Tag Archives: PopCap

Facebook Enforces Most New Policies, Seemingly Lax on Gating Content

Originally Published February 2, 2010

When Facebook began enforcing new policy changes in mid December, it was called a “philosophical approach to platform governance.” As Inside Facebook reported, “instead of trying to spell out all the rules in detail, it is laying out more general principles and reserving the right to make policy enforcements when its policy team deems doing so to be necessary.”

Looking at what has and hasn’t been enforced since the changes were implemented helps provide some intriguing insight into the policy team’s thinking thus far.

Forced Gifting Nearly Eradicated

Just about every game launched prior to the changes in December had gifts (where users send gifts to friends – in most cases to users not already playing the game) first and foremost in their viral marketing strategy – still evident by the number of games where the first menu tab is “Free Gifts” or “Send Gifts.” In reviewing 98 game applications with over 100,000 daily active users (DAU), only about 20% of them did NOT have a gifts component (the largest was Pop Cap’s Bejeweled Blitz with 2.8 million DAU).

The policy:”You must not prompt users to send invitations, requests, generate notifications, or use other Facebook communication channels immediately after a user allows access or returns to your application.”

At the end of January, among games with over 100,000 DAU, only four appear to push users to send a gift to others prior to playing the game: Happy Farm (940,000 DAU), Farkle (840,000 DAU), Garden World (260,000 DAU) and Las Vegas Slots (210,000 DAU). That said, Playdom titles like Sorority Life and Mobsters 2 are pushing the envelope a bit, actually taking users to a gifts screen when you click the Jobs and Missions tabs respectively. So while not necessarily the first thing users see when they come to the application, users still must skip the gifts screen (or send items to their friends) before they can actually engage in the game.

sorority-life-gifting-2010-0125

While gifts have often been considered social spam (with some developers specifically not including gifts because they feel they are too spammy), they have become a very powerful way to get users to interact around a game and one can imagine a gifting mechanism that is a more natural extension of the game’s social aspects.

For more details and additional reporting from Eric Eldon who talked directly with the Facebook Application team, see the full post at Inside Social Games

Early Winners and Losers from Facebook Platform Changes

When Facebook implemented a flurry of platform changes that curtailed some viral marketing tactics in early December, developers scrambled to revive tactics and there was the thought that this might level the playing field a bit, taking some wind out of the sails of the most aggressive viral marketers.

To get some initial feel for the impact of these platform changes (and provide a benchmark for the industry), we looked at Daily Active Users (DAU), Monthly Active Users (MAU) and the resulting Sticky Factors (DAU/MAU) for top developers on December 7, 2009 (just prior to platform changes going into effect) and January 5, 2010. This assumes that the impact of the holidays (across the board dips around Christmas and New Year’s Day) was similar across all of these titles and also comes with the caveat that developer level numbers are not necessarily unique users (a user may play multiple games by that developer).

Developer MAU 12/7 MAU 1/5 % Diff DAU 12/7 DAU 12/5 % Diff Sticky 12/7 Sticky 1/5 % Diff
Zynga 219.5 mil 231.3 mil 5.4% 64.1 mil 62.4 mil -2.6% 29% 27% -7.6%
Playfish 59.5 mil 55.8 mil -6.2% 11.7 mil 9.5 mil -19% 20% 17% -13%
CrowdStar 38.3 mil 48.3 mil 26.2% 10.8 mil 11.0 mil 2.2% 28% 23% -19%
Playdom 22.7 mil 20.8 mil -8.3% 3.2 mil 3.3 mil 1.6% 14% 16% 10.7%
6 waves 38.7 mil 33.9 mil -13% 7.8 mil 6.7 mil -15% 20% 20% -2.4%
Slashkey 18.4 mil 16.3 mil -12% 5.1 mil 3.7 mil -28% 28% 23% -18%
PopCap 10.4 mil 10.1 mil -2.6% 3.1 mil 2.9 mil -7.8% 30% 29% -5.3%
TOTAL 407.5 mil 416.4 mil 2.2% 105.8 mil 99.4 mil -6.0% 26% 24% -8.0%

This initial cut makes it appear that some of the biggest developers (Zynga, CrowdStar and Playdom) have done reasonably well, but each of these developers actually launched a significant new game during the period. Because new games typically haven’t reached a steady state (which inflates the sticky factor) and because we’re more interested in the impact on games existing prior to the platform changes, let’s look at the numbers without Zynga’s PetVille, Playfish’s Poker Rivals, CrowdStar’s Happy Island and Playdom’s Tiki Farm:

