Socialgamesobserver

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

28Jun/12

Discussing Mobile Social Gaming – Millionaire City

By Huel Fuchsberger

Being a millionaire is a dream that millions share. This helped “Millionaire City” to peak at 13 million MAU in the end of 2010. Today, it only has about 1,600,000 MAU. For Digital Chocolate it still is the second biggest game on Facebook, according to AppStats. It is also a good example to investigate how an alteration of a classic resource managing game translates onto mobile devices and to discus differences of both platforms and their meaning for social games.

Developer: Digital Chocolate
Genre:  Resource Management
Languages: English
Platforms: Facebook, iOS , Android
Active users (Facebook): 1.600.000 MAU 250.000 DAU

How to play
In this early resource managing game the goal is to accumulate resources, build more and more advanced buildings and decorate the city with new shiny items. For “Millionaire City” that means getting money through renting property. The user levels up and unlocks more profitable properties to build his own digital real estate empire. Although the goals of both versions are the same, the appeal is not.  It’s the details that make the difference between the Facebook and mobile version of the game.

iPod-Screenshot-Millionaire City

Game play – touching is not clicking

The touch screen doesn’t change the possibilities for the player in the game but changes his interaction with the game. The mouse has several advantages here. The mouse always feels fast and precise. The player only needs a few seconds to select a building and build it where he wants, more information is shown via simply letting the mouse hover over the property of interest. Zooming in and out is easy and smooth with the mouse wheel. On touch devices all those interactions are bit notchier.

Buildings have to be dragged and dropped into position and then confirmed to be build. For more information the player has to open a new screen by taping on buildings. Zooming in and out is intuitive with the pitching motion but doesn’t feel as responsive compared to a mouse wheel. Right now, Facebook versions of most social games feel smoother when played than via touch screen on mobile devices. Taping on a screen and clicking a mouse may do the same, but it doesn’t feel the same.

Facebook screen shot Millionaire City


Presentation – mobile ghost town

On Facebook Millionaire City has very bright and colorful graphics with appealing animations. Due to the more limited resources of mobile devices the game doesn’t look as good as on Facebook. Again the details are the difference. On Facebook the player can examine his whole empire at once, not so on mobile devices. Also no vehicles are driving on the streets of the city on portable devices, giving the city an intensified feeling of emptiness. With less bright colors compared to the Facebook version and buildings that look muddier in comparison – cities build by the player have more similarities with a ghost town. Also missing on the iOS and Android versions are some small animations when collecting money, building and other interaction. In summary this results in a superior look and feel of the Facebook version. It seems like mobile social games don’t play as well as their social counterpart.

Verdict
Millionaire City on mobile devices isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t a good one either. It shares the problem of many mobile social games that try to sell the same game mechanics of their desktop analogues. Facebook and mobile are two different platforms that have their own set of rules.

27Jun/12

Bubble Witch Saga Goes iOS

By Sebastian Sujka

King.com’s hit game Bubble Witch Saga will offer complete synchronization with Facebook on the iOS version of the game. Bubble Witch Saga  players who link their Facebook account can complete and unlock levels on their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad device and continue their quest on Facebook, and vice versa. Both new and current players will be offered over the game as free-to-play version when Bubble Witch Saga will debut for iOS devices in July.

In Bubble Witch Saga, like the title suggests – a bubble shooting game, Witch Country is being overrun by evil spirits. Players must help the Witch Coven free the villagers and drive away the darkness by taking on quests and challenges. They need to keep the cauldron bubbling by shooting and popping bubbles.


Chaining successful consecutive bursts causes more spiders to appear – bouncing the bubbles off the spiders will net players even more points. Players can rise up the leaderboards and challenge friends’ high scores in hundreds of levels, with new levels being added each week.

With the synchronized mobile version, players will be able to pick up the game right where they left off. Bubble Witch Saga is the only non-Zynga Top 5 game on Facebook. The game takes the fifth position with 4,800,000 daily active users according our tracking service AppStats. With the mobile version of the Bubble Witch Saga the game could even rise in the charts because users playing the game on iOS with Facebook Connect will be counted as additional users on Facebook if they have not been playing the game before.

26Jun/12

Solitaire Castle hits 1 Million MAU

By Sebastian Sujka

Megazebra’s Solitaire Castle is about to become the biggest hit game in the Munich based social game developer’s portfolio. Solitaire Castle was launched in December 2011 and hit the one million monthly active user barrier last week. Currently, the game counts 1,100,000 monthly active users and 200,000 daily active users according to our tracking service AppStats.

