Mindjolt and OMGPop.com represent two different types of successful game portals available on the web today. At surface level, they are both very similar: they are both free to play, they both use Flash to power their games and are both considered social gaming portals. That said, the sites represent different elements of the social/casual gaming world. OMGPop (1 million MAU) is a standalone site with a deeper experience, with in-house developed games and a multiplayer focus, while Mindjolt (20 million MAU) is a Facebook application and an aggregator that collects games from other developers and focuses on quick, short gameplay. In this analysis, we examine how the two sites compare to one another, and determine whether a standalone site like OMGPop can overtake a Facebook success like Mindjolt.
Mindjolt.com, which was a very successful standalone web portal, transitioned its business into a Facebook application, and is now one of the largest Facebook game portals around, with over 20,000,000 MAUs. The business was recently purchased by a group of MySpace cofounders, and in this study it represents game portals that live on Facebook. OMGPop, a casual gaming destination site that attracts nearly 1,000,000 users a day, is an up and coming games site that has had steady growth for the last year, as evidenced by the chart below (provided by Quantcast).
OMGPop will represent the independent gaming site in this analysis. Pundits usually weigh in to make the unproven but anecdotally accurate statement that casual game players are leaving more targeted independent gaming sites like OMGPop and flocking to social networking sites to play social games on Facebook. If this is so, then why? By looking at the offerings available at a site like OMGPop.com and comparing it with the offering at the Mindjolt application, perhaps we can gain some insight into why players play where they do.
Games Selection and Quality
We start by analyzing the games selection, meaning the variety of games available, and the quality of games at each of the sites.
Mindjolt has been around for years and it shows. With a selection of over 1,300 casual games, the site continues to grow at a great pace. The reasons for their breadth is because they encourage independent developers to submit games to their platforms for review, and they make partnerships with bigger game companies like addictingames.com to host their games on MindJolt. This does mean that the quality of some of the games can be less than stellar.
If you jump over right now and take a look at the most popular games, you can see “Bouncing Balls” and “Solitaire”, both single player games with good graphic quality. Not exactly innovative titles, but with quick loading times, you know what you’re expecting and can get to the gameplay within seconds. The graphic quality is such that the games would be easily playable by players with less powerful computers, but still remain attractive to the eyes. There is almost no slowdown on any Mindjolt game, and this means the entire process of selecting a game, loading a game and starting a game occurs within a few seconds with only a few clicks.
OMGPop has 16 games and adds a new game every few months. Each of the games is developed in house and all games share a visual style and graphical quality. The games and their graphics are of a higher complexity, on average, than the Miniclip games. Every game on the OMGPop network is multiplayer, and the site works hard to ensure that players can get into a game in a short amount of time even despite the fact that these are connected, multiplayer games.
If you click “Play Now” for any game, it throws you into a random room to play against others. And with games like Jemmers (a Bejewelled clone), it can feel like you’re playing a single player game, but when your eyes scan to the left, you see that other players are playing simultaneously to you, and you’re in a competitive environment. The games themselves are excellent, and while most are clones of other games, the choices of originals are great.
You can play some great games inspired by Tank, Mario Kart, Bomberman, Pictionary and more. All the games have some twist and multiplayer aspect that separates them from the original, and the final result is that OMGPop delivers an extremely addictive, unique gaming experience.
In game selection, there’s no competition. Mindjolt has 1,300 games, and no matter what type of gaming mood I am in, Mindjolt can satisfy me. When it comes to game quality, I have to give the edge to OMGPop. Not only are their games original compared to other games on the web, they all have a non-intrusive multiplayer element. By non-intrusive, I mean the games are still as easy to pick up and play, but you often get surprised that you’re actually in a friendly competition with other players on the site.
Game Selection: MindJolt
Game Quality: OMGPop
Social Features and Community
OMGPop bills it as a multiplayer game site, and as such, every game involves real-time multiplayer experiences with other players. Almost every game includes some sort of chat functionality with the other games in your room. And the ability to immediately click on a profile and see the player’s gamer profile means a lot for people who are interested in developing a group of casual gaming friends.
There are also innovative features like the game wall, where you get coins and points for answering the questions that players post on their own wall. So for instance, I can leave a question up on my wall that asks “Who thinks Avatar deserved to win best picture at the Oscars?” Players who view my profile have a great incentive to answer the question, as they connect with me and gain coins.
Mindjolt is almost compeltely comprised of single player games, where you jump into a game, learn how to play and attempt to earn a high score. The system does, however, do a great job of connecting your scores with friends. For instance, on my first run of Downhill Snowboard, I scored fairly well and at the end of my run I was informed that “You have just defeated the score of John Smith”, and prompted to view the leaderboard, which had a large group of my friends.
I was prompted to publish the fact that I had beaten my friend on my page, which is a pretty cool option for highly competitive folk. I could also challenge any friend on my entire network.
Now, surely OMGPop would do a great job if my entire friends list was loaded into Facebook, but the advantage here goes to Mindjolt, because of the fact that it is on Facebook and has a great audience of my friends. It’s exhilarating, even with a small casual game, to have my score prompt a head to head battle with an old friend. OMGPop is not really able to match this at this point, because of their small user base. However, they are using Facebook Connect, and I was able to very easily see which of my Facebook friends were on OMGPop, and then add them as friends. It’s an intermediate step but would certainly help new players have more fun at OMGPop.
Social Features: OMGPop
Examining the results, we can see that OMGPop and MindJolt each won two categories each, with MindJolt winning in game selection and community, and OMGPop winning in game quality and social features. So when analyzing the original question, which is which of the two sites will come out on top, we can see that at this point, they both have their appeal to different types of gamers. If you’re looking for a deeper, multiplayer game experience, OMGPop is the site for you, but if you’re looking to casually spend 5 minutes exercising the fun parts of your striatum, then you probably want to try out some MindJolt games.
Important to note, however, is that Mindjolt won in the community section because of its massive Facebook audience. If OMGPop were to make a Facebook application or grow their FB userbase using FB Connect, they would likely have the edge in that area, and with their great social gaming features, they would start to encroach on Mindjolt. We’ll check back in a few months to see how the game portals have evolved.