Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Friends For Sale! displaces Scrabulous as the top game on Facebook

That was quick. Last Tuesday I predicted that Friends for Sale! would be the top game on Facebook. At that point, Friends for Sale! was about 60,000 daily active users behind Scrabulous. As of today, Friends For Sale! is up by 11,000 users making it the top game on Facebook

Friends For Sale!: 643,877 DAU
Scrabulous: 632,372 DAU

In the long run, I think Scrabulous will return to the top. After all it's been on Facebook since last June and still holds on to 23% of its audience daily. It's around for the long haul.

It's yet to be seen if Friends For Sale! has that level of retention. It's still acquiring new users at a rapid rate which may could be masking any retention problems they might have (see Andrew Chen's excellent essay on this phenomenon).

So I until I see how things shake out, I'm not declaring a victory for social game design, but I will say this: if you're still porting old games from other platforms, you may want to rethink that strategy.

Here's an excerpt from an interview from 2006 with Trip Hawkins, founder of EA and mobile games company, Digital Chocolate, from the Hollywood Reporter that pretty much sums it up:

THR: But isn't it important for the cell phone deck -- or menu -- to carry instantly recognizable licensed game titles? Is anyone going to want to play, say, "Alien Shoot" when, say, "King Kong" or "Harry Potter" is available to them?
Hawkins: You know, we went through exactly the same phenomenon in the '80s. Atari paid $20 million for the rights to build an "ET" game for the Atari 2600 console figuring that such a game couldn't miss. Then they gave the programmers seven weeks to build the game and, of course, it never lived up to the public's expectations. It sounds like mythology but it's true -- Atari had so much excess inventory of the stupid game that it had to bury them all in an Arizona landfill site.
Okay, so I just like the E.T. reference. In any case, he has a lot to say about the folly of not designing for the platform (in his case, mobile). Read the interview and take heed.