Solitaire Castle is likely to continue its way up and to surpass Mahjong Trails, Megazebra’s biggest success so far (All-time high 3,344,166 MAU in June 2011 according to AppStats).

Megazebra is now one of only five European social gaming companies that have more than one million-MAU-game in the portfolio. The other four developers are Wooga, King.com, Social Point and Ubisoft.


In Solitaire Castle you are guided by a friendly ghost to pass stages in differently themed rooms. After a room is finished you advance to the next one, clearing the haunted mansion room by room. You have five lives, one of which is used for every gaming session. The lives regenerate every six minutes.

Compared with other solitaire social games Solitaire Castle mainly sticks out with a spooky theme and more challenging gameplay. Unlike Pyramid Solitaire Saga by King.com it is actually possible to fail and redo a level.

Solitaire Castle implements powerful social features like the trails element, passing friends on the map or receiving helpful cards from friends during a game session. The game also offers a shop and assists you less and less as you continue your game sessions trough the haunted mansion.

Solitaire is a trending game genre on for social games. Solitaire Blitz from Popcap Games (acquired by EA), Pyramid Solitaire Castle from King.com and Solitaire Castle count 8,500,000 MAU and 2,200,000 DAU in total.

21Jun/12

Mobile Game of the Week: Slotomania

By Huel Fuchsberger

Slotomania is the number two slot machine game on Facebook and with 2 million DAU #19 in the overall game chart on appstast.eu. Even though Slingo from Zynga still has the edge over the game from the in Tel Aviv located company Playtika, it is positioned well for a pure virtual slot machine game. Let’s examine what keeps players feed the virtual slot machine.

Title: Slotomania
Developer: Playtika
Genre: Casino, slot machine
Languages: English, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese
Platforms: Facebook, iOS, AndroidGoogle+, Yahoo! Mobage(JPN),VKontatke(RUS), Mail (RUS)
Active users (Facebook): 7.100.000 MAU 2.000.000 DAU

How to Play

As it is a slot machine game, there isn’t that much to explain. The player sets his bets on one or multiple lines he predicts that will be filled with the same signs in row, presses “Spin!” and crosses his fingers hoping for the best. When the wheels stop the player gets his wins according to the pay table and the player can start again. These plays are only interrupted when the player wins some free Spins, in which the game locks the bet and spins five times but without having to pay for the spins – the wins stay the same. Those aren’t the only thing changing the pace of the game.

Also bonus games are occasionally thrown in, in which the player has to play a small luck based guessing game to win some extra coins. Important to know is that Coins don’t represent real money the player can win! Since gambling for real money is not allowed in the App Store or on Facebook, players can’t cash out their wins. At first one would think that gambling without real money would lose all its appeal, but Playtika did a good job in transporting the slot machine game play into a social environment. It is when the wheel spins, where the magic begins.

Gambling with no profits – it works

Even though no real money could be won, the player fast gets sucked in into the hypnotizing spinning of the wheels, hoping for the next win, free spin or bonus game to earn more coin and unlock the next slot machine. The appearance and the sound differ from machine to machine, but the experience stays the same.  The player is ask very little but when he has luck and gets that big win, it feels very rewarding. , so rewarding that he might consider paying for extra coins. Just to keep the wheels spinning and to break the losing streak, just to get that feeling of reward again. Despite the fact, that there is nothing material to win. The key to understand this type of game is to understand the effort and emotional reward ration. Players don’t have to do much, to get the feeling of accomplishing something. It’s a casual game at its core. Not demanding but still rewarding. And the Facebook Connect integration helps to carry this spirit.

Connecting the game with the owned Facebook profile not only opens the possibility of sending Gifts and collecting them from friends, comparing balances and share new unlocks but connecting the mobile game to Facebook synchronizes the balance and level to the version available on the social network. Transition from one version to the other is managed without any big differences. The mobile version only lacks the social slot machine where the player spins a machine using the profile pictures in the slot machine. Due to the Facebook connectivity the game can’t be played offline, that is the only issue and probably just an anti cheat measure.

In summary Playtika did a good job with this virtual impression of a slot machine casino and offers enough insensitive to keep the wheels touring. According to Facebook data provided by Appstast.eu Slotomania appeals to more mature audience. 70% of Slotomania users are older than 26 years. And 40 of all players are located in North America. It’s the love in details of the look and feel of this game that gives it its appeal and proves that gambling without material winning prospects can be very appealing.

