Socialgamesobserver

The Latest News on the Social Games Market in Europe and Emerging Markets

30Apr/12

Game of the Week – My Shops Lets Players Mind Their Own Businesses

By Regina Leuwer

French developer Pretty Simple Games has only released one game on Facebook, but after almost two years My Shops is still going strong. Launched in 2010 and met with positive reviews, the shop management game peaked at almost 2 million monthly active users and 350,000 daily actives in mid-2011. Around the same time, Pretty Simple Games raised €2.5 million in funding to invest in new titles but hasn’t put out a new game yet. Today, My Shops still maintains a loyal user base of more than 1 million MAU and 160,000 DAU.

Title: My Shops
Developer: Pretty Simple Games
Genre: Resource management, virtual world
Languages: English
Platform(s): Facebook
Launch: 2010
Active users (Facebook): 1,100,000 MAU; 160,000 DAU (according to AppStats)

How to play

The object of the game is to run successful stores starting with a bakery. The player is responsible for  stocking, and attracting new customers as well as expanding the business. Possibilities for shop decoration and customization are sheer endless. Pretty Simple Games regularly publishes a selection of unique user created shops on its Facebook page.

In-game customers demand different types of goods; they can be clicked on and leveled up to develop new tastes. Certain combinations of customers can be combined to unlock a new kind of customer.

Once a player has managed the bakery successfully he or she is enabled to open new types of businesses which require different goods and strategies.

Players are prompted to invite friends to visit and exchange gifts. The game’s hard currency Cash can be used to speed up production and also to purchase vanity items and special game designs.

Tasks and features are managed by using a virtual phone; special promotions and free gifts are published in the form of telephone numbers hidden in a picture – an interesting and unique way of user engagement.

My Shops is an accessible and charming feature-rich resource management title which  takes less traveled paths and manages to be remarkably unobtrusive for a social game.


26Apr/12

Kobojo Joins 1 Million DAU Club Thanks to Arabic Localization

By Sebastian Sujka

French number one social gaming publisher has reached one million daily active users (according to AppStats).  This latest milestone for the company is mainly due to the launch of the Arabic version of its signature title PyramidVille.

Kobojo recently celebrated PyramidVille’s one year anniversary and introduced the Arabic version of the game with partner Peak Games in March 2012. In total the game is available in eight languages.

This Egypt-style city-building game and Atlantis Fantasy have attracted over 300,000 new daily active users in the past week. Kobojo and Peak Games both stress the importance of hyper localization and prove to be a working team.

“We recognize the importance of offering titles whose innovative mechanics are adapted to evolving gaming habits and specifications, whether in terms of languages, operating systems or trends.” said Franck Tetzlaff, CEO and founder of Kobojo.

In 2011, the company expanded its offices to Germany and Spain to better address developing markets across Europe, Africa and South America. Kobojo’s portfolio of games is available in Arabic, French, English, German, Polish, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The portfolio is and now being adapted to mobile operating systems – the new battle ground of the industry.

25Apr/12

Mobile Game of the Week – Flick Home Run!

By Huel Fuchsberger

The mobile game of this week managed to climbed the charts since it’s release in October 2011 up to the #3 Top Paid Game in the US Apple AppStore – the game is Flick Home Run! Infinity Pocket created a baseball themed game for all iOS devices and managed to improve it over the last few months and with their “power update” climbed up the charts.

At its heart Flick Home Run ! is a 2D high score game. You try to bat the incoming baseballs as far as you can and doing it as many times you can in a row to get a higher score. You proceed from step to step (rounds) which represent as set of pitches.

