beginning to lose active users, it very well could be that the active engagement of the users with a game(and possibly the way that Zynga does it) could be actively extending the typical lifetime of a game application.

Interested in looking at how we can apply the FLAPI to other brands, including those that have only a Facebook Fan page and don’t have an application. And also how much the FLAPI is impacted based on these brands having multiple fan pages – today Facebook Lexicon does not appear to mine those pages (”Lexicon shows the number of users that posted each term per day on a profile, event or group Wall.”), but those pages could be driving user posts.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Measuring the Forum: Radian6 Workflow and the Missing Sentiment

If you’ve ever run forums around your product, you probably have a good head-start on managing social media –listening, responding, and managing forum posts is not so different from listening to broader media like Twitter, blogs and Facebook Fan Pages. While my team managed our forums well while I was at online multiplayer soccer game Power Soccer, it was difficult to get an overall sentiment of the community, identify hot buttons, and be able to benchmark how we were doing.

I’ve been playing with different social media listening/measurement/operational tools recently and came up with some interesting ways to get a better feel around your forum posts using the Radian6 dashboards. As an example, let’s look at two of the biggest social gaming providers, Zynga and Playfish. Zynga’s games include Texas HoldEm Poker, Word Challenge and Mafia Wars while Playfish scored with Who’s Got the Biggest Brain, Pet Society and just-launched Restaurant City. Below you can see the trending of some of these games’ popularity from Facebook Lexicon (MafiaWars is on quite the upward trajectory):

Conceptually, Radian6 (through BoardReader.com) can extract the number of posts and what is being talked about within the forums, primarily by the number of words used. Here is an example of the “Word Clouds” for just forum posts about Playfish and Zynga over the last 30 days:

Now how to make something out of those clouds is the question, and it’s not very straight forward. You have to weed out things that are part of standard replies (things like “forum”, “quote”, “originally”) and other things are very game specific references (with Zynga’s mafia wars you’d expect things like “hit” or “hitlist” or “attack” or “fight” whereas with Playfish’s Pet Society you’d see “cat” and “owl”). Ideally you’d like to filter out some of these known words to dive deeper into sentiment, but Radian6 doesn’t offer this capability at this time. [Similarly, it would be great to “stem” words, so that cheat, cheats, cheater, cheating would all be classified as “cheat” and you’d be able to see how big that sentiment is within your community. Today, Radian6 only looks at exact word matches.]

So what are the subjective terms you can find that would seem to infer positive or negative sentiment:

  • Playfish: Sentiments are generally more positive than negative: fun, love, nice, thank, versus bad; some mentions of “bought”, “items”, “coins” imply they are talking the things they’ve bought for their characters.
  • Zynga: Not a lot of sentiment-specific words on display here, just “good” and “lost” (diving in on that topic with Raidan6 you can jump to a “River of News” to see each post and infer what is being talked about – in this case it is lost chips or items which I’d classify as a negative customer experience); what DOES show up is that mentions of level(s), point(s), and stats points to a much more competitive user base which is completely logical given games like Poker and Mafia Wars.

In a very rudimentary analysis, it looks like the Playfish forum members are slightly more happy, but again this may be more about the audiences for the games in each community where Pet Society is more social and casual with a community posting 6x as much as the more competitive/cut-throat community on Zynga. While competitive comparisons of forums are interesting, I believe you are better served tracking and improving user sentiment within your own forum.

Word clouds are a poor way of determining overall community sentiment and should be used to identify hot buttons (like the example above where we dived in on the word “lost” and were able to highlight an issue where users were losing poker chips). Radian6 delivers a great work flow tool to do this: once you drill down from these clouds to the customer conversations around that word, you can mark that customer for some sort of action (either assigning the post for immediate response or flagging issues using special tags so you can begin prioritizing potential bug fixes or features required).

Workflow is an integral part of operations, and you can measure the number of tickets and responses you provide, but that doesn’t really ensure you are improving the customer experience. Only by measuring and tracking sentiment can you tell if you are making headway in improving how your customers feel about your brand.

To get a sentiment reading of the forums, Radian6 currently only allows you to hand-code each post and mark them as positive or negative – such a burdensome task that it’s really a non-starter for most marketers. Automating the sentiment categorization task is something Crimson Hexagon has made their point of differentiation (see why this is critical for marketers), while Radian6 noted that automated classification of post sentiment is scheduled for July of this year. So we wait, but relish the thought that the technology (ideally some combination of Radian6 tools and Crimson Hexagon methodology) is nearly here.