With FarmVille, Mafia Wars and other games, Zynga became the darling of the social gaming world. But after going public, the company wasn’t able to reproduce its early successes and is struggling to release relevant new games.
Yet, Angry Birds creator Rovio and Candy Crush Saga developers King are doing fine. But will King be able to reinvent itself, and keep releasing content updates and new games to keep the money flowing? Social game developers have yet to find the right recipe to release blockbuster game every time. We will discuss this at Disrupt Europe later this month.
As many of these games are very easy to try and involve repetitive tasks, you don’t have a personal connection with your game like you would in an MMORPG. It’s easy to forget FarmVille and move on to Candy Crush Saga. Moreover, because these games are inherently viral, if they fail to attract early adopters, mainstream gamers won’t bother and your game will slowly but surely die unnoticed. That’s why King’s next big game is widely anticipated. While King is probably the most visible example these days, many companies are facing the same challenges.
And we’re excited to reveal that we will hold a panel at Disrupt Europe on October 28th in Berlin with Jens Begemann (Wooga), Misha Lyalin (Zeptolab), and Rina Onur (Peak Games). Wooga is the third largest social game developer in the world with successful games like Jelly Splash or Diamond Dash. Zeptolab has developed multiple games in the well-known mobile game franchise ‘Cut the Rope’. Finally, Peak Games is the most important social gaming company in Turkey, with more than 20 million active users.
They will all have interesting thoughts to share about what makes a social and casual game successful, and what comes first when it comes to designing this type of games. These companies rely on free-to-play mechanisms with paid upgrades. While this model can lead to great successes, the popups asking you to buy new items can become annoying. Finding the right balance is always a challenge. Even veteran gaming companies like Electronic Arts don’t hold the key to this quandary — The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a financial success while Tetris Blitz probably didn’t meet the company’s expectations.
Angry Birds’ place as Rovio’s 52nd game after many failures proves that developing social or casual games is still an art more than a science. For all those companies, Zynga’s decline has told everyone a couple of business lessons — not growing too quickly and being able to change direction are two key elements to staying relevant. But for everything else, social game developers are still experimenting, and it is one of the most interesting game design and business playgrounds right now.
Running alongside the conference, Startup Alley and Hardware Alley will house hundreds of young companies vying for attention.