News, research and discussion on virtual goods, currencies and economies globally.

Feed aggregator

InnoGames Gets Into Facebook with WestWars

Inside Social Games - Thu, 2010/08/05 - 23:10

Since 2007, Hamburg, Germany-based InnoGames has been a developer and distributor of browser-based games. Now the European company is getting into Facebook with a role-playing title, WestWars. Though we have known of this game’s existence for a while now, it only recently became open to the public, and has already moved north of 235,000 monthly active users.

In essence, WestWars is a typical text-based, mafia-style RPG, into which InnoGames has incorporated a number of interesting elements like character customization and gating mechanics. That said, there doesn’t appear to be much that holds everything together, and the app sort of feels like a collection of similarly themed features with no real unifying factor.

As with most role-playing titles, players start out as a nobody and have to work their way up to becoming the top gunslinger in the west. The means of doing so should be familiar to most Facebook veterans as users perform various menial tasks to earn experience, at the cost of energy. When that runs out, they utilize stamina (here, it is called “Duelenergy”) to battle other players.

Most of the standards features are present in WestWars. Jobs (quests) grant experience and cash, with many requiring random items to accomplish, and must to repeated numerous times to acquire 100% completion. In WestWars, there no real story element to this repetition (e.g. Mercenaries of War), but users do earn extra stat points.

This is where the first interesting mechanic comes into play. There are five stats to choose from and add points to (also earnable through leveling up): Energy, Duelenergy, Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. Typically speaking, most games utilize the latter three to enhance a player’s character’s ability when battling other users. However, here, they also play a role as a requirement in doing certain jobs.

Many quests will also grant equipment rewards that can be placed on your character in the usual places — boots, pants, head, etc. — and will provide a passive boost to stats. This interesting on two fronts. The first is that most games use just “attack” and “defense” as it applies to battles. Here, players get a trio of choices, with strength increasing base damage, dexterity increasing dodge percentage, and intelligence increasing critical strike chance (there is also an armor stat granted only by equipment that reduces damage). It’s not a lot, but it does allow for a very slight alteration in play style.

Beyond this, equipment can also provide boosts to energy and duelenergy, giving players a means to increase the number of jobs or duels the do each day without having to let their other stats suffer as much. What makes this interesting is that it gives WestWars a very basic pair of tiered equipment that is normally only seen in massively multiplayer titles. High energy gear would be dubbed “PvE” (player vs. environment), meaning it is good for jobs, but bad for battles, while high, say, strength gear would be PvP (player vs. player) fights, but would disallow for many jobs getting done.

It’s a bit clunky, and a good number of items have a balance between both PvE and PvP stats, but the basics of the system are still present.

As for dueling, the game allows players to challenge both non-player and player characters. Logically, the higher level the character, the more the experience and monetary reward. Of course, this means it requires more duelenergy as well. As it stands, however, there isn’t a health system (the winner appears to be whoever inflicts more damage), nor any real penalty for losing, so all it really is, is a glorified Jobs section.

As for other social elements, there is also the “Gang” mechanic. Like Mafia Wars, your gang’s size is basically a boost to your battling capabilities. However, as in games such as Castle Age, you can also appoint members to leadership positions in your gang for passive bonuses to things like experience gain or energy. Additionally, you can duel a set number of your gang members for one duelenergy and some experience once a day.

Curiously, this core social mechanic, as well as many others, are gated by level. Normally, it is only new missions/quests that are unavailable to low levels. Here, however, it’s jobs, items, the gang, dueling, and even the virtual currency store. There is also a “Character Class” option at level 15 that we haven’t reached yet, but likely, this will fall along the lines of “classes” in other text-based RPGs that either earn more money, regenerate energy faster, or regenerate stamina (duelenergy) faster.

Despite all the interesting parts to WestWars, that’s all they really feel like: parts. The game is in Beta, so hopefully it will all come together in time, but currently, there is just no unifying factor. There isn’t really a visible goal or any gratification to doing anything. In Castle Age, there was an actual story and group boss battles. In Mercenaries of War, it was gratifying to watch your squad duke it out with enemy squads. Here, there is zero story of any sort, and the battles are static images of a noonday showdown with numbers. Again though, the game is in beta, so here’s hoping it gets better.

Overall, WestWars is a game we’ve all seen before that brings a few different concepts to the table, including some basic elements from the massively multiplayer bracket. In the end though, it doesn’t matter how many features exist if they don’t feel like they actually come together to a cohesive point. In its current state, WestWars has neither a story to drive PvE oriented players, nor a visual gratification to battles for PvP oriented ones. In time, however, that is likely to change as InnoGames continues to iterate on this western gunslinger.

Categories: Other blogs

Highlights This Week from the Inside Network Job Board: A Bit Lucky, Playfirst, EA2D, and Storm8

Inside Social Games - Thu, 2010/08/05 - 19:00

Recently, we launched the Inside Network Job Board - dedicated to providing you with the best job opportunities in the Facebook Platform and social gaming ecosystem.

Here are this week’s highlights from the Inside Network Job Board, including positions at A Bit Lucky, Playfirst, EA2D, and Storm8.

Listings on the Inside Network Job Board are distributed to readers of Inside Facebook and Inside Social Games through regular posts and widgets on the sites. That way, you can be sure that your open positions are being seen by the leading developers, product managers, marketers, designers, and executives in the Facebook Platform and social gaming industry today.

Categories: Other blogs

New Hires in Social Gaming: CrowdStar, Playdom, Zynga, & More

Inside Social Games - Thu, 2010/08/05 - 18:03

As has been the case in the past couple weeks, hiring at social game companies has slowed quite a bit, according to our latest look at LinkedIn — or maybe, hiring is continuing but fewer social gaming employees’ job changes are appearing publicly. Most of the activity this week centered around changing roles and titles due to the recent acquisition of Playdom by The Walt Disney Company. All the same, there was at least one major hire this time around, for CrowdStar: Kevin Driscoll, former Director of Program Management at Linden Labs, has joined the company, and in the same role.

Remember to check out our new Inside Network Job Board to see who’s hiring now.

Here is the list:

CrowdStar

  • Kelly Knotek - Formerly a human resources specialist (as well as office manager and executive assistant) at Synthasite, Knotek joins the folks over at CrowdStar as their newest administrative manager.
  • Kevin Driscoll - CrowdStar’ new Director of Program Management was, as noted, formerly the Director of Program Management, PMO at Linden Labs.
  • Gregory Wild-Smith - He takes on a new role at CrowdStar as a new Game Lead. Previously, he was a Lead Developer for the Platform & Development Team.
  • Melissa Wade - CrowdStar players get a new friend this week as Wade is one of their new Community Forum Moderators. Her prior experience stems from a governmental role for HelpDesk for the City of Albuquerque.