Demograpic Data

20Jun/12

Kabam Acquires Wild Shadow Studios

By Sebastian Sujka

Kabam has acquired Wild Shadow Studios, creators of the indie game Realm of the Mad God. Realm of the Mad God combines action combat and role playing game with real-time co-op gameplay, and is now available to play for free on Kabam.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Kabam is quickly expanding our portfolio and we remain focused on delivering the highest quality multiplayer games across genres and across platforms,” said Andrew Sheppard, president of Kabam Game Studios. “Wild Shadow has created an incredible game with a passionate community and Kabam is energized to give this talented indie team even more development and distribution muscle to bring their vision to life.”

In addition to development resources, Kabam will leverage its multiplatform distribution capabilities to make Realm of the Mad Godavailable to players around the world. Kabam currently delivers its content to gamers on fifteen different platforms and seventeen different languages. Realm of the Mad God challenges gamers to band together in groups of up to 85 players to battle against Oryx, the Mad God.

18Jun/12

IST Introduces Paid Partner Program in Social Game Trophy Slots

By Sebastian Sujka

IST, the developer behind Trophy Slots has announced the introduction of a paid partner program, where social gamers can earn real money by promoting the game online. By partnering with the app, gamers have the chance to start earning cash from their extensive social networks. The program works on a revenue share basis, with partners taking 10% commission (after Facebook fees) of the net revenue generated by all new players they refer.

Each Partner is provided with a unique Trophy Slots URL when they sign up for the program. This URL is then be used to promote the game within their network of contacts and new players are tracked within the game using the Partner’s unique refer code. Reports are sent out to Partners weekly, including information on how much they have earned so far.

“We’re really excited about the introduction of the Trophy Slots Partner Program, as we believe it is a great way for us to grow our player base, whilst also building lasting relationships with the some of the most influential gamers in the sector. We have some great brand advocates already on board and we wanted to create an initiative where these individuals could be rewarded for the hard work they put into promoting the app.” , IST Community Manager Joey Steel tells us.

The Trophy Slots Partner Program is aimed at all social network users who have a large number of contacts.  “Plenty of brands seek out influencers to promote their product in return for freebies. The difference here is that we are offering influential social gamers the chance to actually monetize the networks that they have spent so long building up. Their promotion is valuable and we believe that they should be paid for it.”, IST Marketing Manager Jones comments.

15Jun/12

PopCap Mobile Games Survey: Tablets are Bringing New Players

By Gary Merrett

PopCap Games, has announced the results of its third survey of mobile games consumption which found an overall increase in the mobile games market, a broadening audience, new opportunities unlocked through tablets and new developments in play and spending habits.

“Mobile games continue to vie with social games as the hottest sector of the video game industry and that trend shows no sign of waning,” stated Dennis Ryan, VP of Worldwide Publishing at PopCap, which derives more than a third of its overall revenues from sales of mobile hits like Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. “Smartphone adoption continues apace and tablet adoption has added considerable fuel to the fire. Even more important, consumers are embracing the shift toward freemium games and other add-on game content purchases, driving the dramatic and rapid shift in the forms of monetization being used by developers and publishers.”

The survey, conducted by Information Solutions Group, found increases in overall usage and frequency of mobile game playing among U.S. and U.K. adults. Projections from the data indicate that there is now an addressable market of more than 125 million people playing mobile games in the U.S. and U.K.

Following are highlights from the survey data; full survey results can be found here: http://www.infosolutionsgroup.com/popcapmobile2012.pdf

Mobile Games Market Expands

More people are playing mobile games: more than 4 in 10 (44%) of adults surveyed had played at least one mobile game in the past month – an increase of 29% compared to just a year ago. The ratio of new gamers doubled in the last three years: In 2009, 22% were new players and this year new players represented 44%.

Tablet devices are bringing new players: Nearly one in ten (9%) became a new mobile gamer in the past year by playing one or more games on a recently acquired tablet, indicating that the iPad, Kindle and other such devices have brought approximately 11 million new mobile gamers into the fold in the past 12 months.

Almost half (46%) of all video game time is spent on a mobile device: Phones and computers are the most common game devices (33% and 32% respectively), with dedicated consoles trailing behind at 18%. Frequency and play time have increased since last year: The number of people who play daily is up by 29% in the last year, from 35% to 45%. In addition, 22% play more than 3 hours a week, compared to 14% in 2011.

Tablets are opening up the audience, opportunities for the industry

Tablets are the new frontier in mobile games: Smartphone adoption among mobile gamers increased 16% from 61% in 2011 to 71% in 2012. Tablets showcase massive added potential for the industry: 36% of mobile gamers now own a tablet and 74% of the tablet gamers did not play mobile games previously.

Tablet gets a lot of play: 12% of all mobile gamers play only on a tablet; respondents that play games only on the tablet spend 31% of their device time on games, where phone-only players dedicate 24% of their device time to games. People who play on both devices log more game time on a tablet (40%) than a phone (31%).

