PopCap: Social Gaming's "Golden Era" Is Over

PopCap: Social Gaming's "Golden Era" Is Over

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The social gaming craze may have taken over millions of people's lives, but PopCap Games says the bubble is about to burst.

With social networking games like FrontierVille and Mafia Wars drawing in millions per month from every spectrum of the videogame audience, it was only a matter of time before so many companies tried to join in that the market became oversaturated. PopCap Games co-founder Jason Kapalka thinks that's happening right now, and that social gaming has seen the end of its "golden era."

Though Kapalka says it's "pretty obvious that casual has kind of won" and that "casual is the new mainstream," he doesn't think just anyone will be able to jump into the social gaming market anymore. Whereas a game called FarmTown could once survive off of the success of FarmVille, and a FarmZone could survive off of the success of FarmTown, Kapalka sees a struggle ahead for those jumping on the bandwagon.

"There's no shortage of terrible World of Warcraft clones that didn't really work out, and you'll see the same thing I think here," he said in an interview with GamesIndustry. "A handful will survive, a bunch will fail. You're definitely in the stage right now in social games where there's a lot of bandwagon jumping, where everyone sees money, money, money and suddenly all these new companies appear ... It happened before in mobile, it happened before in casual - in the past it's tended to signal the beginning of the end."

According to Kapalka, social gaming will never go away, but the wild frontier of social gaming has already been populated. He says it's not the end "of the genre, but of the sort of golden era, where everything was a fresh blue ocean and all that stuff." The future of social gaming will be "hard-fought" and "tough," Kapalka thinks.

"You're already sort of seeing that, a lot of the viral growth of Facebook games is now shut down, they have to do it the old-fashioned way, which is by buying ads or by having something that people are actually interested in playing and actually want to want to tell their friends about," he points out.

PopCap will probably continue to do just fine because it's always created incredibly addictive titles like Plants vs. Zombies that aren't flashes in the pan. For those that seek to profit from the success of PopCap and other casual or social gaming developers, it may not be as easy in the future.

Source: GI.biz

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I doubt that. I go over to my friends place for RPing, and he's got 2 computers set up. On both computers I see Mafia Wars and some sort of ninja game, both on facebook. In my perspective, I see the bubble going strong.

It is probable the market is saturated with too much titles. We'll see. Depends a lot on the future of facebook too.

Echo136:
I doubt that. I go over to my friends place for RPing, and he's got 2 computers set up. On both computers I see Mafia Wars and some sort of ninja game, both on facebook. In my perspective, I see the bubble going strong.

That's quite an isolated incident, you can't make a claim on an entire genre from that.

I'm honestly just shocked that 1, there are people who actually want to play these time sinks, and 2, that there's some serious money in it.

How do they profit off these games? Is it ad revenue? Do they charge you 5 bucks in Farmville for the mystical golden cow? How does it turn a profit?

If it is about to end, I will be so happy - See Zyenga go Bye bye will make me smile

snowman6251:
I'm honestly just shocked that 1, there are people who actually want to play these time sinks, and 2, that there's some serious money in it.

How do they profit off these games? Is it ad revenue? Do they charge you 5 bucks in Farmville for the mystical golden cow? How does it turn a profit?

What happens, from what I can understand, is there are both ads and revenue from them charging for "in-game" cash. Its all a sham, but you can't really blame them for making money off of what we consider to be a time sink, while the casual gaming crowd doesn't think of it that way. My manager where I work is addicted to Farmville, and has realized its a waste of time, but keeps playing. Its odd in a way, but he admits to not being able to actually play any other games because they're more then just click to win.

The casual gaming beast is certainly an interesting one. Perhaps PopCap is the "hardcore" casual game developer nowadays.

snowman6251:
I'm honestly just shocked that 1, there's people who actually want to play these time sinks, and 2, that there's some serious money in it.

How do they profit off these games? Is it ad revenue? Do they charge you 5 bucks in Farmville for the mystical golden cow? How does it turn a profit?

Microtransactions.

Social gaming is the most lucrative path of the gaming industry.

Also, shouldn't this be titled: "PopCap takes ball, goes home"?

Now: Statistics!

33 Social games with DAUs of over 1,000,000.
19 with 10,000,000 or more MAUs.
6 with 20,000,000+ MAUs.
3 with 30,000,000. (All Zynga - thus why PopCap is taking their ball and going home.)

PopCap has fallen to 20th amongst social developers. That's why they're declaring the golden era over.

Pencake and CrowdStar with their 43,000,000+ MAUs, Playdom with 44,000,000+, EA with 54,000,000+ and Zynga with their 231,000,000+ would certainly disagree with them.

(Statistics courtesy: Appdata.com)

No market can expand forever. This is a predictable and necessary result.
Celebrate your successes, reap your harvest, but don't forget to tighten your belts.

Jaredin:
If it is about to end, I will be so happy - See Zyenga go Bye bye will make me smile

smile?...i think i'll throw a party...at least they wont be in next years March Madness...

Social Games have become the new MMORPG i see :P

The only problem is social games don't require any sort of investment to develop. Slap some shit together, get four people "playing" (read: spamming the shit out of everyone on your behalf), and you're set. You're well on your way to making way fucking more money than anyone should from an html based text game.