Playdom

  • Alan Wootton - Now officially under the Disney umbrella, the Senior Software Architect for Playdom, Wootton, is now known as a “Seriously Experienced Imagineer.”
  • Kira Maisel - Playdom User Acquisition Lead, Maisel, now becomes a Product Manager for Social Games Publishing for Disney Interactive Studios.
  • Norman Kuo - Playdom Marketing Designer, Kuo, moves to yet another part of Disney as an Associate Graphic Designer for the Disney Interactive Media Group.
  • Hays Clark - Joining Playdom from BSQUARE, where he worked as a Flash Developer, Hays is now a Senior Engineer with Playdom/Disney.
  • Ronald Corpuz - Corpuz comes to Playdom as their newest Accounting Manager. Prior to this, he was a Senior Financial Analyst for Alien Technology.
  • Joshua Lu - Another job shift, sort of, as Lu becomes Product Manager/Growth Consulting for the Disney Interactive Media Group; he had the same title at Playdom.
  • Noor Mohammed - The Senior Playdom Artist becomes a Senior Artist for The Walt Disney Company, officially.
  • Ivan Ramirez - Coming from Scrapblog, where he was a Flex Developer, Ramirez is now a Developer for Playdom.
  • Luis Valles - Last on the Playdom/Disney job-shift list is Valles whose official role at Playdom was Associate Product Manager. Now, he’s a Product Manager for The Walt Disney Company.

Playfish

  • Mike O’Connor - Electronic Arts‘ owned Playfish gets a new Lead Game Artist, officially, from their parent company in the form of O’Connor. Previously, he was a Senior Artist under the EA tag.

RockYou!

  • Vladimire Sevcenco - Sevcenco joins RockYou! as their newest Database Engineer. Previously, he was a Software Engineer for SpeedDate.com.
  • Larry Han - Formerly a Senior Software Engineer at NTT MCL, Han joins RockYou! under the same title.

Zynga

  • Thomas Tran - Graduate Student Researcher for UC Davis, Tran, joins Zynga as their newest Software Engineer.
  • Gary Ward - Ward changes roles at Zynga from QA Manager to Release Manager.
  • Suzanne McArdle - Formerly a German Catalogue Manager for Shopping.com, McArdle joins the Zynga team as their newest Customer Support Manager.
  • Alex Wu - The newest Senior Software Engineer at Zynga is Wu. Prior to this he was a Senior Technical Engineer at Yahoo!
Categories: Other blogs

A Quick Look at Location-Based Developer Loopt

Inside Social Games - Thu, 2010/08/05 - 15:06

Five year old location based developer Loopt doesn’t get as much press as newer entrants like Foursquare and Booyha’s MyTown. But the company reports an impressive four million users, and is hard at work on adding features to its own location based apps, as well as striking branded deals to entice users.

Loopt has four big apps. The original, simply called Loopt, helps users share and broadcast locations and updates. Loopt Pulse is a rich iPad version, less mobile than its siblings, while Loopt Mix is for meeting new local friends. Then there’s Loopt Star, the most similar to today’s other successful location-based apps, with a focus on finding nearby deals and rewards.

Star can be thought of “like a virtual loyalty card,” according to co-founder Alok Deshpande. A recent deal with brick-and-mortar store Paul Frank, for instance, had users check-in for a 20 percent discount on purchases. Actions within the app can also grant badges and points, which are tracked against the user’s Facebook friends who also have the app.

The gaming elements are important, says Deshpande, but have to be balanced with tangible rewards. “We launched the app with a couple gaming features and continue to add more in the way awards are structured and the interactions you can have with friends, but we still have real world applicability,” says Deshpande. The gaming elements are a catalyst to make the social features and winning rewards better.”

One key to transferring user attention toward location apps when they’re out is offering the unexpected, like a promotion at a bar within a limited window of time. “There’s more spontaneity [to Star] than coupons, which need a long lead time,” says Deshpande. “And spontaneity is a lot of fun — people like the element of surprise.”

Of course, what Loopt really needs is scale, both with users and partners. Right now, both Loopt and the other location-based apps have multiple partnerships with big brands, but less traction with the thousands of local businesses that might find value in participating.

Early this year, TechCrunch reported that Facebook was checking out Loopt, possibly with an acquisition in mind; however, nothing seems to have come of that, at least yet. Meanwhile, it seems more likely that Facebook will introduce a federated system allowing Loopt and other location-based services to syndicate check-ins to users. So for now, Loopt should have much the same strategy as its competitors: working to gain ever more visibility, until location-based apps can finally break into the mainstream.

Categories: Other blogs

Teaching Marketing in PoweRBrands on Facebook

Inside Social Games - Thu, 2010/08/05 - 03:00

We’ve talked about the spread of educational social games in the past, but they’ve never really focused on an advanced niche. The closest would be user-generated quiz type games, with most apps focusing on young learning of math, history, or science. However, British consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser is running with a relatively new Facebook game called poweRBrands that’s intended to teach users a bit more about business and marketing.

Aside from some virtual space elements to the game, the concepts in poweRBrands haven’t really been seen before (at least not in any lime light). It’s an app that has a great deal of potential, but probably won‘t appeal to the average user.

Players start out in a scant little office with only a quick pop-up guide to tell them what they can do. The idea is to accomplish daily tasks in order to work up the corporate ladder from a mere peon to the president of a company. In order to do these tasks, however, they’ll have to refer to their all-important email box.

Each day, users are given a set number of solo tasks to complete. Unlike Facebook games that simply give players a “do task” button and everything is done for them, poweRBrands asks the user to make legitimate decisions that are based in reality. Here is an early example:

“The Senior Brand Manager wants you to decide on the promotion at your retailer for the new Air Wick fragrance. You need to decide between Buy 1 Get 1 Free (BOGOF) or a coupon. Which of these issues are most important?”

The game will then provide a slider bar with multiple elements such as ROI, market penetration, and market share. The player must then adjust each segment of the bar to mirror what they think is the correct percentage of consideration they should give each part. Depending on how accurate they are, they will succeed or fail, with greater cash and experience rewarded for greater accuracy.

Each of these tasks are pretty difficult if you know little about brands and marketing. Thankfully, if you have friends that play, you can get help from them… sort of. Each friend can provide the user with “advice,” once a day, on what the correct answer is, but what is interesting is that the accuracy of this advice will depend directly on how high level their profile is.

This is obviously one of the major social mechanics to the game, but it is also worth noting that once all email-based, solo tasks are done, users can kill some time performing “team actions” in which they recruit their friends to do various tasks around the office such as “Make the Tea.” These tasks will take anywhere from five to thirty minutes, and will earn both in-game cash and “team spirit.” However, the game never really seems to explain what, if anything, spirit does.

Beyond these task elements, users will also receive random phone calls to do tasks similar to those found in the email, and will even occasionally get a pop-up, multiple choice “bonus question” on their “smartphone.”

The more tasks completed, obviously, the higher the level the player earns. As they grow, their title continually updates, and they actually travel around the world to places such as India, Australia, and Europe. It doesn’t really appear to change much beyond what can be seen outside the office windows, but since it is tied to level, it’s pretty cool to view the map and see where friends are (of course, their offices can also be visited). Additionally, level also gates what items can be purchased for one’s office, including some shameless brand placements such as Lysol products, French’s mustard, Clearasil, and so on.

On the downside, poweRBrands, while having some good social mechanics, is a bit boring at its core. Granted, players can decorate a 2D virtual office space, but the means to earn cash to do so is very dull. The whole slider bar concept just isn’t going to be appealing to the average user, and the detailed, realistic decisions that have to be made will likely prove very difficult for most. This is a game that does not appear to be marketed to the average Facebook user in general.

