Viral growth doesn’t appear to be happening much for social games following Facebook’s many changes to its communication channels for third parties. That leaves advertising and cross-promotion. But if you’re a small developer without a big budget or many games, how do you bring in new players?
The ad-hoc answer come up with by a small consortium of social gaming companies is called Applifier. Started by Nabeel Hyatt of Conduit Labs and Jussi Laakkonen of Everyplay, Applifier is an invite-only network of games that will promote each other in an effort to increase traffic for all. The other founding participants include Metaplace, BitMinion, Free Lunch Design, Wonderhill and Three Rings.
“It’s more difficult to grow organically or acquire traffic than it was 6 months ago,” Hyatt told us today. “There are a lot more large players that are spending tens of millions of dollars to acquire traffic. But we feel like there’s a lot of innovation happening that’s not just around the big players.”
The aim of Applifier, then, is to pass around frequent players — people who Hyatt says play multiple games anyway. Each company that’s part of Applifier will agree to actively promote other games within their own products. You can already see it at work in games in the network like Music Pets, where a small banner bar sits above the game screen.
There are already a lot of formal and informal traffic exchanges between developers on Facebook. Applifier looks a bit different for a few reasons: the potential large number of participants, the relative openness (we never hear about most of the deals), and the absence of any money changing hands.
Hyatt says that Applifier was designed to be free to distinguish itself from other traffic exchanges, which he says typically exist to benefit the creator. “The spirit of this is kind of a rebel alliance where we’re banding together to make the whole stronger.” Of the membership requirements, he says, “We’re doing business with the people that we want to do business with.”
The Applifier ad bar isn’t just a parallel of the ones you see on games from larger companies like Zynga and Playfish. It’s a sort of subversion of Facebook’s advertising sidebar, where smaller developers are struggling to outbid huge developers like Zynga and Playdom.
It also points to the larger problem on Facebook. The options that developers have for finding users beyond ads, viral features and cross-promotion are currently limited to the company’s new app and games dashboards on its home page, and direct app-to-user email. Facebook is trying to improve the dashboards, but so far developers have not reported meaningful traffic from them.
Right now, the Applifier network has about 5 million monthly active users, which Hyatt sees going to 10 million within a couple weeks. We’ll keep an eye out to see whether it seems to be significantly helping its member games get traffic.