Game Development Reference
Interview with Janus Anderson: Gaming and the
about a month on that game, and it didn't really go anywhere. And
there was this struggle about making games for Facebook. “Why are
you making games for Facebook? We aren't making any money there.
This is silly!”
But I was looking at the raw number of people who were playing these
and thinking, “You've got to be kidding!” Maybe these people were mon-
etizable, and maybe not right now. But if you're getting that much atten-
tion then there's gotta be something there. There's got to be a way to
monetize somewhere there. All of the web games we had made were free
to play, microtransaction based. We were already kind of experts in that
area. Obviously, we didn't get the viral part or using social graphs, 'cause
we didn't have access to any of that.
So we built another game, and this was after we started seeing a
few Zynga games on the market. I'd had a design on the back burner
for a while for a game I really wanted to do, called Ponzi . And it was
basically an office game where you built up an office and did dastardly
things to other people in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way. And originally
it started off as kind of a Mafia Wars clone, which was getting a lot
of traction then. But I decided to make it real time, with an awesome
set of artists. We went the whole Flash way, and we shipped Ponzi in
three months. A real challenge from beginning to end, with a pretty
small team. I think there might have been a dozen of us. And we
knocked it out of the park, at least compared to anything we'd done
Ponzi very quickly broke a million MAU, which was a huge number
back then. Skyrocketed. So then we were doing Facebook games. We
ported Warstorm to Facebook, and that also did extremely well for us.
It got the attention of Zynga, because everyone at Zynga was playing
Warstorm and Ponzi !
Q: Starting with old-school MMOs, you had a bunch of sophisticated users.
Some of your early Facebook games were a little hardcore. What did you
learn about users from that experience?
A: Well, I don't think Kingdom of Loathing was too hardcore. That was
a technology failure. But Nobility was definitely hardcore because you
could steal assets from other players, so it was basically PvP. Coming
in right out of the gate, you didn't know anything about this game,