Game Development Reference
Interview with Ryan Cleven: Social Platforms—cont'd
Q: Lots of people have proclaimed that console gaming and the retail
market are dead, and that the whole world should now go free-to-play
microtransaction. What do you think about that?
A: The audience scope of social games is so enormous and the amount
of money that we are charging per hour for free-to-play experiences is
too low to be sustainable right now. Eventually, new people are going
to stop coming into the system, and for growth to continue, we're going
to have to start charging more from these people. Is that just cranking
up the price of virtual goods or is it going to be a new business model?
Given that these games are lifestyle games, there is a business model that
already works—that's the subscription model. It has been around forever
in online gaming. There is a really great opportunity to leverage subscrip-
tions or new ways to think about subscriptions and to leverage virtual
goods at the same time. The thing we have to solve, though, is the barrier
to entry; $60 to try an experience to see if you like it is unreasonable. It
just means too many people are not going to try the experience you put
forth. A demo is not the same thing. The amount of time it takes to dis-
cover and get a demo is so slow.
The people who can give you a great experience, for free, in a few sec-
onds, are going to win. And as those experiences get better, it is going to
start to push aside experiences that cost $60 and take a day to install.
Q: Any parting thoughts for social game developers out there?
A: The audience being so large means there are opportunities for almost
all appropriately sized businesses. If you are a small business, do the
thing you think is interesting. Be weird and strange and fun and cool,
because chances are there are a hundred thousand other people out there
who will go for that. Do not copy Zynga directly, because Zynga is copy-
ing itself and so are the next three giant companies beneath them. It takes
an army of people to do what Zynga does well. Pick the appropriate level
to come in. With more than 200,000,000 social gamers out there, there are
people who would love to play a game that felt like it was made just for
Don't be afraid to go and do something different and interesting.