Game Development Reference
work's early years, has become less accurate in recent times. Whereas a 2010 PopCap-sponsored study sugges-
ted that 55 percent of U.S. Facebook gamers were women with an average age of 48, a 2011 study sponsored
by Kabam showed a significant presence of gamers as we generally understand them. Of the people who play
strategy games on Facebook, 82 percent reported they were also frequent console gamers, and 77 percent played
PC games like WoW and Starcraft. So clearly there's a large market for a variety of games. Generally speaking,
about 5 percent of this player base will directly spend money on a game—see the interview with Inside Virtual
Goods's Justin Smith in the next chapter.
This is in a market of about 25 million monthly active users, or MAU.
Identifying Facebook's Big Three in Games
and Three of Its Rising Stars
For a better understanding of how diverse the market for Facebook games is, here's a look at three of the in-
dustry's top developer/publishers, along with three successful mid-tier developers.
The undisputed market leader of Facebook gaming now counts about 247 million monthly active users of its
titles, which include the SimCity-like game CityVille and the strategy game CastleVille. Although many of its
top titles were developed in-house, a number of its hits were first developed by smaller studios the company
acquired. (Or, as it's sometimes called in Silicon Valley, “acq-hired.”) In 2011 alone, Zynga bought several mo-
bile developers —including Wonderland Software, DNA Games, Astro Ape Studios, and Five Mobile—strongly
suggesting the company plans to design and develop more cross-platform games like its hits Words With Friends
and Texas Hold 'Em. This direction was confirmed in March with the purchase of OMGPOP, developer of the
come-from-nowhere cross-platform hit Draw Something, for $180 million.
Mobile game designers, take note.
The flip side of acquisition: Zynga is also known for designing games that very strongly resemble the hits of
competitors, and in 2012, two smaller developers, NimbleBit, creator of Tiny Tower, and Buffalo Studios, cre-
ator of BINGO Blitz, accused Zynga of copying their games. Zynga defends itself by claiming they are merely
improving on games, but for many indie designers, their takeaway is this: Make a popular game, get bought by
Or watch as Zynga copies you and uses its huge cross-promotional engine to make its game way bigger than you ever dreamed.
Electronic Arts (EA) Playfish and PopCap
The game industry giant literally bought its way into Facebook gaming with the 2009 purchase of Playfish
(maker of Pet Society and other early social game hits) and the 2011 acquisition of PopCap (casual multi-plat-