There’s no doubt now that Zynga is one of the most powerful online gaming houses in the world right now. Cityville alone has over 100 million users and they are becoming incredibly profitable at a staggering pace. A Forbes post, reported that Zynga expects to reach US$1.8 billion in revenue with a profit of US$630 million in 2011. With some of the globe’s heavy hitting investors such as Peter Thiel (PayPal founder), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder), Yuri Milner (DST founder) and Andreesen Horowitz, Zynga is a serious force to be reckoned with. It is speculated the company is attempting to raise US$500 million, equating to a valuation of US$10 billion.
Andy joined Zynga after they acquired his social gaming company XPD Media in May 2010. At a recent Innovation Works talk on gaming, he presented his tips for developing a successful game company.
Here’s a summary
1. How do you expand and innovate? – reach, retention, revenue
i. Metrics available in real time
ii. Can push new versions easily and quickly
iii. Test first, then deploy
2. Metric driven game design
i. What do players really like?
ii. Why are we losing DAU this week – Daily Average Users
iii. Good designer asks metrics good questions
iv. Best course is not always intuitive
3. What makes a good social feature?
i. Really simple – my aunty will like it
ii. Aligned with at least one key metric
iii. Virality, user to user and one to many
iv. Engagement – come back regularly
v. Revenue – something worth paying for
4. Examples of features that work well
i. Gifting – free social capital for coming back
ii. Collections – collecting and trading together
iii. Harvest – return compulsion
iv. Missions – working together to achieve a goal
v. I win you win – not zero sum
5. Team effort build – Web + Game
i. Product Manager – Analysis, prioritise, feature spec, UX
ii. Game Designer – game systems, levels, mechanics, UX
iii. Producer – Drives execution, cracks the whip – on schedule
6. Suggestions for independent developers
i. Don’t copy leading games (you’ll never have enough resources to compete)
ii. Focus on something you know and innovate
iii. Aims for high quality user experience
iv. Continuously test with real users
v. Expand, expand, expand
vi. Use metrics and analysis to drive product decision
I know this is a very brief summary but I hope it helps you as a guide. They are all good valid points and can also be applied to any type of business. Happy game developing!