Dual mobile device owners play more often than single device owners: 57% of dual device owners play daily compared to 41% of single device owners. Dual device players are more likely to be male (56% vs. 44%).

Spending and Gameplay Patterns Shift with the Rise of Tablet and Freemium

Free games and better phones are growing the market: Among the most popular reasons cited for the increase in mobile gameplay are the availability of more free games (70%), acquisition of a new phone with better gaming capabilities (47%) and purchase of a tablet (25%).

Monetization patterns: general spending data shows half (51%) of mobile gamers made mobile game-related purchases in the past year. 62% of these expenditures were for games, while four out of every ten dollars spent was for additional content and/or in-game currency. Players who spend money on mobile games are largely younger than 35 (48%), tend to play multiple times a week (86%) and are likely to own a tablet (45%). Also, mobile gamers who only play on a tablet spent 1.5 times more on games and game content than those who only play mobile games on a phone ($25.47 versus $16.68).

In May 2009 and 2011, ISG conducted similar studies of mobile gamers on behalf of PopCap; where applicable, historical data from those earlier surveys is presented below along with data from the newly completed survey.

14Jun/12

Fruit Ninja: Freemium with no barriers

By Huel Fuchsberger

In most cases we see a transition from social to freemium mobile. The Australian developers of Halfbrick demonstrate with Fruit Ninja that the other way is also possible and a premium mobile game can work as a free social game as well.

Fruit Ninja launched on the 20th April 2010 on in the Apple App Store for iPod Touch and iPhone. Now it is available for 8 Platforms which includes all relevant Smartphone operating systems, Xbox 360 and Facebook.  Up to its 2nd year anniversary last month, the game was downloaded more that 300 million times. The social version, named Fruit Ninja Frenzy, has 4.9 million MAU and about 430,000 DAU and ranks # 34 of all Games at Appstats.eu. With those numbers it marks the most played social game produced in Australia. What could be is its formula of success? It is simplicity in gameplay and barrier free gaming.

Title: Fruit Ninja
DeveloperHalfbrick
Genre: Arcade
Languages: English
PlatformsFacebook, iOS, Android, Ovi, Windows 7 Phone, Bada, Xbox 360
Active users (Facebook): 430,000 DAU 4,900,00 MAU

How to Play
The goal of this 3D Arcade game is to slice as many fruits as possible. Players do that with their finger tips, by swiping over the touch screen.  To add a little challenge also bombs are thrown at the player. Slicing them will end his game. Also letting three pieces of fruit fall uncut to the floor means game over. For higher scores the player tries to cut several fruits with one slash to get extra points and build up combos.  It’s a game easy to learn but hard to master. This is the classical mode of the game. For variety other modes are included in the game.

In those modes the core mechanic of the game is not change, the player still tries to cut as much fruit as possible. But in the “Arcade Mode” he only has 60 seconds, and bombs only diminish his score and don’t end the game. In the “Zen Mode” there are no bombs and the player only tries to get the most combos in 90 seconds. Also a “VS Mode” is available, to compete in real time with others. On the iPad on the same device. To this core game other features are added.

Players can unlock new swords and backgrounds for the game by unlocking achievements. Also Power-Ups to enhanced chances for higher scores can be purchased with star fruits that are earned with every game or can be bought as In-App purchase. Interesting is, that Halfbrick doesn’t try to cash in on this feature.

Even though the Power-Ups are very useful, you get plenty of star fruits to acquire them. As a regular player you will never feel the need of buying star fruits with real money, a benefit of the premium model for developers and players.  Since players already paid for the game the designer doesn’t have to constantly interrupt the play sessions asking the player to buy something and disturb his experience of the game. The mobile version of Fruit Ninja started as premium game and has not changed its model. But more interesting is, that this philosophy has also made it into the free Facebook version of the game.

Facebook game with no barriers

The Facebook version, called Fruit Ninja Frenzy, only offers one mode to play, which is the arcade mode of the mobile version. At first it seems like a drawback, that only one mode is available – it is not. Every other mode doesn’t really make sense with a mouse input.  Since the slashing is not longer controlled over a touch screen but with the curser a lot of the accuracy is gone missing with this new input device. If for example the full screen mode of the game is not turned on, players are constantly clicking on banner and links surrounding the game window, when the curser leaves the game window in the heat of slashing fruits. To make up for the inaccuracy, in this version the amount of fruits thrown at the player has been increased significantly to make it easier to get high scores and a satisfying experience.

