Interview: Majesco’s Jesse Sutton and Matt McEnerney on Parking Wars 2 and Facebook

Publisher Majesco Entertainment’s first foray into the world of social gaming was with Cooking Mama launched in January of this year. With the announcement of Parking Wars 2 to be launched in May of 2011, we caught up with CEO Jesse Sutton on Majesco’s direction in the social gaming space, and with Producer Matt McEnerney on Parking Wars 2. The game was developed together with Area/Code, the New York developer recently acquired by Zynga, who created and self-published the first Parking Wars.

Inside Social Games: What’s Majesco’s take on Facebook and the future of social gaming?

Jesse Sutton: Facebook is really where social gaming started. If you can launch and monetize a game successfully on Facebook, it is your recipe for success. From there you can bring your game to all other platforms. The advantage of the Facebook platform is how quickly we can learn from our players through feedback and analytics. From there we balance the game and iterate.

Inside Social Games: How do you cut through all the noise that’s on Facebook and the number of similar games on it?

Jesse Sutton: As platforms mature, like you say, there is a lot of chatter on the market. As far as Majesco is concerned, it’s all about the brands. We took one of our top titles to the Facebook platform. Without any marketing, Cooking Mama went viral to 800,000 monthly users. We had not expected it to blossom quite that quickly without any advertising, and showed us what brands could do.

Parking Wars was a little game that Area/Code created in partnership with A&E (and self-published on Facebook) as a marketing tool for the TV show prior to its launch and it topped 500,000 monthly users at its peak. The game works well as a viral loop to bring players to the show and back to Facebook. After three years and the experience under our belt, we went to A&E and proposed Parking Wars 2, and I’ll let Matt here tell you more about the game.

Matt McEnerney: The core mechanic in Parking Wars 2 is the same as the original game and the show. It’s about parking and ticketing. You park your car or cars on your friends’ streets and ticket your friends’ cars when they are over parked or parked illegally on yours. We’ve taken the same core mechanic and added more depth. The player will be able to customize their streets and cars. We’ve got a whole new catalog of cars and we have plans for daily and weekly challenges and leader boards. We’ve also got a special bonus planned if you played the first game.

Inside Social Games: Why are Facebook games successful and what do you think makes some Facebook games more successful than others?

Jesse Sutton: It’s the social dynamics that these games inherently have. They are also free to play, micro-transaction and ad-based so most of the game is free. The simple and addictive game play mechanics is the well known “secret sauce” but the utility features such as filtering your friends list so that you know which friends are already playing the game also count for a lot. Further, evergreen brands also have long term viability and relevance. In Cooking Mama, we extended the brand to gardening and crafting in the DS and Wii versions.

Inside Social Games: There is criticism about Facebook games requiring you to “friend” many other players or spamming your friends list. Does Parking Wars 2 resemble this remark?

Matt McEnerney: You won’t need a hundred friends all playing Parking Wars 2 to advance in the game. Yes, it’s about parking on your friends streets, but we’ve brought a little more of the empire building aspect into Parking Wars 2 with the cars and street customization, and will have more features that capitalize on the social aspect of the game. For example, a player will be able to move a friend’s car if it’s in danger of getting ticketed, and a player can place surveillance cameras to send them email messages if a car is parked illegally on their streets. There are also AI “friends” for Parking Wars 2 to help players who don’t have many friends playing the game and who would rather not befriend strangers.

Inside Social Games: To close, what is Majesco’s plans in social gaming world?

Jesse Sutton: One of the unique aspects of Majesco is that we are developers as well as publishers. We are one of the few publicly traded companies that are involved in the publishing of social games. Our strategy is to create games that are platform agnostic, demographically focused, brand focused and our goal for social games to make the top twenty list of Facebook publishers this year.