|OK, so their games skew young... but kids have money, too.|
What are they doing right? They are focusing on long-term customer engagement. Their games are free-to-play, with the monetization coming from in-app purchasing. Some critics have grumbled that this is not a sustainable strategy, having just a small percentage of your users essentially paying the bills for the rest of the players. What if that small percentage collectively decided not to spend money on in-game purchases any more? Sure, I guess that could happen. Of course, all the molecules in my coffee could decide to move vertically at the same time, but that hasn't happened yet as far as I've noticed.
Seriously, Zynga's whole business depends on the same concept of a small percentage of players funding the entire audience. They seem to have brought in over a billion dollars so far, so I think we can say that this is not some collective hallucination.
Anyway, Pocket Gems is trying to keep players engaged and coming back again and again. It's a different design philosophy stemming from the differing business model. A decade or two ago wiith traditional retail packaged games, it was all about the sell-in... the game was gonna sell 75% or more of its lifetime sales in the first few weeks, and everything was geared to that. You didn't worry so much about reviews or reactions, because in the pre-Internet days the reviews wouldn't reach everybody, and individuals couldn't get their opinions out to the world easily. So you could get away with a crappy game, at least once in a while. Now, that's become impossible. And you have to build an audience over time, which you can only do with quality and a game design that keeps 'em coming back.