On Thursday, April 15th, 2010, Women 2.0 held "Social Gaming 101", which featured founders and CEOs of social gaming startups in Pillsbury's Palo Alto office. The panel shared best practices, tips, tricks, and even pitfalls of designing and implementing social games. Sue Zann Toh (Co-Founder & CFO, The Broth) told war stories from her startup's early days of fixing bugs and keeping servers running. Sue Zann Toh reminds attendees that you can compete with the "big guys" even if your startup is small by launching early, and developing from there. The Broth's Barn Buddy, which launched before FarmVille, has grown to 1.7M active daily users amid stiff competition. Mari Baker (President & CEO, PlayFirst) followed up by demonstrating that the players who enter the market first aren't necessarily the ones that win the end. "Does anybody remember Netscape or Excite?" Mari Baker asked the crowd. One of her tips was to check out the worst performing games for problems to avoid. Also, Mari Baker added that having a great product is the biggest key to going viral.
During her presentation, Amy Jo Kim (Co-Founder & CEO, Shuffle Brain) shared how she put her PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience to good use in Shuffle Brain to build games that exercise the brain and prevent dementia. Shuffle Brain explored a few monetization models but finally settled on merging with a subscription game site aimed at 50 to 70 year-old users. Nevertheless, Amy Jo Kim believes earned and purchased currency models are the most promising ways to monetize social games this year. With "the free to play/virtual goods [model], you monetize your most avid players the most," Amy Jo Kim said. Having created some of the most popular social games on FaceBook including Causes, Zombies, and Vampires, panelist Blake Commagere agreed that dual-currency models have brought the best monetization opportunities to his games. "Ads... paid for your servers and kept you from starving." By acclimating users to purchasing in your game using earned currency, the up-sell to purchasing $1 digital goods is easier.
The entire panel agreed that social games require a different work structure than traditional game titles. Mari Baker reminded the audience that in social games, you will spend more "man hours after launch than before." Sue Zann Toh agrees, "the real work starts after launch." Blake Commagere quipped that if "you're not embarrassed by your product on day one, then you launched too late."
This Women 2.0 event on social gaming was open to both women and men. Special thanks to Pillsbury for sponsoring this Women 2.0 event, and Shirley Lin (Founder, YoXi123) for driving the program and panel. Julie Blaustein provided event photography, and you can find pictures from the event here.
Watch a video of Women 2.0's "Social Gaming 101" panel highlights on YouTube here.... Read More...