Though it isn’t a direct recruitment tool, the app does have a number of links to Reckitt Benckiser (RB) careers, blogs, and various accounts. According to RB’s Global Communications Director, Andraea Dawson-Shepherd, and what she said to Worlds in Motion, “[poweRBrands] is a great way to introduce students and early careers sales people and marketers to our culture — and we hope that some of them may look further at our website and other career information.”

With this in mind, the target audience may not find RB’s app all that dull. Just by looking at the questions themselves, there is a tremendous amount of thought and problem solving to be had. Without claiming any sort of expertise in marketing or branding, many of the tasks in the game do seem fairly accurate, and those interested in such things may very well relish in the game.

In short, if you are an everyday Facebook user, then poweRBrands is very likely not the game for you. That said, if you are someone that loves problem solving and has an astute interest in marketing business and learning something about it, then this is an app that is probably worth a closer look.

Categories: Other blogs

Oberon’s Blaze Looks Forward to Multi-Platform Social Gaming Supported by Facebook

Inside Social Games - Wed, 2010/08/04 - 23:43

Enticing Facebook’s game developers away is a popular business plan these days. A couple weeks ago, we reported on a handful of the latest off-Facebook platforms, including Oberon Media’s Blaze.

Oberon is a large and well-respected casual gaming company, so we caught back up with chief strategy officer Ofer Leidner this week to learn more. Like many of its competitors, Oberon has already been doing cross-platform publishing for years. The difference today is Facebook, which has spawned a whole new gaming segment. However, social gaming growth on Facebook has slowed this year and developers on its platform are also looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Blaze is offering an outlet in the form of 55 million unique users across its platform, according to Leidner, starting with launch partners AT&T Games and MSN UK.

Facebook developers can use Blaze to easily distribute their games to a wide new audience, along with built-in monetization and analytics. Like existing casual game portals, Oberon’s immediate value to a developer will be pre-existing business relationships, with any unique technology or IP adding value over time.

But for the moment, the plan is still centered on Facebook.

“I’m a believer in the assets that Facebook has, in terms of its social graph,” says Leidner. “But I also believe that one of the assets of Facebook is the ability to export that graph to other platforms, to enable social activities around the web.”

The plan for Blaze is to spread games across multiple touch points — not just websites, but other devices, too. Leidner is a believer in media convergence, and thinks that before long the same game will be accessible from the web, mobile devices, and perhaps even the family television.

Before that can happen, there are hurdles to cross, both in technology and market size for different devices. But even if those obstacles were gone today, the game market itself would appear fragmented, with games existing island-like on different platforms.

“Right now if you’re playing games on multiple platforms there’s no way for your friends to know what you’re playing,” says Leidner. That’s where Facebook falls short — its graph only tracks its own platform.

With that in mind, it’s not quite accurate to call Blaze a platform of its own; rather, it hopes to be the connective tissue, keeping players on different platforms in sync with each other and thus helping to create the network effect that makes social games work.

Of course, Blaze also hopes to take care of monetization for its partners, a fact that will eventually set it in opposition to the many other publishers and platforms jostling for position.

“Five years ago, when we went and spent time in Asia, we came back scratching our heads and asking ourselves how what we saw was applicable for Western markets,” says Leidner. “Now it’s not how that model is applicable, it’s how you position your business into the model, which also has become very successful in Western markets.”

Categories: Other blogs

Google Buys Slide for $182 Million (or More)

Inside Social Games - Wed, 2010/08/04 - 21:11

Social game and app developer Slide has been snapped up by Google for $182 million and is preparing to announce the acquisition Friday, according to TechCrunch. Our own sources are confirming the story — but say the price is actually higher.

[Update: The New York Times says the deal was worth around $228 million.]

Slide is one of Facebook’s larger app developers, with 14.7 million monthly active users and a million daily active users. Compared to Playdom’s 40 million MAU and six million DAU, which Disney just picked up for $563 million, it looks like Google paid a high premium.

As usual, though, there’s more to the story. Slide’s numbers were actually much higher earlier this year; in mid-March, it briefly hit 48 million MAU, while it was well over 20 million for most of 2009. The company has proven adept at promotion and virality, which could benefit a new Google social platform; its social gaming portfolio, however, is not as large as others, and it has lower engagement as a result. Still, as games took off on Facebook, it moved past its popular apps, Top Friends and Slide FunSpace, to release games like SuperPocus and SPP Ranch!.

Those new games didn’t significantly change the picture for Slide, and the company has been fairly quiet this year, not releasing any new titles. A hunt for an acquirer could be the reason behind the apparent inaction.

Whether the price is $182 million or somewhat higher, it’s still likely far short of the reported $500 million valuation Slide had at one point, not to mention the $1.5 billion that founder Max Levchin wanted to exceed (to beat PayPal’s 2002 acquisition by eBay).

But this still looks like a pretty good outcome for Slide. It gets a powerful new owner as a possible alternative to Facebook, which has sometimes acted unpredictably for developers, as with its notifications changes earlier this year.

Google also acquired a game company called LabPixies this year — probably for far less — and invested up to $200 million in Zynga.

Categories: Other blogs

A Look at Depict 1.6 on the iPhone

Inside Social Games - Wed, 2010/08/04 - 14:14

Though Depict was released on the iPhone back in December by MakeShift Games, the game has shown staying power, recently being recognized as an OpenFeint Gold game, meaning that it’s a title showing “exceptional” uses of OpenFeint’s social features.

Depict is essentially a slight variation of Pictionary, in which players try to guess words based on each other’s drawings. Instead of typing in random answers, Depict takes a multiple-choice approach, thus alleviating the hopelessness of figuring out a bad drawing. That’s a good thing, since the iPhone itself is a bit clunky to draw on, with a setup similar to the pencil tool in Microsoft Paint.

The game comes with two major play modes, consisting of Classic and Lightning game-types with limited time rounds. The former is the most like Pictionary in that players use their finger to draw a random object using a simple pencil tool and a basic palette of colors. On the other side, the guessers are granted a handful of possible answers of what the drawer could be drawing and must select the correct one. Sometimes they might be easy, like a “blue whale,” while other times they may become more challenging with phrases like “half full.”

The winner is the person who scores the highest number of points by the end of the game, with the drawer earning one point for drawing and one more for the total number of points earned by the guessers. The guessers earn one point for guessing correctly and one extra for each other guesser they beat to the punch (be aware that players get one guess).

As players are playing, each drawing appears to be saved and can be rated by the users in the game from one to five stars. These drawings are then used again in the Lightning mode of play which consists of only the guessers. Again, users can rate drawings here too, but they never actually draw.

In each mode, there are also three different ways to start a game. If one is looking for a quick fix, they can enter a Quickmatch and play with random individuals, or invite OpenFeint friends to join in a game. Of course, if the user isn’t feeling particularly social, they can always not invite friends to play, and opt for a simple solo game.

Since Depict is a game that utilizes user generated content, which obviously comes with a level of anonymity, there is always the concern of obscene and offensive content. It goes without saying, that if one delves into random matches, this is an inevitable eventuality. All the same, users do get the ability to police themselves by being able to “blow the whistle” (literally, it’s a whistle button) on any user who is drawing something offensive.

Curiously, the ban of drawing offensive content is actually a written rule in the game. However, this runs strictly on the honor system. The same goes with another rule that states that users cannot use letters or numbers while drawing. Since these are drawings, the system cannot identify them as such, so on some of the harder ones like “oval,” many people still just draw the oval then write “oval” when people don’t get it. In cases like this, breaking the rule may be justified, but it kills the game when people do it for something easier, like a fish. Still, there weren’t a terribly high number of these situations.