Developer MAU 12/7 MAU 1/5 % Diff DAU 12/7 DAU 12/5 % Diff Sticky 12/7 Sticky 1/5 % Diff
Zynga 218.5 mil 212.4 mil -2.8% 64.1 mil 58.4 mil -8.9% 29% 27% -6.3%
Playfish 59.1 mil 54.3 mil -8.1% 11.6 mil 9.4 mil -19% 20% 17% -12%
CrowdStar 38.3 mil 42.0 mil 9.6% 10.8 mil 9.2 mil -14% 28% 22% -22%
Playdom 22.7 mil 18.7 mil -17% 3.2 mil 2.7 mil -18% 14% 14% -0.7%
6 waves 38.7 mil 33.9 mil -12% 7.8 mil 6.7 mil -14% 20% 20% -2.4%
Slashkey 18.4 mil 16.3 mil -12% 5.1 mil 3.7 mil -28% 28% 23% -18%
PopCap 10.4 mil 10.1 mil -2.6% 3.1 mil 2.9 mil -7.8% 30% 29% -5.3%
TOTAL 406.2 mil 387.7 mil -4.6% 105.7 mil 92.8 mil -12% 26% 24% -8.0%

The total line is not for all developers on the Facebook platform, just the seven aggregated above, so there is some bias in the aggregated numbers because Zynga makes up over half of the total MAU and DAU numbers. But given this caveat, the total line suggests that so far, these developers are seeing on average a 4.6% decline in MAU and a 12.2% decline DAU which has reduced the sticky factor by 8%. I believe MAU numbers will continue to decline a bit more before they stabilize a bit.

See the full breakdown of the winners and losers including commentary on each developer at InsideSocialGames.com

Five Reasons Facebook Games Are Not a Fad

As originally published at Games.com and later highlighted by Silicon Alley Insider.

No one questions whether sharing news or photos with friends and family is a fad, and when people get together to socialize, they often play games – from bridge to charades to Trivial Pursuit. As one of the largest social gathering spots on the web, Facebook is no different and here are five reasons why I don’t think Facebook games are a fad:

  1. Facebook Games are Recommended by Your Friends

    • Your social network is unquestionably the most trusted resource for making decisions – recommendations and word of mouth from trusted friends and family has always been the most influential factor in purchase decisions. In the past, we used to go to Google to search for something. Today, we ask our friends on Facebook and get the recommendations we need to make a decision.
    • Game portals have gone further and further in this direction, initially recommending games to play, then integrating user reviews. But it’s hard to beat a recommendation from someone’s personal network of friends and family, and this is where Facebook excels.
  2. Facebook Games Provide Hours of Play for Free
    • My favorite story is a friend who was at a local game store and overheard a family looking at different console games. The wife said, “No, put that down, I’m just going to play that farm game.” The fact that a game like FarmVille is now seen as an alternative to paying $35-$60 for a console game should strike fear into Electronic Arts (hence their purchase of Playfish).
    • The download game portals realize that demand for a $20 download game is drying up – just this year alone the price has come down from $19.99 to $9.99 when Amazon launched, to as low as $6.99 with some of the other portals. Likewise, how does a subscription model of $5 a month compete with free?
    • There will always be exceptions for really stellar content – I’m going to shell out $20 for great games like Pop Cap’s Plants vs. Zombies – but the days of paying for a knockoff or slight variation of a top game are disappearing.
  3. Facebook Games Don’t Require a Download
    • Why go through the hassle of downloading at all? Facebook games provide a robust game play all within the browser, eliminating one of the major impediments of getting a user to convert – the download process.
    • Flash games don’t require a download, but ultimately they aren’t nearly as engaging. Facebook games are living, breathing entities that are constantly being updated, expanded and made more interesting like a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Think of Facebook games as the dawn of an MMO without the eight hour download required of your typical MMO.
    • There are still some problems with games being able to run smoothly within the Facebook platform, as I noted in my blog earlier this week. But these are the early days of a new technology and infrastructure will definitely improve. When I was in the download business a little over four years ago, the rule of thumb was that a game that was over 11 MB would never sell because the download would take too long. Two years ago games were reaching the 100 MB level, so bandwidth definitely improved to support more robust download games. The same will happen with Facebook games.
  4. Facebook’s Potential of Reaching Over 350 million Users will Continue to Draw Developers
    • When developing for a single platform gives you the opportunity to reach 350 million people, even capturing 1% of that audience can provide dividends for a developer. It is still relatively easy to enter the market (although there is an increasing need to develop a robust infrastructure and analytics to scale and optimize) which should guarantee further innovation and great games…
  5. Facebook Games Haven’t Even Shown Their Full Potential Yet
    • …and with a bevy of developers being drawn to the space, there should be a great deal more innovation in games. You are already seeing more sophistication in the sim games – the sheer number of feature and item releases for FarmVille each week is staggering. But we haven’t even begun to really leverage the social network (beyond posting social spam to your friends’ walls) and create truly collaborative game play. That is where the next generation of games will cement Facebook games as a truly unique gaming experience.