Monday, March 24, 2008

Is Mytopia the new Bunchball?

Dean Takahashi over at Venturebeat has a fairly glowing article about Mytopia, a new entrant to the casual games arena. Having played Mytopia, it strikes me as Club Penguin meets Club Pogo. Not a bad pitch, eh? No wonder they got angel money.

Mytopia's main differentiator: it's cross-platform, i.e. you can play simple casual games like Chess and Poker against friends on Myspace and Facebook.

Mytopia sounds a LOT like Bunchball, the real-time cross-network casual games platform (now known as Karma Games and Avatars on Facebook).

Bunchball is also built on Flash, also embeddable anywhere, and also cross-platform (Facebook, Bebo). It also has avatars, achievements, a currency, virtual items, and a leaderboard. So how successful has Bunchball been on the old socnets? Not very. It has never exceeded 11,000 daily active users on Facebook despite having the benefit of being one of the first apps on Facebook and the ideal url:

The fact is: creating a community around real-time games is hard. If Mytopia's strategy is to build that community on the back of social networks, then they have a difficult road ahead them. Only one real-time game has managed to have significant traction on the socnets, Zynga's Texas Hold-em Poker. And I would give my left eyeball (metaphorically, of course) to hear from Mark Pincus about how he managed that amazing feat.

If Mytopia wants to succeed if should take a lesson from World of Warcraft. The designers of WoW discovered quickly that not everyone enjoys playing with other people, especially not at first, so they put tons of single-player quests into the game. That way people could play WHEN THEIR FRIENDS WEREN'T ONLINE and still enjoy themselves.

It seems to me that providing a compelling single-player experience IN ADDITION to a compelling multi-player experience is the only way to get a world built around casual games off the ground.

Having said that, for a single-player game experience to succeed on the social network, it needs to have a significant social component, such as challenges (think Jetman) or a leaderboard(every other game on Facebook). And in the case, of a leaderboard, it's more successful if the game is built around a quality people want to brag about such as intelligence (such as in the case of Who has the Biggest Brain- currently just under 200,000 DAU).

To summarize: Mytopia, good idea, good execution...good luck.

(BTW, for readers of the blog, I assume a lot of things about you: 1. you know all the companies I talk about. 2. You know about the games I reference, and 3. You're currently running a game company or investing in one. If I'm wrong about this, let me know in the comments and I'll try and offer more introductory details about the things I'm talking about.)