Other social elements worth mentioning are the integration of a handful of achievements and leaderboards through OpenFeint. Interestingly enough, Depict also gives players customizable avatars to play and identify themselves with. It’s not so much like traditional avatars (e.g. a person), but players actually get to draw them themselves. Moreover, they can draw a good number of them to pick and choose from as well.

Sadly, since Depict is basically Paint, the level of artistic value is very low. Everything has a pixelated look, which will be hit or miss with many potential players. The real complaint is that it’s a bit tough to draw well on the iPhone with your finger, as it is hard to see what you’re doing on such a small space (this is especially bad if you happen to have big fingers). Thankfully, the game also works on the iPad, so the latter may be a better choice.

Overall, Depict is a pretty nice social game for the iDevice family. It’s simple enough to be fun, and is very enjoyable if you have multiple friends playing with you. Of course, if you don’t have friends with an iDevice, the Quickmatches are an almost equally good way to have some fun. All the same, the fact that it does use user generated content does mean it runs the risk of housing offensive content, leaving users on the honor system to report it, and hopefully, clean it up. Nevertheless, it’s a risk coupled with anything that uses the internet, and all in all, Depict is a good title to kill some time with.

Categories: Other blogs

Zapak Becomes 6waves’ Indian Partner

Inside Social Games - Wed, 2010/08/04 - 13:20

One of Facebook’s more international publishers is 6waves, a Hong Kong-based developer that also promotes games developed by other studios. 6waves is pioneering new markets, especially in Asia, by finding and fostering payment channels in relatively untapped markets — or, as co-founder Rex Ng recently put it to us, being a guinea pig.

Now its expansion has taken it into India, in a partnership with Zapak.com, an Indian gaming portal. Zapak just announced that it will become 6waves’ marketing and payment partner, processing all local payment options for Indian users.

India is just beginning to look like an interesting market. We’ve seen several game companies from the country appear on Facebook recently — including Zapak, which just put its own games portal on the social network.

Although similar to China in having a huge population, there are relatively few people with internet connections in India.

Still, the sheer size of India means that it’s now the 10th-largest market for Facebook, with 11,534,480 monthly active users. India’s steady growth means that it could soon be one of the more significant emerging markets for social gaming, and this partnership but the first of many.

Categories: Other blogs

Learning About the Rainforest with Flutter on Facebook

Inside Social Games - Wed, 2010/08/04 - 03:54

New Zealand-based developer called Runaway is seeking to enlighten social game players about the Amazon Rainforest first Facebook title, Flutter. With simple mechanics, a zen-like atmosphere, and educational value, it’s certainly a game that could certainly teach users a thing or two about ecology.

Flutter is broken up into two parts: exploration and virtual spaces, with the former allowing for enhancement of the latter. Regardless of preference, the game’s presentation does make for an aesthetically pleasing experience, and while not all its elements are original, everything feels well integrated. Coupled with unobtrusive awareness blurbs, Flutter, thus far, seems off to a good start.

Players start off in the rainforest as a butterfly of their choice. From here they are warped into a small section of the rainforest to begin exploring. It’s all fairly simple in an exploration-adventure sort of way. Using the mouse pointer, players fly about collecting honeydew (the game’s currency) and interacting with the various flora and fauna they find.

This is where some of the educational/awareness aspects of the game come into play. As they explore, users will find various “spirits” floating about the world that give quests (which can be solo or involve friends — starting quest is to simply visit friends). Each quest will have a set amount of things to do in the world (e.g. find two fungi) and will often give some small bit of information about the rainforest itself and the life involved in it.

Much of Flutter consists of mechanics like diet or growth cycles. As an example, players may find a specific species of beetle. They have the option to feed it, but must first find, in the world, what it eats — in this case, fungi. Once they have fungi, they can feed the creature in order to gain a chunk of experience (experience is also earned through actions within the virtual space area of the game). In addition, flowers, with a mere click, can be interacted with too.

What makes flowers interesting, however, is that they grant honeydew (you’re basically pollinating them) instead of experience, and water can be used to grow the flower bed, granting more income the larger it grows. This is where the virtual space aspects begin to come into play.

Each user is granted their own personal space (which, of course, friends can visit) called a “Grove.” Here, the game takes on a sort of animal husbandry effect. Not only can users decorate with an abundances of flora and foliage, but they can grow and care for butterflies, with the game walking them through each stage of its life cycle.

The grove also comes with a few other interesting features. One of them is a “Red Bromeliad” flower that collects water on a daily basis for the above mentioned flower beds, as well as a “Social Flower” that blooms and grows as friends care for their own groves. Beyond this, there is also a fruit tree that can be nurtured daily, which will presumably produce fruit for use in the world once fully grown.

Obviously, as a virtual space, this is the main area where level and experience comes into play, gating what can be purchased at any given time. The space appears to physically grow in size as users level up, and outside of the grove, more areas of the rainforest unlock for exploration.

Unfortunately, based on the map of the rainforest, the world seems fairly small, meaning that the exploration aspect does run the risk of getting repetitive and rather dull. While the virtual space might continue to evolve and change, the world is going to remain static without continual updates. To some, this may not matter, but a lot of the initial feel of the rainforest will be lost.

In fact, this feel, this presentation, very much warrants mention. The game looks beautiful and the music is incredibly zen sounding — with a little tweaking of the point at which it loops, the music could easily just blend into the background to create a very appealing experience.

Overall, the virtual space aspects of Flutter feel like they outweigh the exploration mechanics in the long run. Early on, they have about equal weight, but the latter feels as if it would become repetitive after a while. All the same, the game does a pretty sound job of subtly incorporating some educational facts about the rainforest and the creatures that live there. As a brand new game, it’s hard to say how it will do, but either way, it’s certainly worth checking out.

Categories: Other blogs

Bebo May Revamp Itself as a Social Gaming Platform

Inside Social Games - Tue, 2010/08/03 - 21:02

After its spectacular, mostly-cash $850 million sale to AOL in 2008, social network Bebo didn’t really work out for the acquirer. It sold to Criterion Capital Partners for a price reportedly between $5 million and $10 million earlier this year.

Now, it’s hiring again — and an industry source tells us that it is looking to become a social gaming platform, a move reminiscent of another social network’s strategy recently. Hi5, like Bebo, found traction with millions of users in several different countries, but ultimately stagnated as rivals like Facebook and Twitter expanded. Over the past couple of years, it has added a virtual currency, avatars, and most recently a special set of features for developer partners

While we don’t have many more details on Bebo’s new gaming initiative, there are a few reasons why the move makes sense. One is that the company has hired a founding Hi5 executive, Akash Garg, to be its new chief technology officer. He likely has some insights into how or how not to make that type of transition.

Another reason is that Bebo itself continues to have millions of users — although exact monthly usage is not clear — so it has people it can funnel to new gaming features. And finally, Bebo also has experience operating a developer platform, including for games. While it never attracted social gaming companies to the degree that Facebook and MySpace have, it does have a set of APIs to keep building off of. As you can see from the company’s landing page screenshot, it is promoting social games today.

