Playfish: The Social Gaming Provocateurs
August 24, 2009 Page 6 of 6
Do you find that there are important differences between those different social networks, for you guys? In terms of either APIs, or in terms of the way that the user behavior is?
SD: Technically, there's no huge difference. OpenSocial, Facebook, whatever. The API is different levels of stability, yes. People talk about this at length, but don't forget: everything is relative in terms of complexity. And when you come from an industry -- we were in mobile -- where the last games we released were supporting a thousand devices across Symbian, J2ME, and whatnot. So, for us, this looks like a very easy technical problem.
The user behavior question is much more interesting, because clearly, user behavior and needs on different platforms are completely different. There's a reason why you might be a MySpace user and have your friends on MySpace. There might be a reason why you and your friends hang out on Twitter all day long versus using Facebook, right? And those are very specific to your own needs.
So when we go from one network to another, we spend a lot of time trying to understand why you have such different needs, and how we can best address them. Let me try to give you an example: on MySpace, for example, we spend a lot more time thinking about how we're going to let you express yourself on your profile, versus on Facebook we think much more about the streams, and the fact that how can we distill this great world that's happening inside the game in a short story format in the feed so that those stories are relevant, and meaningful when you watch them.
That makes sense. At least for me, MySpace -- and this is totally subjective -- I mostly think of it as a place to go look at bands' profiles, and I don't actually use it. I haven't actually logged in to MySpace in months, but I do use it fairly frequently just in terms of wanting to go check out music.
SD: Absolutely. I think MySpace is a hugely passionate community. There's always the myth of the object-less community, right? People just aggregate someplace for no particular reason. I don't particularly subscribe to that; I think it's always a good reason. And I think on MySpace it's been music, and it's been strongly rooted into that.
The question is, once you have a big community of people you know -- again, it's like, why do people get into the park in the first place? Maybe because it was a sunny day. And that becomes slightly relevant for us, as long as you can provide meaning to them whilst they're there.
So don't forget: we don't market those people. So they distribute and invite their friends to the experience. So if they're there, and they want to play a game because they're on MySpace checking out bands? They can play our games. We never are trying to convince them to do so against their will.
This being said, it's very early days in content creation; we haven't even touched the surface of it. I do think that many of those communities -- how could we use all the MySpace assets that mattered, the Bebo assets, and create an experience that's more aligned with the core object of the platform? Let's not forget, this whole industry is less than two years old. Playfish as a company is 18 months old, and we only have seven games out, so...
I think that's easy to forget, actually. Because the level of discourse is so sophisticated. I think, in a way, that I'm expressing frustration at some of the games, and maybe it's not fair, considering how long people have been making them.
SD: We always think of all of our games as being experiments, at this stage, which are just paving the way to something much, much larger -- which is, essentially, a transformation of the gaming industry toward something that's more socially connected.
I don't like the words "social games" per se, but I think the experiences that are more socially connected is where the industry is going, because that allows better distribution. And two years is an incredibly short period of time in game speak; it's a slightly longer period of rough time in web speak, you know?
In a traditional game development, we're talking 18 months, baseline; twenty-four months, good chunk; thirty-six months is like a AAA game, right. You know, you guys haven't been in development as long as Final Fantasy XIII.
SD: That's right. But we think that as an experiment, distributing a hundred million games is kind-of a fun first initiative step.
To talk about this time framework here for one second: many people ask us why are we so excited about this, and the reason is that Facebook has close to three hundred million people, and they are trying to be the social utility on the web like everyone else, and whoever wins is going to map 1.5 billion web users.
The interesting thing is that the web today is growing faster than Facebook. You can check that; that's true. So, you know, that's amazing. Because that means that that potential for expansion is huge. They keep on saying that they are the beginning of something, right? But they really are.
And the amazing thing is that we grow by close to four hundred thousand users every single day -- and that's slower than Facebook. It's faster than Facebook last year, but it's slower than Facebook today. And so, Facebook grows faster than us, the web is growing faster than Facebook, and that's all on the web.
And then you think about mobile, and you go, like, "Whoa, there's 3.5 billion people on mobile phones..." Then it becomes sort-of mind-blowing, the kind of runway that you have ahead of you. And that's why the experiment we're doing with our monthly audience, which is thirty million monthly actives, is really an experiment in the wider scheme of people you're trying to touch. Because the target being the non-audience, they are potentially any of those people.
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