40% of MouseHunt Users Return Every Day – Q&A with fbFund Winner Joel Auge

To gain more perspective on the strategies employed by successful Facebook application developers, Inside Facebook has recently interviewed the winners of the fbFund’s $250k prize. So far, we’ve spoken with WildFire, a brand marketing tool, GroupCards, a collaborative e-greeting company, and Weddingbook, an wedding and events management tool.

This time around, we talked with Joel Auge, one of the founders of HitGrab and creator of MouseHunt, a Facebook game that is not only included in the list of fbFund grant winners but is also one of the most popular and engaging games on the Facebook platform.  Read below to hear some of the unique perspectives of an indie game developer on the Facebook Platform.

Q: What does MouseHunt bring to Facebook, and what inspired you to start this business?

A: HitGrab was started 2 years before we decided to develop on the Facebook platform. We decided to do so when one of our clients needed a content management system for their website and were using Facebook very proactively to connect to their client base. We saw an opportunity to try something different and designed a simple CMS for their customer relationships and web content through Facebook. They loved it and use it to this day.

Facebook is just that; a great way to develop, maintain and increase your social presence. We fell in love with that idea. To that end, we decided to build a game. Games are inherently social in nature. So to develop MouseHunt on a naturally relational platform seemed like a good idea at the time… and it just really took off. Facebook allows the relationships in the game to happen, while MouseHunt allows those relationships to grow into a team-based, time-based, pass-time that is unlike any other social game.

Q: MouseHunt has become incredibly popular, with nearly a quarter million devoted monthly players. How did you reach this point in less than a year? What methods did you employ to gain traction among Facebook users and to market your app? Is this what you would recommend to the next generation of fbFund applicants?

A: MouseHunt will be 1 year old on March 7th, 2009. Our users (on their own) are organizing anniversary meets all over the world on that day. Australia, England, Israel, the U.S.A., and Singapore are among the countries where MouseHunters will unite to celebrate the anniversary.

I think the main reason MouseHunt has become such a deeply engaging game is because we’ve included our users in the development of the game. We’ve done everything possible, used every method to get them to interact directly with us. The users have access to the development team (and each other) through the forums, videos, and a built-in chat system. We’ve decided to share a large slice of our office lives with them.

MouseHunters have responded by participating in a more engaged way than perhaps any other application on Facebook (our daily engagement rates continue to hover around the 30% to 40% of total MAUs daily). I’d highly recommend that anyone who develops an app wholly involve themselves in their burgeoning communities. It’s done wonders for us.

Q: Can you offer any advice to game developers out there on how to create a really engaging game (that actually makes money)?

A: Coming from a PPC/SEO and web marketing background, we knew from the get-go that we couldn’t rely on advertising to make money from the game. There’s no way the initial traffic would have covered development costs. So our plan involved selling a digital product in-game. We feel it was the best decision for us. The trick was trying to get users engaged enough to come back over and over again… and that’s been our focus ever since the very beginning.

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