CCP has also hinted at the new direction. Managing partner Adam Levin described the acquisition this way: “The young, highly active user base, revenue history, presence in countries throughout the world and solid technical infrastructure make it an attractive media platform both as a standalone entity and in the context of our broader investment objectives.”

Facebook, and to some degree MySpace, have been able to offer compelling social networking platforms both because they have highly engaged users and because their products include communication channels that make it easy for users to share gaming activity with friends. Hi5 was the first large social network to try to refocus as a gaming platform, and it’s not clear how well the effort has gone so far. Bebo’s new social gaming strategy seems reasonable given the circumstances — we’ll be covering it as the plans materialize.

Categories: Other blogs

Facebook’s Latest Global Audience Growth, via the Facebook Global Monitor August 2010 Edition

Inside Social Games - Tue, 2010/08/03 - 19:08

We’ve just released the latest numbers tracking Facebook’s audience growth around the world in our August 2010 edition of the Facebook Global Monitor.

The Facebook Global Monitor is a part of the Inside Facebook Gold data membership service.

The Global Monitor tracks Facebook’s international metrics, and provides both historical data and forward-looking projections to enable developers, marketers, and analysts to spot trends and opportunities.

Each month, the Facebook Global Monitor provides the latest comprehensive data on the expansion of Facebook’s audience in approximately 100 global markets. It also includes alerts on breakout and cooling markets, and our latest in-house projections on Facebook’s growth in each country 30 days, 90 days, and 12 months into the future. See the full table of contents below.

All data in the report are based on primary research by Inside Network using data from Facebook, and each section is designed to elucidate key actionable trends. In addition to the Facebook Global Monitor, membership to Inside Facebook Gold includes monthly editions of the Global Monitor, in addition to access to our other data reports on Facebook’s top languages, user demographics, and more.

We believe big opportunities exist for developers and marketers to reach and engage the Facebook audience in these rapidly emerging and expanding markets. As always, we’ll continue to use data from the Facebook Global Monitor data power our coverage of this growth here on Inside Facebook, but if you’re looking for even more numbers, please check out Inside Facebook Gold.

The Facebook Global Monitor

Tracking Facebook in Global Markets

August 2010

Contents

I. Introduction: The Year That Facebook Went Global

II. Global Market Report

1. Audience Size Today

2. Fastest Growing Audience

  • Last 12 months
  • Last 90 days
  • Last 30 days

3. Market Penetration Today

4. Largest Market Penetration Increases

  • Last 12 months
  • Last 90 days
  • Last 30 days

III. Emerging Market Analysis

1. Growth Projections

  • Next 30 days
  • Next 90 days
  • Next 12 months

2. Technical Alerts

  • Breakout Markets: Last 90 Days
  • Cooling Markets: Last 90 Days

IV. Regional Summaries

1. Africa

2. Asia / Pacific

3. Europe

4. North America

5. South America

V. Country Updates

1. Argentina

2. Australia

3. Austria

4. Bahamas

5. Bahrain

6. Bangladesh

7. Belgium

8. Bolivia

9. Bosnia & Herzegovina

10. Brazil

11. Bulgaria

12. Canada

13. Chile

14. China

15. Colombia

16. Costa Rica

17. Croatia

18. Cyprus

19. Czech Republic

20. Denmark

21. Dominican Republic

22. Ecuador

23. Egypt

24. El Salvador

25. Finland

26. France

27. Germany

28. Ghana

29. Greece

30. Guatemala

31. Honduras

32. Hong Kong

33. Hungary

34. Iceland

35. India

36. Indonesia

37. Ireland

38. Israel

39. Italy

40. Jamaica

41. Japan

42. Jordan

43. Kenya

44. Kuwait

45. Lebanon

46. Lithuania

47. Luxembourg

48. Macedonia

49. Malaysia

50. Maldives

51. Malta

52. Mauritius

53. Mexico

54. Morocco

55. Netherlands

56. New Zealand

57. Nicaragua

58. Nigeria

59. Norway

60. Oman

61. Pakistan

62. Palestine

63. Panama

64. Paraguay

65. Peru

66. Philippines

67. Poland

68. Portugal

69. Puerto Rico

70. Qatar

71. Romania

72. Russia

73. Saudi Arabia

74. Serbia

75. Singapore

76. Slovakia

77. Slovenia

78. South Africa

79. South Korea

80. Spain

81. Sri Lanka

82. Sweden

83. Switzerland

84. Taiwan

85. Thailand

86. Trinidad and Tobago

87. Tunisia

88. Turkey

89. Ukraine

90. United Arab Emirates

91. United Kingdom

92. United States

93. Uruguay

94. Venezuela

95. Vietnam

Learn more or get the report at Inside Facebook Gold.

Categories: Other blogs

Watercooler Changes Its Name to Kabam, Focuses in on Deeper Social Games

Inside Social Games - Tue, 2010/08/03 - 15:45

What’s in a name, anyway? For a gamer expecting a particular kind of experience, perhaps a lot. That’s why Watercooler, long known as a publisher of applications for sport fans, is changing its name to Kabam today.

Kabam’s foray into game development began last November, with Kingdoms of Camelot, a relatively complex strategy game on Facebook. It seemed like an unusual bet during the heyday of farming and fishing games, with a geeky fantasy theme and lots of traditional gaming concepts like taxing a population and invading other player’s kingdoms.

Nine months later, Kingdoms is still an unusual title for Facebook — but it has also grown steadily to just over four million monthly active users. That’s proof enough for Kabam that there’s a market for Facebook games that aren’t light or simple experiences.

“We think there’s space in our market to challenge the existing games out there,” says Chris Carvalho, the chief operating officer at Kabam. “When we look out, we really see two trends on Facebook. One is the segment of users that’s really engaged and want more on Facebook, and there are also core gamers who are migrating in. We’re capturing both.”

Kabam is a better name because it’s “impactful”, says Carvalho, but the really meaningful change is to Kabam’s business model, which will be focused almost entirely on games from now on.

The distinction that they must be engaging games sounds a bit tricky at first. It’s clear what might be called non-engaging; a farming game that is little more than a proxy for users to send invitations and share gifts would be a good example. However, most popular Facebook games have now progressed beyond that point, if not always by much.

Carvalho points to some of the features that have made Kingdoms of Camelot successful. “For us, the engagement comes from all the features we’ve put in the the game, like the quest system, the global chat, the high level of competition, and the back-end nature of how we’ve set up the game to level the playing field.”

More features, of course, also add up to more time actually spent in the game, with the average player spending over 30 minutes per session and some staying for an hour or more. “What really distinguishes Camelot is the amount of things to do, and the way it’s set up, like a traditional MMO [massively multiplayer online game]. You can set up alliances, there’s a lot of strategy … we have the same kind of feature set as a traditional MMO.”

Not all players will find that MMO style attractive, of course, but Carvalho thinks players searching for a deeper experience are underserved. “I feel that we can be competitive with the top five industry players. We won’t ever have the reach that they have — we’re not focusing on the mass market titles … But right now we feel there’s a big opportunity with deeper games, and we don’t feel anyone else is filling that.”

In the future, Kabam won’t limit its oeuvre to fantasy games; this year, in fact, it also released the soccer game Epic Goal. That game’s live-action sports theme has only picked up 350,762 MAU so far, but Carvalho says the company will keep working on the game; Kingdoms, also, took a long time to grow.

