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Interview: The Secrets Of Wooga's Social Game Success
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Interview: The Secrets Of Wooga's Social Game Success


September 16, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next
 

And I think that there's just tremendous amounts of competition that are going to be pushing in different directions. Like you said, look a few years ago, and there was like very low-spec hobbyist, almost, games being launched; people just trying stuff. Now you see EA launching Sims Social onto Facebook, that's a tremendous level of investment that game had. It had production for almost a year, compared to previous games with very short production cycles.

HS: Yeah, if you look at Wooga games, Magic Land has had the most, until launch, most man months work done. So you know, double size of team, longer schedule to a couple more months, pushing, at launch, even more features. The whole myth of the minimum viable product -- it's gone. It's something that you say to investors to sound cool.

Two years ago it was good, because it was virality. So cheap, virality on Facebook, that you didn't mind if you lost a couple of users in the beginning because your game was sucky, because you got new ones for free.

Now if you lose the good ones in the beginning because your game was too early, you don't ever get them back, and you don't get virality so easily anymore.

So this has changed the ballgame -- it's not anymore minimum viable product. If you do that, maybe as a small startup you have a great idea you can do that, and have some medium success, but not in a big scale anymore -- building a 1 million [DAU] video game doing stuff like that, that launched after two months.

Do you think that Facebook is becoming more and more aggressive about embracing games than it had been in the past? Have you seen any moves from that side that, as a platform, look good to you?

HS: Yeah. I think that the last past year there's been a lot of crying. So a lot of developers crying that Facebook is terrible, this doesn't work, there's no virality, we are losing our business.

And Wooga hasn't been crying. We've been talking with Facebook, obviously giving our feedback, but not crying on blogs and stuff. At in the same time we tripled the amount of users, with not spending on advertising.

So instead of crying, we have focused on making better games. So it's pretty funny actually that we have never -- well, recently, a little bit more -- pushed the monetization, but it has always been about "better games get more users."

So yes, Facebook is more difficult right now, but in the recent months there's a lot of traction from Facebook's side as well. They recognize that 40 percent of people, or even more, play games; they're important on the platform. And they are making money on it, so a 30 percent cut on their revenue.

So we have a great relationship with Facebook, and they listen to us and they have a lot of good features in the pipeline. So currently we are very happy with Facebook. Having said that, we have also launched now on Google+ to see how it does. And... let's see how it goes forward.


Monster World

On one hand you recruit a lot from studios, people with game development backgrounds; on the other hand, people have to throw away a lot of what they know.

HS: Yeah, with that comment I meant from console games. If you recruit from big console game studios, very seldom I meet people from console game background who are humble enough. They come in, they say "I have worked on this and this triple-A game with 100 people, and I will come here and show you how to make games." This is not the attitude to make social games.

You have to recognize it as a new platform, new rules. Yes, what you know is valuable, that's why we're interested in you, but you must be very open to learning all of this stuff because it's a totally different ballgame. You saw it with EA. Before they bought Playfish, they did Pogo Puppies. It looked like a game with a budget of 2 million. It got like 10,000 users, and then they scrapped it. So they failed.

So how come one of the most successful console game companies, if they put a lot of money and good talent, how come they failed so much on Facebook? Because they didn't get the platform, and this led them to buy Playfish.

So you don't have to throw everything in the garbage, but you have to put it aside; you have to be open minded to learn, and then when you learn what is social game design, then you can use the stuff you know.

We've seen a lot of this happening. One of our best product managers is from EA DICE Studio, and he's currently involved in Monster World; amazing stuff he's been doing.

Is it so much leaving aside the tenants of design in game design, or is it more just the mentality of looking at the way products function in the market?

HS: I think it's a little bit both. So like I said before, it's the free-to-play design. I think that's one part. It's the social design. It's the monetization connection. Because you know, if you have an ethical game designer, he doesn't want to bother the user to monetize ever. He wants to make the best game ever and leave him bread and water. So there's a balance between these two.

You have to understand how you build a game loop on social games, how do you create this loop to work, how do you make a persistent world game -- social things. You know, if you've done a level-based first person shooter, that doesn't necessarily mean that you know how to do a persistent world game. So there's a lot of this kind of stuff.

Then when it comes to game designers, usually, not always, they also can not have this distanced intelligence part. Some of them go on Facebook and take a look at these games and then, "Okay, there's some games, but they're crappy." So I think what is important is to take a look at CityVille and understand what makes it work, what makes it tick. There's a lot of ingenious stuff in CityVille.

Occasionally, we meet people with really hardcore background, and they get it. I even have a game designer/product manager test I shoot over. And one of the questions I have there is to get the candidate to play three city builders, one of them being Millionaire City, and analyze game design, why he thinks that Millionaire City was so much more successful than the other two games.

And this task is there because it will reveal if he understands game design. Because there's some game design elements in Millionaire City, which I did before, that were not existent in games on Facebook before then. And some designers get it. Great! We hire them. Others don't. We're not interested.


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