Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Social Games Competition Isn't Casual

MAU =Monthly Average Users, in millions

Things are heating up in the social games arena. Zynga continues to expand, starting up a Japanese office and now a German office. Meanwhile, many other companies are eying the wheelbarrows full of cash that Zynga is dragging in, and wondering why they can't have some of that, too. This article surveys some of the players and what's happening.

Here's the fun part... Bobby Kotick of Activision seems to think he's sitting on top of the online world. Maybe he's spent so much time gaming he can't tell the real world from a virtual one, but I think that Activision is seriously behind in the transitions affecting the gaming business. Where's free-to-play? Where's social gaming? Where's digital distribution? Yes, Blizzard makes a mint... with a subscription MMORPG model that everyone else in the business is busy abandoning, and even they admit they'll have to transition away from at some point. Otherwise, Activision is sitting on a pile of old-style disc-based games sold in retail stores, and the costs get higher every year while the odds of huge sales get longer.

EA's been struggling for years, but at least they're making moves in the right direction. Activision looks to me like once-huge company Broderbund back in the late 80's and 90's... going from hit to hit and performing well, until one day the current hit expires and there is no next hit title. Oops.

Will Microsoft succeed in making Windows gaming popular? They're trying again, but with the launch of Windows 7 Mobile they may actually have some traction, since that integrates their Xbox Live audience into the phone experience. Will Apple continue their gaming onslaught into the living room through Apple TV? They haven't said so, but it looks like an obvious move with a big potential upside for them. Will Google TV do that as well? Again, it seems obvious, but nothing's announced so far. Same with all the rumors flying about Google's effort to replace Facebook, which has to include a strong gaming component (considering that gaming accounts for more than 40% of Facebook's activity).

What gamers would really like to know is if we're ever going to see some social games with the some sophisticated game play, some meat that hardcore gamers can sink their teeth into. Sure, it's coming... but Zynga hasn't been making all that money by targeting gamers. Competitors will likely aim for the biggest markets first, at least the well-funded competitors. Smaller companies might do very well by carving off a niche too small for the likes of Zynga to focus on.

The land rush for market share is under way, and it will be interesting to see who grabs the most acreage.

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