For its forthcoming titles, Kabam is looking at branded opportunities. Epic Goal itself was launched with Fox Soccer, but the company won’t necessarily stay in sports. Carvalho, who spent a decade doing business development at Star Wars creator Lucasfilm, thinks brands will take on a greater role. “We think they’ll be very important in general for the social gaming industry, and for us,” he says.

We’ve written about other companies betting on deeper gameplay. Earlier this month we noted that strategy games are breaking out on Facebook (led by Kingdoms of Camelot), and we also recently covered Dawn of Dragons, a professionally-written RPG.

Categories: Other blogs

Fantasy Football Throwdown Combines Strategy, Role-Playing and Facebook

Inside Social Games - Tue, 2010/08/03 - 15:45

Fantasy football is popular because it reflects week-to-week events on the gridiron, and because it allows you to beat your less-informed friends as a result. A small outfit of two developers, Doord, has developed an online title that adds a pretty interesting layer of strategy and social interaction on top of the usual game-play. It’s called Fantasy Football Throwdown.

To draw parallels, it’s a sort of a combination of Fantasy Football and some of the basic, strategic elements of Electronic Arts’ Madden franchise. Though it’s a game of simple visuals, it comes with a core play that could greatly appeal to both casual and social gamers alike, whether they participate in Fantasy Football or not.

It may look simple, but this game actually comes with a surprising number of features and strategy. Players are given a team of NFL players to start with and each turn they must choose offensive or defensive plays to play. There are eight possible plays to choose from: for offensive it is running plays (plunge, pitch, etc.) and passing plays (shotgun, play action, etc.); for defense it’s plays such as blitzes or man coverage.

Regardless of which you choose, there are potential counters for that play. These risks are represented in an expanded play book that displays up to three red or green arrows. Red favors defense and green favors offense, with the number of arrows depicting by how much. Of course, this is only influential and represents chance, and does not mean either guaranteed success or failure. Once you’ve selected a play, you then have to choose yardage and any special tactics.

This is where how players do in real games comes into play. As an example, let’s look at a running play: Each running back has a set number of yards that they have run in a real life game. Each drive can be used once unless coupled with an “R” (repeatable) icon. If you select a “3” then depending on the chosen offensive and defensive plays, that player will run roughly that distance; maybe a little more, maybe a little less. The higher the number, the further they are likely to go.

As far as passing plays goes, this combines half of the running distance of a player with a throwing distance of your quarterback. This is then combined with their real world pass completion rate, and it can be further augmented for success by selecting a yardage with a “T,” which represents a real touchdown play at some point. Again, there are no guarantees, but it’s all about choosing the best options to give you the best result; like in real football.

Defensively, this all works roughly the same way, except that you have the added option for special tactics to force turnovers via fumbles or interceptions. Like offensive, your defensive line’s set of prevented yards are chosen, but for every fumble or interception they got in reality, the player gets three attempts to force a turnover. Should you get lucky enough to cause one, those three attempts vanish. It’s only one turnover per three possible tries.

Granted, this all sounds quite complicated, but it’s actually exceedingly easy to learn. If ever you’re left wondering, the tutorial can be accessed at any time and you can practice forever against AI in single player mode. Once you are confident, you can begin earning money (TD$) from single and multiplayer matches to expand your team.

Obviously, the better the player, the more expensive they are, so building the best possible team is the form of progression in Fantasy Football Throwdown. That said, depending on how players do in reality, will augment how they perform in game. As with the running play example, say your team did well defensively in a recent game. Based on how many yards the defense allowed, those will become the numbers you can choose from when on defense, with that team, in game. Of course, if it is the off season, that obviously happens less, but it appears that stats used from the prior season remain.

In order to build up a nice wallet of in-game money, players need to play in multiplayer matches as they pay out more than single player and/or invite friends to their “League.” In short, the more friends that play with you, the more bonus TD$ you earn per game. As for the play itself, it comes in both asynchronous and synchronous format.

The asynchronous will likely be the most appealing to social gamers as users can actually play via email — but be ready, because an email is sent whenever it is the player’s turn. With this method, so long as a player responds within 24 hours, games can last for days. If you’re looking for a quick match, you can play random people who are currently online in a more synchronous fashion, taking turns until someone leaves or the game is finished (it is also worth noting that the game only ever tries to pair players up with teams that have roughly the same quality of players). Moreover, in classic Facebook fashion, users can always send out the time honored friend challenges as well.

Regardless of what you choose, however, the games feel exhaustingly long. Each game is 60 turns with one turn representing one minute. Even though the strategy and fantasy aspects are pretty in-depth, the basic visuals grant no real stylistic reward and synchronous, and especially single player, games get very boring very quick. That said, it’s mitigated some in the asynchronous email mode, but playing one game over the course of many days, and only then getting a reward, is a bit monotonous as well.

All in all, Fantasy Football Throwdown is a simple looking app that has tremendous potential as a fun and in-depth sports game. It’s connection to reality is a great hook for NFL fans, and its strategic and planning elements are enough to attract even the less hardcore audiences. Unfortunately, the low level of style and the tremendous length of each game wears on players and after a while, makes the app a bit boring. Nonetheless, as a title with a strong core, such superfluous aesthetics and balancing issues are generally much simpler to improve.

Categories: Other blogs

Crazy Snowboard HD Brings Social Shredding to iOS Devices

Inside Social Games - Mon, 2010/08/02 - 21:15

Crazy Snowboard HD, from Ezone.com, is a recently updated iPad and iPhone title that might be what you’re looking for, if you need an unrealistic but fun snowboarding game to help you cool down this summer.

The title is good to play here and there for short bursts of time, and intuitive enough for even the most casual of players to catch on quickly. Filled with social integrations through the Plus+ network that work perfectly with the game’s design, and any number of unlockable items, its positives outweigh some negatives.

Essentially, Crazy Snowboard most closely resembles early Tony Hawk skateboarding games. Using simple controls, players slalom down snow-covered hills, under a time limit, in an attempt to earn the highest score possible. As you shoot down the course, steering is done through tilting and turning your iDevice, and jumping with a mere touch (higher if you press and hold first, or hit a ramp).

Once in the air, context sensitive controls appear that allow you to rotate in any direction as well as perform up to four user-set grabs and tricks. The only stipulation is you have to be upright and no longer performing a trick before you hit the ground, lest you wipe out. It does take some getting used to — namely realizing when you are back upright — since the camera tends to face an all-white ground, but the game is forgiving enough to automatically land you unless you are about to land flat on your back or on your head. Expectantly, the more tricks you perform, the higher your score.

Realism is further tossed aside in that, for whatever reason, you can still steer while in the air, and grind on various objects that appear around the course despite how you hit them. Granted, being able to grind an object with your board is realistic, but landing perfectly from 20 feet in the air, and coming straight down on it, while still earning forward momentum… not so much.

The levels get more complex as you advance, with various obstacles (i.e. trees), more ramps, more turns, and so on appearing. To add to the difficulty, the maps have added tasks to accomplish that range from scoring raw points to collecting X amount of Y item. Depending on how well the player does, they will either fail or earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal. Of course, if you don’t wish have any pressure, you can always just mess around with Freestyle mode, where you just do whatever you want.