The bat is your finger and swiping is the swinging motion. To keep you on your toes a red dexterity meter diminishes with every new pitched ball or Strikeout. If this bar is empty, the game is over.You can replenish it with good flick – the further the ball flies the more power you regain. The spice in the game are the different pitches witch range from a slow ball over a speed ball, sinkers and other types of throws that vary in their flying habits and need to be bated differently. It becomes a reaction test to adjust your bating to the incoming ball. As a help you have the ability to foresee the next pitch, its called the batting eye. But this power is limited. It can be upgraded with each level up and then be used more often.
With every level up you get one point to invest in more striking power, better dexterity for the power bar (called contact) or the mentioned batting eye. Those skill improve the chances for you to get higher scores drastically. And that is where the In-App purchases come into the game. Since you have to get long runs to get higher steps its very tempting to go the easy road and dope yourself with some bought level ups. But all of it is optional. You can unlock all the modes by just playing the game.

There is also a multiplayer mode in which you try to fill up your score faster than you opponent. Other modes in the game take the mechanics and use them in a different way. In the “Moonstar Bonus” mode, you try to hit the moon to get points or in “Bunt Master” you can have to hit a target in the field to get points. The more time you invest and progress in the game, the more you will get out of it.

In total Flick Home Run! is a very engaging game. There is always something new to unlock or a new pitch or game mode to master and this keeps you coming back and may get you to buy an In-App purchase. It’s a good example for their use – not mandatory for success in the game but useful and attractive. They don’t lock parts of the game as a build in barrier, they just an easy short cut.

Flick Home Run is available for iPhone and iPod at $0.99 and as a HD version for iPad at $2.99. Also Flick Home Run! New free is available for free with just a few game modes and a very limited range for the baseballs to fly.

24Apr/12

Funzio’s Kingdom Age for Facebook and iOS Aims to Balance Deep Gameplay and Accessibility

By Regina Leuwer

Last week, San Francisco-based Funzio released its newest game Kingdom Age for Facebook and iOS, marking the first time a social game has launched on both Apple iOS and Facebook simultaneously. Previously, Kingdom Age was exclusively available on Google+.

The game is a strategic action RPG in which players construct their own kingdoms, hack-and-slash monsters and battle other players army-to-army. Funzio’s VP Business Development Jamil Moledina tells us that Kingdom Age is actually less hardcore than it seems. ”The apparent complexity of the game is actually linear,” he explains. ”We have three layers of game design which give players a choice to do the things they enjoy most at the time: questing, battling or building.”

Kingdom Age is tuned for 20 minutes of play when doing all three activities, but it can also be played in six or seven minute sessions when focusing on just one aspect at a time. The accessible gameplay has helped Funzio to tap into new audiences with 35 percent female users – a high percentage for the genre. Funzio’s biggest game to date, Crime City, has a 75 percent male players, for Modern War the audience is 85 percent male, according to Moledina.

He says that on iOS play sessions are significantly shorter so Kingdom Age was tuned for three and a half minutes of play with a less complex battle system and has fewer menus for the users to deal with on a smaller screen.

Because iOS is not inherently a social network, Funzio had to create a way to connect players – which was realized by letting them exchange individual codes to battle or join forces. The results were surprising, says Moledina: ”On iOS we saw higher multiplayer activity. Players would have twice as many and in some case four times as many battles on iOS than on the Facebook version.”

Funzio’s first two titles, Crime City and Modern War are available for iOS already with good performances in the top grossing charts. Most recently, Crime City was released for Android enabling Android users to battle across platforms against iOS opponents.
Moledina says that Funzio’s Google+ exclusive phase was insightful and the company will continue to experiment with other platforms that are potentially capable to host free-to-play social games for larger audiences.

23Apr/12

Game of the Week – Tetris Battle Succeeds with Real-Time Multiplayer Approach

By Regina Leuwer

This week’s game of the week Tetris Battle is a highly successful social resurrection of the Gameboy and PC classic. It ranks #11 among Facebook games (according to DAU) and has been growing continuously since its release in 2010.

Title: Tetris Battle
Developer: Tetris Online
Genre: Action & Arcade
Languages: English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German
Platform(s): Facebook
Launch: 2010
Active users (Facebook): 16,200,000 MAU; 3,700,000 DAU (according to AppStats)

How to play

The game is played like the original tile-matching puzzle regular Tetris created by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984. Falling game pieces  called Tetriminos have to be arranged to fill lines which are then cleared. The developer Tetris Online, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, was founded in 2006 by Minoru Arakawa, Henk Rogers and the game’s inventor Pajitnov himself.