As mentioned there are no barriers limiting the numbers of games – which normally is designed into social games to get players buying more sessions and financing the game. Players in Fruit Ninja can keep playing for hours and don’t have to worry about any hearts, stamina, energy or anything else diminishing. There are two currencies available for purchase, juice and star fruits. But like in the mobile version, there is no real need to do so. You can earn them by just playing the game. Different then in the mobile version, Power-Ups are bought with juice and star fruits are on Facebook only spent to unlock new things. Sure, unlocking everything just by playing would take hundreds of plays, but you could “beat the game” in one session and without buying anything.

Fruit Ninja is a good example, how  premium mobile games can also work well as a free social game, without limit itself with freemium design dogmas. It established itself when mobile games on smartphone’s where rising. On mobile devices the players don’t need other players and can enjoy a game  on and offline, on their own or with others. On Facebook they can compete with friends for the highest score, in a game that primarily is meant to be played and secondarily should monetize. The Fruit Ninja brand stays fresh, even after two successful years and keeps its Indi-Spirit.

13Jun/12

RockYou Acquires Ryzing and Enters Real Money Gaming

By Sebastian Sujka

Social entertainment company RockYou just announced that it has acquired Facebook casino developer Ryzing, creators of the Bingo by Ryzing. According to RockYou the acquisition brings a powerful monetization model in rewards-based gaming to RockYou, plus a real-money, proprietary gaming platform, and a flagship title in Bingo by Ryzing.  The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Through its publishing arm, RockYou Studio Partners, the company announced a partnership with Philadelphia-based Ryzing. in January of this year. After working closely with the Ryzing team to grow Bingo, RockYou decided to acquire the studio and its bingo game.  Ryzing has six employees and 3-4 people from RockYou were working on the team, according to RockYou CEO Lisa Marino.

Lisa also shared with us that the revenue split between ads and virtual goods sales in the bingo game is about 35:65. In RockYou’s Zoo world the split is about  40:60. Bingo by Ryzing enables Facebook users to enter bingo tournaments for a chance to win real-world prizes through free sweepstakes drawings. Although the game is not very appealing to the eye it grew constantly to reach an all time high of 620.000 MAU (monthly active user) and 80.000 DAU (daily active user) according to AppStats.

Bingo by Ryzing has developed a loyal and growing fan-base who play to win everything from cash prizes to charity contributions and luxury vacations. Its social aspects, like in-game chat, posting the news and of winnings and voting for charities to receive donations, helped it win Facebook Bingo Game of the Year in a survey by WhichBingo.co.uk.

AppStats: Bingo by Ryzing

Marino explains  that “RockYou is a media company at heart, focused on driving the highest value per engagement in social games. With this acquisition we become a unique social media company that combines a rewards-based gaming platform with our existing robust ad monetization solutions,” and continues that “Not only is real-money gaming superior in monetization to other types of game genres, it is also an accelerator for our ad monetization solutions, and ports well to mobile and other platforms. These solutions can be used not only for our own titles, but for those of our publishing partners.”

The CEO also explained to us that the main objective for Q3 will be to grow Bingo and to release a second rewards-based gaming title.

12Jun/12

Planeto Brings Social Travia to iOS

By Gary Merrett

It has been very silent around Planeto for quite some time now. The company of charismatic CEO Martin Walfisz set out to build the world’s largest social game about two years ago. The ambitious project “Planeto Quiz” was a mix between RPG and a quiz but unfortunately, did not match the great expectations. The company moved on and developed a strong focus on the quiz genre. Today, Planeto resurfaces with its new game Quizboard, a promising Trivial Pursuit version for iOS.

The Swedish company itself calls the genre “social trivia”. This is how it works: Quizboard lets players take turns answering sets of five questions.  Players then navigate the game board with those questions trying to gain more points to bump up their scores: the person with the highest score when reaching the goal tile is the winner.  Question categories include sports, arts & literature, science, geography, entertainment, and history, and for each question you get right you gain an extra hundred points.

The game lets you invite your friends through Facebook or try your knowledge against a random player.  Push notifications help keep you informed of your ongoing games as well.

Martin Walfisz, Quizboard’s creator and founder of Planeto, is no newcomer to the world of games. Before starting Planeto, Martin also founded Massive Entertainment where he led the company to develop AAA titles such as Ground Control and World in Conflict. In 2008 Massive Entertainment was acquired by global publisher Ubisoft Entertainment.

“After having developed hardcore PC and console games for over twelve years, I felt that it was time to join the revolution of mobile and social gaming. At Planeto our objective is to create games that everyone in the world can enjoy,” said Martin Walfisz, “The launch of Quizboard is a pivotal part of achieving that goal.”