The social integration through Plus+ also lends itself well to Crazy Snowboard. True, it is a bit basic in that it is just sharable achievements and awards, but considering that the whole point to this game is about high scores, the 30+ leaderboard systems work quite well. The only social feature that would be even better here would be if the game had a time trial mode that allowed users to race “ghosts” of each other ala games like Real Racing HD.

In addition to the Plus+ mechanics, the game has any number of unlockable characters, snowboards, and even tricks. For the most part, these are purchased with points earned in-game, and while many of the characters are quite interesting (knights, yetis, etc.), they certainly don’t lend themselves helping the lack of realism. In fact, some of the tricks are just as bizarre, such as one that looks like you’re falling off the board, holding on for dear life, and still manage to rotate in all directions flawlessly.

Regardless, realism means little in most games, so long as its fun, and truth be told, Crazy Snowboard is pretty fun. At least for a little while. As players continue to play, it does get kind of old; the 30 or so levels, despite challenges, do feel a lot like more of the same. It’s also worth mentioning that while the game is on both the iPad and iPhone, it’s a toss up as to which makes for the better platform. On the one hand, the iPad gives you a bit more room to see what’s going on, but on the other, since all the controls are done while holding the device upright, the added weight of the newer Apple device gets a bit heavy during longer gaming sessions.

On another note, the increased screen size for the iPad is actually a bad thing, because it makes the visuals look even worse — apparently the developer hasn’t fully optimized for the device. While the game -play matters the most, one can’t help but wonder how many people are turned off by the visuals before they even think of buying the $1.99 app (though, at least, there is a free version too).

Overall, Crazy Snowboard is a pretty fun game for a more casual player, but it does get a bit repetitive and the 30 missions don’t feel all that new or fresh from the others. In the end, the game is decent, but it is certainly recommended that you try the Lite version first, and decide for yourself if you want the full version or not.

Categories: Other blogs

Top 25 Facebook Games for August 2010

Inside Social Games - Mon, 2010/08/02 - 17:15

With so many apps losing users this past spring — mostly due to a variety of changes made by Facebook to the platform - the big question has been whether or not developer growth is leveling off for the longer term. Last month, losses seemed to be lessening, but they were still apparent with 18 of the 25 applications falling in monthly active users. However, this month has already proven to be slightly better as, this time, 15 of the 25 are in the red, with drops generally less than in prior months.

Note: given that this list looks at the top 25 applications by MAU, it is not taking into account any significant growth by smaller apps, or stellar daily active user gains by any app.

There’s also a qualifier for some of the higher growth numbers visible today — the massive surges among a few big Zynga games could be due to a Facebook statistical reporting bug. We’re asking Facebook for more details, and we’ll update this post as we get them.

All that said, here are the highlights for the top 25 Facebook Games for August 2010:

  • The once mighty FarmVille has continued to lose players this month with a loss of nearly 4 million monthly active users. However, that is approximately 3 million less than the losses last month, so the Zynga title’s decline may be tapering off.
  • Other Zynga games, however, made big gains including Texas HoldEm Poker (11.8 million more MAU) Cafe World (13.9 million more MAU), Mafia Wars (12.8 million more MAU), FrontierVille (10.5 million more MAU), and PetVille (3.1 million more MAU) — with the qualifier here being the possible reporting bug that is exaggerating growth.
  • Treasure Isle, on the other hand, may be running its course as it dropped from #3 to #7 with nearly  4 million MAU loss.
  • Playfish‘s Pet Society is reaching equilibrium, having only lost 660,593 MAU compared to the 1.5 million last month. It remains at #9.
  • RockYou‘s Zoo World saw a huge boost this time around, moving up from #17 to #10 with a just over 12.6 million MAUs; it may be growing for the same reason as the Zynga titles, though.
  • Restaurant City is another game to move out of the negatives. The Playfish title went from #13 to #11 with almost 12.4 million MAUs. It had gained just over 1.4 million — again, a possible bug could be at play here.
  • PopCap is also doing well for itself. Though Bejeweled Blitz has rarely found itself in the negatives, its gains this month were nearly 1.5 million more than it was last month, bringing it up to #12 and 12.2 million monthly active users.
  • Playdom doesn’t do too hot in the Top 25, as its sole entry, Social City lost another million, down by about a million, to 8.9 million MAU.
  • Though Zoo World is doing well, Birthday Cards plummets to #14 (from #6) with a loss of 7.6 million MAU.
  • CrowdStar‘s Happy Island finds itself in the positives, having gained about 1.1 million monthly active users. It moves up from #19 to #17.
  • Though most of the list’s tail end is losing players, recently claimed Nightclub City from Booyah makes its debut on this monthly list at #25 with just under 5.3 million MAUs.
Categories: Other blogs

Top 25 MySpace Games for August 2010

Inside Social Games - Mon, 2010/08/02 - 16:57

The biggest games continued to gain users on MySpace this past month, although, as in past months, the growth was not too significant.

Also, Zynga appears to have removed some of its smaller role-playing games from the list, including Gang Wars and Dragon Wars. As of yesterday, the apps were not found through MySpace searches, nor through app gallery browsing, nor were they available as MySpace titles on Zynga’s website either — these titles appear to be among the many smaller ones that Zynga has been shutting down lately.

Here are the highlights for the Top 25 MySpace Games for August 2010:

  • Playdom has continued to top the MySpace charts with the long-running role playing app, Mobsters. It earned a total of 14,663,713 users this month. Other top Playdom titles include the less game-like Bumper Stickers and Own Your Friends at #3 and #4. However, the latter lost approximately 2,000 users this time around.
  • Keeping at its #2 positions, Zynga‘s Mafia Wars saw a small gain with 23,157 new installations.
  • Virtual pets keep their spots with SuperPoke Pets from Slide and RockYou Pets from RockYou. The two games earn around 7 and 6 million installations this month.
  • Of the Zynga RPGs still milling about on the social network, Vampires and Street Racing continue to earn just shy of 5 million users. That said, Street Racing has seen a loss of around 5,000 users.
  • Playdom’s Poker Palace has been re-dubbed WSOP (World Series of Poker) Poker per its re-branding of the title and earned 3.4 million installations.
  • BitRhymes‘ Whats my Impression on friends moved up from #17 to #16 with a gain of over 130,000 installations, to overtake Overdrive.
  • As was noted already, Gang Wars and Dragon Wars were nowhere to be found yesterday, thus allowing Fashion Wars to move up to #20 from #22.
  • Heroes, from Playdom, also falls off the charts to make way for WonderHill‘s GreenSpot and Bloodlines (Playdom) at #21 and #22 with about 1.8 and 1.7 million installs respectively.
  • Rounding out the list is the return of three older MySpace titles: At #23 is Grong!’s What My Friends Think About Me; at #24 is Zynga’s Special Forces; at #25 is Playfish’s Pet Society. The games earn around 1.7, 1.5, and 1.4 million users, this month, respectively.
Categories: Other blogs

Zynga, Other Developers See Big Growth In this Week’s Fastest-Growing Apps by MAU

Inside Social Games - Mon, 2010/08/02 - 13:20

[Update: Facebook has responded to let us know that the below stats are due to a bug in their reporting, which they're currently working on fixing.]