Tetris Battle adds a competitive element as lines that are cleared by one player appear at the bottom of the opponent’s field.

Playing matches uses energy which can be refilled in the in-game store. Protection against losing XP in battles and customized Tetris blocks are also available for hard currency, seasonal items and special deals are offered regularly. The game’s battle system is very elaborate and encompasses several modes of real-time multiplayer against up to six other players, leaderboards and tournaments against friends or strangers. Friends may also gift energy and other items to each other.
The main mode is two players competing in 2 minute rounds to clear as many lines as possible, in sprint mode 40 lines have to be cleared as soon as possible. There are also different obstacles players can throw in their enemies’ way.


20Apr/12

King.com or Wooga – Who is Europe’s Number 1?

By Regina Leuwer

In the history of social games there seems to have been only one global number one: Zynga. But there are several companies fighting for the second spot – and interestingly the two hardest competitors right now are from Europe: King.com, headquartered in London with offices all over the continent, and Berlin-based Wooga.
This week, King.com announced it had overtaken Wooga to become Europe’s number one. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

King.com, whose most popular Facebook game is Bubble Witch Saga, now has 10,446,002 daily active users (DAU) putting it ahead of Wooga at 10,280,501 DAU.

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King.com’s performance is particularly impressive because King launched its first Facebook game just over a year ago. According to the company, the number of times King’s games are played each month has risen from 300 million to more than 2.5 billion.
When looking at monthly active users (MAU), Wooga is still in the lead with 44,669,005 MAU, King.com has 39,750,020 MAU.

Click to enlarge

Usually, the DAU number is considered the more relevant one because it indicates users are actively returning to a game – so it would be fair to say that King.com wins this round due to a boost in DAU caused by the release of Candy Crush Saga last week.
Wooga hasn’t released a new game in a while but the German developer has been growing steadily and is likely to bounce back.
More in-depth information and data on Facebook games and apps is available on our all-new relaunched AppStats – the public beta is now open for free registration.

18Apr/12

Mobile Game of the Week: Skylanders Cloud Patrol

By Huel Fuchsberger

With the Skylanders franchise Activison merges toys and video games into a child friendly experience for consoles, handhelds and PC. In toy store the Skylanders figures and games sold well and became one of the top kids game in 2011. The second title Skylanders Giants is on its way, but before it, the team of Vicarious Visions is introducing the franchise to the mobile market with Skylanders Cloud Patrol for all iOS devices.

Skylanders Cloud Patrol is basically a continuous on rail shooter in 3D, where the player moves from one shooting gallery to the next. You play a portal master that controls one of 30 magical creatures called Skylanders. Your goal is to bust escaped trolls by shooting them with the board cannon of  your sky-ship and try to stay on patrol as long as possible to build a high score.

The controls are simple; you tap on targets to shoot them. You have to hit the trolls, but avoid bombs. Shooting bombs will result in a game over and you have to start again. There are also coins, crates and sheeps to collect by shooting them. Protecting yourself from projectiles is also crucial because a hits will end the game as well. To get higher scores the player can swipe over multiple targets and shoot them in a combo, these multiples the earned coins and score. The risk is to trigger a bomb by swiping over it. During the game the player will encounters some bonus stages where he can earn extra coins and points. It’s possible to charge your spells by collecting certain items and use spell the equipped spell to earn more points, be invincible or get other useful bonuses.

Scores can be compared with others via the Game Center and coins can be spent in the store for new spells, items and upgrades. Most important in the store is the possibility to unlock new playable characters.

The driving force in Skylanders Cloud Patrol is collecting the Skylanders themselves. They can be collected digitally or physically.  The action figures can be bought at toy stores and come with a web code, which allows the owner to unlock the digital version of them in the mobile game. It’s also possible to just unlock them with gems that can be collected during the game.

