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GDC Canada: Super Rewards' Bailey: 'Quit Your Job And Make Facebook Games'
GDC Canada: Super Rewards' Bailey: 'Quit Your Job And Make Facebook Games'
May 7, 2010 | By Brandon Sheffield

May 7, 2010 | By Brandon Sheffield

There are 200 million unique users playing games per month on Facebook, and they’re playing 4 games on average -- stats fast becoming familiar to anyone with an ear to the social gaming sphere. Does that mean it's time for a career change for traditional developers?

Super Rewards CEO Jason Bailey thinks so, and at GDC Canada, he laid out his mandate: "What I’m going to do today is convince you all to quit your jobs, and go make social games,” he said. “Because you really, really should.”

Super Rewards is an early virtual currency platform that supports Facebook, Myspace, and the MMO space, and the CEO has seen enormous opportunity in viral, social gaming.

"Everybody is moving to Facebook," he said. "My mother plays FarmVille, and I don’t think she played Monopoly as a kid, frankly."

Facebook has become mainstream, but as the space gets more crowded, it becomes more difficult to break in as a new developer. Still, Bailey says it's not impossible.

“One of the biggest myths is that Facebook has shut down the viral channels,” he said, citing common dismissals of the platform that "oh, Facebook’s getting rid of notifications, the gold rush is over. Only Zynga can do it, only Playdom can do it. I’m going to have to dispel that."

As a case study, he showed a slide representing the growth of the new Family Feud game, from Russell Ovan’s company Backstage. It went from zero users in March to over a million users daily now.

"Is it because Russ spent a lot of money? Or maybe he’s like Zynga, and pushed users from other games into this game," posed Bailey. "Absolutely not. He used the Facebook viral channels.”

Bailey was dismissive of launching a browser game on its own, independent of a social platform. “You can go out there and make the best game ever, then put it on its own standalone site. Then tell me how that goes,” he joked.

By way of a second example, he showed stats for a game that launched only four days ago. By day four, it has almost 70,000 active daily users. “There was not a nickel spent on marketing, just using the Facebook viral channels.”

"If Super Mario were invented today,” he posed, “This is how it would work. Every time you found a mushroom, it would push to share it with your friends." In fact, just days ago, consumer weblog Kotaku recently published a series of humorous images intended to satirize -- and lament -- that same fact.

Bailey suggested that while most Facebook games can become profitable just by using the viral channels, if you do have the power and money to advertise, you can get crazy results. Zynga’s latest game, Treasure Isle, went from zero to 9 million users in six days.

Average revenue per user is low in Facebook games, he admits, but doesn’t think it’s a problem. “Sure it’s low, but you’ve got 10 million of them!”

Based on the checks Bailey is paying out to his customers, these are the ARPUs he found broken down by genre:

- Farming genre: 10-20 cents per month per user
- X Wars RPGs (such as Mafia Wars): .25-$1
- City building: sub 10 cents
- Gambling (poker, lottery, slots): .25-1$

Bailey says there is a common thought that the “wars” games don’t do well anymore, but he says he “still write(s) a lot of big checks for these guys.”

“The biggest miss on all this stuff is really the international,” he says. “Facebook is expanding so fast, and most of these companies are missing that opportunity.”

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Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Well, I dont deny that there's money in facebook games, but if I only cared about money, I would be an actuary or something.

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Jason Pineo
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So, huge surprise here, the CEO of a company that (if I understand this correctly) stands to make a mint off of social gaming on Facebook recommends that we all go make social games with Facebook. And presumably sign up with Super Rewards in the process.

Jose Ortiz
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I just closed my Facebook account. Lately, their practices seem a bit shady to me.

Alexander Kerezman
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@Mathieu: YES. You said all that needed to be said.

Carlo Delallana
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I have designer friends who make Facebook games. The day I see them rolling in an Enzo Ferrari is the day i'll jump ship :)

Jeremy Reaban
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I'm not sure Family Feud is a good example, because that's a very well known IP. Maybe not as big as Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy or the Price is Right, but a pretty big name in game shows.

Megan Swaine
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Facebook changes their interface so much, I can't even figure out how to BROWSE the games- I would gladly play Facebook games by indy developers if I could figure out how to find them!

...And I consider myself computer savvy. This doesn't bode well.

Greg Hatfield Jr
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Face book games are bringing in some good money but the traditional games are what hold up the gaming industry. Core gamers laugh at face book games and remember that the very people that hate and said games are bad are trying these games and they will inevitably stop playing. I think it could possibly be a fad. Those are the same people who played Atari when it first came out then deemed it a wast of time. Just ask your self this is a parent, aunt or uncle, or any one in there 40s -50s that you know playing face book games? Then ask you self did those same people play pong? Again this is my opinion I may be wrong , but could we even go as far to say the same thing about the Wii? There sales have been dropping in the wake of face book games could it be to jump ship to the "newest thing"? Keep goin traditional games you are still the core gamer favs and WE They make up the industry. Not trying to crush indy games just asken some questions. We should be making it easier for indy games to get on consuls instead of trying to hit a market of gamers who are not tried and true and for the most part may never be.

Megan Swaine
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I hate to say it, but casual gaming isn't a fad- it's always existed. The same people that have been playing windows solitaire on their PC all these years are now shelling out to stick curtains on their digital cafe. These people have disposable income. And I'm pretty sure there's more of them than us.

That said, I think the industry shifts and changes so much that in a few years Facebook itself could be eclipsed by a different platform altogether. But that's the nature of the beast- we can't shy away from it. Proceed with caution, but don't turn a blind eye to some obvious opportunities.