Each Monday we run a list of the fastest-growing games on Facebook by monthly active users, and this morning is no exception. However, we’re also seeing some very unusual stats today, starting with a 15 million MAU gain for Zynga’s Café World.

Going down the list, several more games appear to have added huge numbers of users, including Texas HoldEm PokerMafia Wars, Zoo World and Restaurant City. While Zynga is the publisher of many, the gains aren’t limited to that company; Zoo World, for instance, is by RockYou!, while Restaurant City is owned by Electronic Arts.

There are, however, two things that unite most of these games. The first is that they’re months old — meaning growth is typically lower for them than a new game like FrontierVille. Second, all of them appear to have made their huge gains over just the past three days.

We’ll show you a growth chart after the AppData top 20 list:

Top Gainers This Week - Games Name MAU Gain Gain,% 1. Café World 35,324,196 +15,100,354 +75% 2. Texas HoldEm Poker 41,597,080 +13,612,033 +49% 3. Mafia Wars Game 24,142,623 +6,429,541 +36% 4. Zoo World 12,857,340 +6,053,805 +89% 5. PetVille 17,823,978 +3,861,130 +28% 6. FrontierVille 24,984,631 +3,598,109 +17% 7. Restaurant City 13,017,032 +2,289,626 +21% 8. Happy Island 8,681,928 +2,044,392 +31% 9. Sorority Life 4,978,879 +1,750,713 +54% 10. Market Street 1,828,168 +1,674,500 +1,090% 11. Friends For Sale! 3,377,538 +1,402,706 +71% 12. Pirates Ahoy 1,472,230 +916,416 +165% 13. Bejeweled Blitz 12,269,911 +854,981 +7% 14. ???2012 856,566 +838,705 +4,696% 15. ???? 872,822 +836,817 +2,324% 16. ???? 2,934,574 +782,991 +36% 17. Fashion World 3,642,194 +775,090 +27% 18. Baking Life 4,728,301 +640,790 +16% 19. Fanglies 1,466,779 +626,714 +75% 20. Pregunta a Pulpo Paul 957,599 +541,437 +130%

Now here’s the MAU chart for Cafe World; note the hockey stick growth at the end. It looks about the same for each game listed above:

What’s going on? It’s possible that Facebook is just experiencing a temporary bug in its stats reporting. The growth occurred over the weekend, so we haven’t yet had a chance to catch up with the company.

Zynga, also, has not yet responded to let us know whether it has really gained 47 million MAU. However, among two developers we’ve checked with, one said the growth spikes seemed consistent for their apps — and another said, no, the growth did not seem consistent.

The other possibility, besides a bug, is that Facebook has changed or updated its reporting tools. This would not be the first time. The most recent was on June 21st, when Quiz Planet! suddenly reported 15 million new monthly active users, while other apps like Twitter and Facebook for Android also showed big, unexplained gains.

Those June changes turned out to be revealing accurate numbers for apps that had been mis-reporting their stats for months. If that’s the case here, then the social gaming world will need to reconsider its thesis that Zynga, which is by far the largest and most powerful company in the space, is losing large numbers of its users.

Other companies also appeared to gain a few million MAU, but Zynga is the only one showing a monster bump in user numbers. We’ll continue trying to get an official statement this morning.

Just for reference, Zynga’s MAU chart is below; it has risen from 206 million MAU to 253 million MAU. Its highest MAU count ever was also 253 million, in mid-April of this year.

Categories: Other blogs

This Week’s Headlines on Inside Facebook

Inside Social Games - Sun, 2010/08/01 - 15:00

Check out the top headlines and insights this week from Inside Facebook— tracking Facebook and the Facebook platform for developers and marketers.

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Categories: Other blogs

Social Gaming Roundup: Poker, Booyah, gWallet, & More

Inside Social Games - Sat, 2010/07/31 - 00:33

PokerBuddy Pro - With the popularity of Zynga Poker, a new application called PokerBuddy Pro, from EV-Plus has come about. Consisting of three advisers (aggressive, versatile, or tight aggressive play), the app will give advice when playing Zynga Poker based on your hand, pot size, and the rest of the table.

Booyah Introduces Product Check-In - Location-based iPhone title, MyTown, from Booyah is getting an update with its new product check-ins. Using the iPhone camera, players will be able to scan in bar codes of products in order to earn points and exclusive virtual goods.

Dark Roast Media Uses Sweepstakes API - Dark Roast Media, the developer behind Exorcists vs. Demons, launched a new campaign using the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes API, dubbed PCH Boost. With the offerings of instant win opportunities, the company reports a monthly active user growth of about 15,000 (it now has 20,000 MAUs) and claimed a 30% reduced user acquisition cost.

gWallet Guarantees Publisher Results - Virtual currency platform gWallet is guaranteeing publishers revenue growth this week with cash in the “gWallet Challenge.” According to the company, premium publishers that participate will get 30 day performance test of their current solution versus the gWallet platform ” if the desired results are not achieved, gWallet will pay the publisher $20,000.”

Major League Baseball Stands Up To Cancer - Major League Baseball (MLB) and Stand Up To Cancer have teamed up to offer MLB fans an interesting take on virtual items. Fans can now purchase virtual stadium seating from 30 different MLB stadiums. Of course, these are replications and will be turned into a memorial for those affected by cancer. Moreover, the site in which they are bought also offers other items beyond a seat such as a suite, base, or the pitcher’s mound. With prices ranging from $5 - $500, users will be able to purchase and moderately customize (photo, name, and message) these with all proceeds benifiting Stand Up To Cancer.

Itsmy Opens its Mobile Social Network - European developer and gaming network itsmy stated this week that it will be relaunching its itsmy mobile social network this August as a “pure and open mobile web gaming network.” Thus far, itsmy has developed over 50 differently free-to-play social games over the past year for the network.

Second Life Continues to Thrive - According to a report from Media Post, Second Life is doing quite well for itself with anywhere from 680,000 to 820,000 active users so far this year. However, these users are spending increasingly more time online with 126 million hours logged for the second quarter of this year (a number 33% larger than the same time last year). Additionally, active users are spending an average of 100 minutes online per session, with virtual goods sales on course to be around $700 million for 2010.

Poker Palace to be Re-Branded - Playdom‘s social game Poker Palace is getting a re-branding on Facebook as they and Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment are set to relaunch the title with the World Series of Poker brand. While the game goes live this week on Facebook, it will also be expanding to other social networks, such as MySpace, in the near future.

China Computerworld Brutalizes Tencent - China’s internet gaming goliath, Tencent fell victim to a brutal assassination of character in China Computerworld this past week. In the explicitly named report, critics hammer the company from a competitor’s perspective, accusing them of never taking risks and merely muscling out the competition in matured online spaces with “unscrupulous” imitations.

[image via Danwei.org]

Snooki Comes to Social Games - Social game developers are certainly stretching for ideas as Snooki, and the rest of the Jersey Shore cast have come to Facebook. Simply called Jersey Shore, the game is a simple Flash-based RPG filled with comical versus battles and everyday jobs and items centered around the show.

Project: MyWorld is Set to Change Social Games - From Grand Theft Auto designer, Dave Jones, Project: MyWorld is a combination of social networks, social games, and virtual worlds. Set in 3D replicas of real-world locals, players will be able to receive all their regular updates from networks such as Twitter and Facebook, while exploring a virtual world that they build up themselves.

Categories: Other blogs