On consoles and the PC versions the toys act as storage for game relevant data and can be read via Portals that comes with the game. This isn’t the case for the iOS version therefore there isn’t a real need to collect the figures. Furthermore the different characters don’t have any great impact on how the game is played. If their element matches with the element of the day, the player gets some extra coins for every round.

In total Skylanders Cloud Patrol doesn’t live up to its full potential in adding to the cross-platform franchise. It’s a well designed mobile game that will entertain those who like high score challenges.It won’t  involve the player enough with the different characters to create a bond to them and get intressted in the whole world.  Cloud Patrol is dedicated to those who is already hooked to the franchise. Unfortunally  it doesn’t reward the player in the meta-cosmos of the game which then would have made it to a “must have” for every portal masters.

17Apr/12

5 Reasons Why Social Games Fail

By Regina Leuwer

Out of the hundreds of games released on Facebook only a few make it big, the rest just dies unnoticed. But why is that so? In this industry predictions are especially hard to make but here are 5 issues we’ve observed about social games that don’t succeed.

#1 Not being self-explanatory

Facebook users are especially attention span-challenged. Also, the majority of them aren’t gamers so they won’t ever read blogs and reviews the way core gamers would to learn everything about a new title – social games usually find their players unprepared. Any concept that isn’t accessible or can’t be explained in one sentence is probably not going to work, no matter how clever and innovative it might be. If players are required to read a significant amount of text to understand what it’s all about, chances are they will lose interest before the tutorial is over.

#2 Not understanding the platform

Diamond Dash's clear concept and short session lengths helped make it a massive hit.

Facebook is the world’s largest games platform but first and foremost it’s a social network where people go to interact with their friends. As Trip Hawkins told us: Facebook has always been very casual and it’s a club where users don’t have the time to give either intention or attention to a game. They check on their game while looking at their friends’ status updates or uploading a photo in small 3-5 minute sessions spread out over a day. Many of the most successful social games offer gratification in a short time period of less than 5 minutes. Wooga’s top hit Diamond Dash and other casual games on Facebook are played in 60 second rounds. Though it might work in some cases, usually social games that are too demanding in terms of time and effort have a hard stand.

#3 Not making user engagement first priority

Engaging users with a Facebook game is a Hercules task fighting short attention spans, competition and internet users’ general indifference caused by over-stimulation.

CivWorld's interface looks cluttered and confusing.

All of the industry leading companies are obsessed with testing (pre and post launch) and would make significant changes or even kill an almost finished product if user engagement isn’t high enough or too many players drop out at certain points. Still, a lot of companies throw games on the platform that drive users away with too many features or confusing and cluttered UIs. One example would be CivWorld, the social iteration of Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Despite having a great and proven concept that can work on Facebook, CivWorld failed miserably in engaging and retaining its users.

#4 Being too greedy

Social games are meant to be free-to-play; enforcing paid items early hurts their momentum. The vast majority of users don’t like to pay for virtual goods. It’s certainly tempting to condition players to use premium currency early so they don’t become too comfortable with playing for free, but it’s counterproductive given the plenty of free games users could easily move on too.  Engaged non-payers can be equally important as paying users to reach critical mass and create viral effects. Making them feel unwelcome doesn’t make sense.

#5 Not being social

Even Zynga’s CCO thinks that social games aren’t truly social yet. Many social games could be considered single player or parallel play where social interaction is limited by asynchronous gameplay and mostly restricted to Facebook friends. This concept worked in the past and boosted viral growth when FarmVille enthusiasts would encourage their peers to join, but a lot of users find intimidating. For newcomers that can’t build and cross-promote on an existing audience it can be dangerous.

Some of the upcoming social games by smaller developers (e.g. FARKLE or Pool Live Tour among others) combine synchronous and asynchronous gameplay and enable real-time multiplayer gaming against users from all over the world without having to befriend them – even though new friendships are often the result.

