Thursday, May 17, 2007

Puzzle Pirates v. Club Penguin

Sony is looking to buy Club Penguin for $500 million. Club Penguin is a virtual community for kids where the players can earn currency playing minigames. This is pretty much the best news I could have possibly heard, as our business model is pretty similar. So, yay for me.

I've been tracking Club Penguin since December when we started the company. I found it via, an aggregator of web minigames. It was miniclip's most popular game at the time. It was one of two massive multiplayer games listed on miniclip. the other was Yo Ho Ho! Puzzle Pirates, a pirate-themed (duh) MMO where players earn currency playing puzzle type minigames. Overall, Puzzle Pirates is a much better game than Club Penguin. More attractive graphics, great game design, more features. All around a more engaging experience.

Both games use similar marketing techniques, relying on word-of-mouth and referral traffic from their listings in large game portals, like miniclip.

Yet Puzzle Pirates has less than a 1/20 of Club Penguin's traffic. So why does the better game have less users?

The answer is pretty obvious. Club Penguin loads 100x faster. Puzzle Pirates took ~5 minutes to load on my new-ish laptop via an extremely fast internet connection. Club Penguin loads in eight seconds on a shared connection at a cafe.

Unfortunately, users won't wait for better content. Daniel James, CEO of Three Rings, the company that makes Puzzle Pirates, indicated that 2% of visitors they receive via Miniclip became registered players. I think 2% is correct, Daniel will probably correct me if I'm wrong.
I'd feel pretty comfortable speculating that Club Penguin's conversion rate is probably around 20%.

My advice for anyone doing anything on the web. Optimize for loading time. You'd think we'd all learned that lesson from the days of dial-up, but it bears repeating. Optimize for loading time. When you're making great content, it's easy to believe that the users will wait for the content because it's so tasty. The fact is that fast and ugly wins every time.

I'm willing to bet $100 that Three Rings' new virtual world, Whirled, will load like lightning. Daniel's been bragging about how ugly it is.