Monday, December 22, 2008

Blogging Break!

First, I want to thank all the people who congratulated my on the new gig at Zynga. I really appreciate the support.

Second, Happy Holidays. I'm taking a blog vacation until next year, when I will resume with regular updates. I have quite a few ideas brewing, I promise it'll be worth the wait.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Zynga Hires Biz Dev Gold, Pt. 2

So earlier this year, I wrote a post about former Pogo employee, Hugh De Loayza being hired by Zynga as VP of Biz Dev. I entitled it: Zynga hires Biz Dev Gold. I mentioned how he was a great person, a shining example of humanity.

Boy, was I wrong. :)

Six months later, the jerk hires me to be Zynga's new director of biz dev thus shattering the last vestiges of hope that I could make a living at blogging.

Thursday, at the Casual Games Association's Minna Mingle, I came out publicly. Revealed to the world that I'm now employed by Zynga.

So will I continue blogging?

Yes. But only 2-3 times a week. You'll notice that my blogging frequency has already slowed considerably. Sorry about that, Zynga's been keeping me busy for the last two weeks.

One of the things I cherish about my blog is that I have the complete freedom to talk about anything I want. Amazingly, Zynga is cool with me running my mouth off about whatever happens to come into my head at 3 in the morning. They're brave.

Having said that, I decided to not talk about Zynga in the blog. Once you're part of a company it's very hard to be objective about it.

However, since you may be interested, here are the main reasons I decided to join Zynga (over some other options):

1. Hugh. The guy's a rockstar and I want to learn whatever I can from him. (wow, do I feel like a suckup, I'm going to get so much crap about this post at the office.)

2. The job. In many ways, I'm getting paid to do what I had been doing already for the last year. Tracking the industry, identifying trends, and conversing with guys making cool games (so please keep emailing me, I'm still happy to offer free advice).

3. Zynga's vision. After a long chat with Mark Pincus, Zynga's CEO, I decided that I liked him (the most important factor for me) and that he had a smart long-term vision for Zynga (also pretty important). Fact is, it took a lot for me to link myself to someone else's vision rather than my own. A lot. So believe me when I say this: Zynga is going to kill it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Less Than 2% of Adult Gamers have Visited a Virtual World, and Other Tidbits from the Pew Charitable Trust

That's right, folks, only 2% of American gamers have visited a virtual world. However, if you're just looking at teenagers, around 10% have visited a virtual world.

Meanwhile 43% of all adult gamers (or 23% of all adults) play online games. For teens: 76% of ALL teens play online games.

Here's what the newly released Pew Internet and American Life Report: Adults and Videogames says about online gamers:

Just under a quarter (23%) of all adults play games online. Put another way, some 43% of adult gamers play online games. Adults are much less likely to play games online than teens, as about 76% of all teens play games online and 79% of teen gamers play games online.

As with all games, younger adults are more likely to report playing games online than their older counterparts. Fully 43% of adults ages 18-29 play games online, compared with 26% of people ages 30-49, 13% of people ages 50-64, and 5% of those 65 and older.

Respondents who report playing games online tend to play more often than gamers who do not play games online. The majority (59%) of online gamers play at least a few times a week, significantly more than the 41% of strictly offline gamers who play that often. Those who play massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs),5 such as World of Warcraft, are even more likely to play frequently, as 89% play at least a few times a week.6 Nearly half (49%) of MMOG players play everyday or almost everyday, while just one in four online gamers (26%) and 17% of offline gamers play as often.
Here's the demographic breakdown of adult videogame players in the US:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How a Normal User Finds Games on Facebook

I was in a cafe in San Francisco Sunday and I saw a girl playing a Facebook game on a computer. By girl, I mean a college-aged woman, the core demographic of social networks.

The game she was playing was Twirl, an SGN game. I asked her how she discovered the game. On a friend's profile.

I asked if she played any other games. Only one other. Texas Holdem Poker by Zynga. She found about this game via an invite from a friend. A friend that she happened to be with who found out about it via an invite from another friend. Neither played any other games, but only as they explained because they hadn't seen any others.

Both girls had been on Facebook for about two months.

I asked one of the girls how she'd go about finding a game. "I guess I type games in the search box". She did. Only three games came up.

The top one: Mindjolt Games - the app from my friend Richard Fields (yeah baby!).

The Point

Game discovery on Facebook and Myspace sucks. Horribly. If either social network improved the app discovery experience, I think we'd see a lot more players in our games.

The sad thing is right now if you want users to discover your games, you can't rely on quality alone, you have to leverage virality (i.e. send a crapload of invites), or no one will even see your game. As of today there's just over 4000 games on Facebook. More than a few of them are great games and would get more exposure on your average flash game portal then they do in the Facebook app directory.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chinese Games Market Evolves to a Mixed Revenue Model

The Asian markets are often considered a guidepost for how online games will evolve in the West. In particular, observers of the Asian market point to the success of the free to play business model. In the free to play model, users get free access to games and usually have to pay for virtual items or game enhancements via microtransactions. Traditional Western MMOs such as World of Warcraft use a subscription-based revenue model.

In a recent paper, researchers from Bournemouth University, Professor Philip Hardwick and Jessie Ren noted that online game companies are re-adopting a time-based revenue model (i.e. subscription or pay-by-minute, I'm assuming).

In correspondence, Mr. Ren said that the readoption of a time-based model indicates a quick reaction to the changing preferences of the market. Evidently, some people are getting tired of microtransactions. Before you all get too worried, Ren also said that he believed the item-based model would continue to be the dominant business model. Collective sigh of relief.

The following chart (excerpted from the paper) shows the evolution of the revenue model in the Chinese market:

Slide 1

Revenue model changes
Revenue Model Change Procedures
Stage 1:
(2004-early 2008) Revolutionary revenue model innovation
Time-based revenue model (TBRM)
Item-based revenue model (IBRM)
Period 1: IBRM was Adopted by 3 less dominant companies without much notice.
oGamania (Game:Jushang), Sept 01, 2004;
oHappydigi (Game:Tantra), Dec 15, 2004;
oCDC (Game:Yulgang) , May 13, 2005;
Period 2: Top 1 company Shanda adopted IBRM for its 3 games in Nov 2005, and followed by most less dominant game companies (2006-2007)
Period 3: The last 2 dominant companies who adopted IBRM
oThe9, May 2007;
oNetEase, Early 2008
Stage 2
(early 2008- Present) Evolutionary revenue model innovation
Mixed revenue models (MRM) ( Item-based + Time-based + possible other models)
Top 10 dominant companies who adopted MRM
oPerfect World (April, 2008);
oKingSoft (May 2008);
oShanda (July 2008);
oGiant (July 2008);
Less dominant company who adopted DRM (July 2007)