16Apr/12

Game of the Week – Pet Vegas Bets on Cuteness to Win Female Gamers

By Regina Leuwer

Pet Vegas marks Crowdpark’s first social casino game on Facebook and currently the most successful of the Berlin-based developer’s three titles on the platform (the other two being 90Live – Football Game at 50,000 and Bet Tycoon at 30,000 monthly active users). Pet Vegas addresses two core human desires – winning (virtual) cash and looking at cute animals.

Title: Pet Vegas
Developer: Crowdpark
Genre: Casino
Platform(s):
Facebook
Launch: February 2012
Language(s): English
Active users (Facebook): 260,000 MAU, 20,000 DAU
Monetization: Free-to-play with paid premium currency

How to play

Pet Vegas is a classic slot machine game that is themed around a group of cartoon pets.

Users bet virtual coins but also earn XP which each spin to level up and unlock new slot machines as well as maximum bets and number of pay lines activated. Coins and other features such as autospin and several boosters can be purchased with Facebook Credits. Inviting friends secures extra bonuses and players can send each other gifts.

The game runs smoothly and has polished graphics, however all the slot machine features are pretty standard.

What sets Pet Vegas apart from other slot titles is its cute animal theme. The pets add a nice and warm touch to the otherwise cold business of raking in money in casinos. This holds especially true for several of the minigames apart from the actual slots which feature card-dealing dogs and other adorable little creatures. It’s a rather clever combination.

Scientist found that looking at something cute triggers a natural high in the human brain, while slot machines are known for being the most addictive of all the ways humans have designed to gamble – some reasons for this being the random variable payouts, increased arousal through sound and light effects, and instant gratification.


12Apr/12

King.com Launches Match-3 Game Candy Crush Saga and Becomes Third Largest Developer on Facebook

By Sebastian Sujka

The rising star amongst Facebook developers King.com today announces the launch of its first match-3 game on Facebook, Candy Crush Saga.  The game becomes King.com’s sixth Saga game on Facebook. King.com selected the launch date carefully: Just yesterday King.com surpassed EA (and POPCAP) in terms of daily active users and took over rank three in the top developer charts. The company also announced that it has gone from 300 million games played a month to over 2.5 billion a month now in less than one year.

“We have had great success with Bubble Witch Saga on Facebook and we are looking forward to moving further up the charts with the addition of Candy Crush Saga,” said Riccardo Zacconi, CEO of King.com. Indeed, King.com moved from nowhere into the Top 3 social game developers within one year with Bubble Witch Saga being the most successful game in the portfolio.

Candy Crush Saga is a candy-themed match-3 switcher game. The game launches on Facebook with 65 levels and provides several modes for gamers to test their skills against time, limited moves, collecting objects and removing jellies. The objective is to help Mr. Toffee and his daughter, Tiffi Toffee, travel the world to meet characters like the Yeti and Loch Ness Monster. Collecting objects is also part of the game. The game feels very much like a relaxed version of wooga’s Diamond Dash with the typical trails element to advance through levels.  The gameplay is very relaxing, especially if you chose limited moves instead of limited time.

King.com continues its path of developing very casual social games with puzzle elements. CMO Alex Dale tells us that the company will continue doing so as there is a “clear trend back to casual social games” and that the RPG hype on Facebook was rather a short lived trend.

Dale is very bullish about Candy Crush Saga and expects it to perform “as strong as Bubble Witch Saga”. The game is targeted towards a very similar audience as Bubble Witch Saga, mostly women 35+, and showed a better retention than Bubble Witch Saga in the testing phase.

As a reminder: King.com is basically operating as three separate gaming companies. The Facebook game versions, the skill games versions online, and the mobile game versions all have a very different gaming experience. In the online skill game versions of the games users can participate in real cash tournaments which are legally not an option on Facebook at the moment. Browser-based skill gaming can still be considered as part of King.com’s Facebook Saga revenue stream because users can be directed outside Facebook to spend real money by playing the online version of their game. A unique approach so far on Facebook.