Family Feud: How a 30-Something Brand Built a Successful App on Facebook

By Chris Morrison Comment

Brands haven’t had much success in the Facebook app market. Although quite a few large companies have a successful Page for themselves or a product, it’s rare to see an app that has had any success at all working with a well-known name.

Which is why we’ve been watching Family Feud with interested since the app began quickly growing in March. Despite stemming from a brand over three decades old, Feud kicked the losing streak for brands and got users — almost four million of them at last count.

David Fox, the co-founder of developer iWin, got up on stage yesterday at the Social Gaming Summit in San Francisco to talk about what made the difference with the trivia app.

First and most surprising is that Feud’s growth may not be as dependent on nostalgia as you might think — Fox said that Brits and Australians have also been playing the game. Feud succeeds because it hits a sweet spot in its market; Fox called it a “trivia game for everyday folk.”

What really makes Feud work is having a brand that fits naturally into a social app. Feud isn’t just trivia, it’s cooperative trivia in which small, tightly knit social groups work together. On Facebook, players can’t synchronously work together, but iWin managed to translate the touch-points to still be satisfying for users. For instance, after playing a round you may be able to see answers that friends gave in the past, what Fox called a “moment of intimacy” that provides in insight into how people close to you think.

Picking a brand with obvious social connections was only half the puzzle for iWin, though. The other half was finding a brand owner that understood Facebook and was willing to provide support, not just licensing.

Having fulfilled those basic qualifications, though, iWin decided to go off the rails with many of its other features. Here are a few points from Fox’s list of Facebook “rules” that his company broke with the game:

  • Long session times: Fox said that Feud’s playtimes run long for Facebook, but users don’t seem to mind.
  • Gated content: Feud is a time management game with a vengeance, involving a 24 hour wait between plays unless you pay. Fox seemed to think the strict gating had to do with some people’s addiction.
  • Not international: iWin hasn’t localized the prototypically American game, even for the easy British English market, but again, people come back anyway.
  • Heavy keyboard use: There’s not much mouse-clicking in Feud, something of a central facet of most Facebook games.
  • You can lose: Most Facebook games don’t have any real way for a player to lose.

Fox also mentioned a couple rules that the company initially broke, but had to change its mind on, including updating content (it turned out that players always have creative new answers and interpretations to be added to the database) and adding in some potentially viral components.

The big take-away is that Fox actually thinks that working with brand owners will be one of the vital methods left to smaller developers, going forward. “A brand is one of the few ways left to succeed,” he said, though adding that the idea of rule breaking is important too. “There are a lot of different things to be tried,” he said. “People often say that at conferences, but they’re not actually doing it. Organic growth is still possible.