Game Development Reference
Interview with Everett Lee of OMGPOP:
The Science of Social Game Design—cont'd
Q: Tell us a little about your history in the games business and your cur-
A: I started in this industry back in the late 1990s and have worked on PC
and console titles for small developers, start-ups, and large publishers like
Microsoft and Sony. My career has spanned across animation, design, and
production. Most recently, I joined on with OMGPOP, a New York-based
social and mobile game company. I am heading up our Austin, Texas, office,
where we are looking to organically grow our development team by tapping
into the city's deep game developer pool and then launch some stellar titles!
Q: Many of OMGPOP's games seem to focus on very accessible game
mechanics, often using just one button or a single player action. Does this
reflect a commitment to a certain player demographic?
A: We are targeting a much more casual gaming audience in the social and
mobile space, focusing on simple game interactions and mechanics that
most anyone can pick up in a few minutes. Doing so greatly expands our
addressable market by not targeting just the traditional hardcore gamer,
but rather anyone just looking for a few minutes of entertainment, from
the kid at the bus stop to a housewife juggling a handful of children.
Instead of competing with TV programs, movies and traditional games,
we fill a niche I refer to as “traffic stop games.” These are games that can
be picked up and played in the time it takes for the light to change, and
then picked up again, or not at all, at the next red light. It is not meant
as a literal timer or guideline, but the metaphor of a bite-sized gaming
experience that people come back to over and over again, and stop and go
traffic fits pretty well. In the social game space, we do not have an hour to
teach players all the different control options and game mechanics.
Now, that is not to say that social and mobile games do not have depth
to them. Many of the good ones have a layer of strategy or decision mak-
ing on top of the core game loop, in which the “min/max players” try to
optimize their actions for the fastest advancement or best payout. If you
don't believe me, just Google a popular social game alongside the key-
words “strategy guide.”
Q: What sorts of monetization mechanisms do you see as being the most
effective for the casual market?
A: Generally speaking, the two basic choices are to have an upfront cost
for a game or to give away a game for free, initially. Merchandise with an