Facebook is the only reason this shit caught on at all. Its been a spammy scourge of the internet since the ARPA net, but until the massive success of a completely unregulated social network, moderators (ya know, those things facebook doesn't have) treated anyone "playing" a "social game" as plague victims. They and anyone they touched were quarantined and cleansed by righteous fire.

But since the internet now has more people of average intelligence than any other demographic, making yourself the unpaid employee of a developer of shoddy "games," is socially acceptable.

Who cares about social 'games' anyway? It's just full of Scamga scams that are saturating the market worse than EA did with their endless sports games or Activision with Guitar Hero. Casual gaming will still have plenty of momentum.

Good riddance. With the "me too!" developers dropping off, maybe we can see some innovation in Facebook games.

laserwulf:
Good riddance. With the "me too!" developers dropping off, maybe we can see some innovation in Facebook games.

AGreed - what happened to the D&D one dammit? Can we have some more hardcore facebook titles pl0x?

Know how he'd be right? If he forced PopCap to stop making games.

The genre would die overnight. At least, the good section of it would.

I'm with Kapalka on this. I always saw the Social Gaming craze as something that would just skyrocket in the beginning and then slowly sink.

Like MySpace.

on one hand zyenga dies (farmvile, mafia wars) on the other hand popcap dies (bejeweled, plants vs zombies)

Tom Goldman:
He says it's not the end "of the genre, but of the sort of golden era, where everything was a fresh blue ocean and all that stuff."

I love the fact that he used the term "Blue Ocean", beacuse that was an accurate description of the ignored casual market a few years ago. Now, however, it is turning into a red ocean, one that is oversaturated with companies. And even more are coming, Microsoft leading the way.

i thought it was hardly started...

Echo136:
I doubt that. I go over to my friends place for RPing, and he's got 2 computers set up. On both computers I see Mafia Wars and some sort of ninja game, both on facebook. In my perspective, I see the bubble going strong.

yeah man, i went over to my friends house and the only games he owns are FPS and WRPG games! i guess that means that only FPS game and WRPG games are the only ones that exist! all the jrpg and srpg games i play do not exist anymore.

...wait...

...

I didn't think any of the statements I made were all that controversial, but a few people seem to have read too much into them.

I certainly didn't say social gaming was dead (it isn't), just that it's now getting harder to break in, especially for new players. The bar for production value has gone up a lot... games don't look like spreadsheets anymore, and take more time and money to create. Viral channels have gotten tougher to use (or abuse). There's a ton of competition from companies large and small, from 1000+ employee behemoths like Zynga/EA/Disney to the swarms of clone/pirate operators out of China and Eastern Europe. Facebook is starting to take a significant (and deserved) cut of profits via FB Credits, and as advertising becomes more necessary to promote games, another chunk there, reducing juicy margins.

As for PopCap, we're continuing to work on social games-- Zuma Blitz is releasing shortly on Facebook-- but also on other platforms, new and old. We're doing lots of stuff besides Facebook games, like tomorrow's launch of Plants vs Zombies for XBLA.

And as for us "taking our ball and going home," that's just ridiculous. Even if that was something we could theoretically do (which it isn't), we're doing very well in social right now, thank you. If you want to look up numbers on appdata.com, you'd see that by DAU (Daily Active Users, generally considered a more legitimate measure than monthly) Bejeweled Blitz, at 4.4 million DAU, is currently the #6 Facebook app, having just passed Mafia Wars. By DAU, we're the #7 developer overall, just a bit behind Playdom and Crowdstar. And this is with just one game, no advertising, and maybe 30 or so people in our social game department.

So, we'll be sticking around in social, but the point was that the days of the "Gold Rush" may be closing fast.

Jason Kapalka

I like how he brought up the Facebook game Farm Town in this article. But I would like to point something out about Farm Town and Farmville. Farm Town was out long before Farmville. I played Farmtown a good 4-5 months before someone was like hey since you play Farm Town with me try this one out. Seriously Zynga streamlined what Farm Town was made it easier to play added in the buildings and all that jazz so it wasn't just a clone it was an upgrade as well.

I think part of it is that there's only so many permutations available in the social-games formula. You can get people playing Mafia Wars and FarmVille, but how much of the market is left over for some new game's launch. Much like WoW keeps the audience captive for the MMO market and doesn't leave much room for startups (while itself remaining very profitable), so too does it go with Farmville and its ilk. The games already in existence have their addicts. New games? "But I'm already playing like five of them", the Facebook addict will say. "Sorry, no room for one more."

Tom Goldman:
Though Kapalka says it's "pretty obvious that casual has kind of won" and that "casual is the new mainstream,"

o.0

Somebody take Mr. Kapalka to that lovely plave with the padded walls and jackets that make you hug yourself because he's nuts.

They'll still strive as long as people use Facebook...

I'm sick of wall spam - I will walk away from games now where the only way to progress is to spam spam spam spam spam spam

Sucked me in briefly - but ye gods I got out quick when mafia wars turned into event a week, mass spam needing 100's of friends expanding stupidly rapidly....I got sick quick and ditched it and I was pretty far on (tidying up the main quest lines)

Does that mean we can start rejoicing? I mean, it's always good when anyone enjoys a game, but that huge craze was getting a bit tiring to watch.

Oh good. I wonder if the decline in social "gaming" will see the people bored with the likes of Farmville and Mafia Wars actually try real games for the first time in their life.

Wait what this thread is a year old O_o

 

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