Game Development Reference
Interview with Newtoy, Words with Friends
DB: It's been an incredibly fun, difficult, and rewarding journey, with
many lessons learned over the past few years. The biggest lesson that first
comes to mind is “keep it simple.”
When we first launched Chess with Friends , I thought we were keep-
ing it simple. A chess game with a “your turn” and “their turn” move list.
That's it, right? It wasn't simple enough. For one, it was chess. That right
there I think is too complicated. If you don't know the rules of chess,
you're out of luck. A user isn't going to stumble through a game with a
live opponent and learn the rules as they go. We also had this arduous
sign-up process we forced everyone to go through before allowing them to
play with their friends. At one point we even were asking for their moth-
er's maiden name. Looking back, it's amazing we were caught by sur-
prise when that didn't go over well. In the mobile social space, people are
looking for a quick, painless, few minutes of fun, and in order to deliver
that you need a keen eye on how to keep things as simple as possible.
As game developers, we always naturally gravitate toward more complex
designs. Always putting yourself in your users' shoes—knowing your
audience—is key and something I've learned to always remind myself of.
Q: Where do you see the convergence of social network games and mobile
games in the next few years?
PB: Mobile is the convergence. In a few years, we won't look at social and
mobile as two separate things; we will all expect our game experiences to
follow us wherever we go. That's the future we're building toward.
Q: What advice do you have for mobile game developers who want to tap
into the power of social connections with their games?
PB: Don't add social as an afterthought! The most successful mobile
social titles are built with social play at the core of the game loop, not
something that's bolted on after the fact. That's not to say that all suc-
cessful mobile games require a social component, but I believe that the
most successful social games on mobile will be the ones that implement
fresh, unique, and simple social dynamics that mirror interactions we
have with each other in the real world.
Q: Last year you were acquired by Zynga. What kinds of things did you
learn about game design and production by joining forces with them?