Looking for the next big thing? Social gaming startups heating up

As the Facebook Platform matures (i.e. Facebook cracks down on application spam and users become more skeptical/tired of applications), entrepreneurs and investors are looking for ways to break away from the mold of the now over 15,000 applications in the Facebook Platform directory.

One area that’s been getting more and more attention from entrepreneurs on Facebook recently is social gaming. Often posting eye-popping daily active user ratios of over 10% or even 20% (compared to 4% or 5% for most healthy Facebook apps), Facebook games have demonstrated that Facebook users want to bring their friends back into the gaming experience.

Not only are traditional casual games being repurposed for the Facebook context, but an entirely new breed of casual asynchronous MMO’s is emerging. Many of these games can seem silly at first but are actually thoroughly thought out, employing many traditional principles of game design creatively enhanced with new kinds of viral game loops.

While most Facebook apps contain some game-like characteristics, there are a few developers focusing primarily on building a portfolio of casual game applications across Facebook and other social networks. They range in size from Zynga, which recently raised a $10 million Series A round, to Simeon Dorsey, a student from Wisconsin. The graphs at right show the top Facebook game developers by total installs and daily active users.

As you can see, while Blake Commagere’s apps the most total installations, Zynga sports the highest total daily user counts, while Scrabulous has the most impressive daily active user ratio at a whopping 23%. Notably, the big game development houses are nowhere to be found at the top of the list – though EA does have unannounced projects going (see below).

Here’s a quick look at the top game developers on Facebook today:

Zynga Game Network

  • Founded: 2007 by Marc Pincus, Michael Luxton, Andrew Trader, and Eric Schiermeyer
  • Popular Games: Poker, Attack, BlackJack
  • Reach (Facebook): 10.1 million installs, 750k daily active users
  • Investors: Raised $10 million from Avalon Ventures (Rich Levandov), Foundry Ventures (Brad Feld), Union Square Ventures (Fred Wilson), Reid Hoffman (CEO of LinkedIn), Peter Thiel (Managing Partner of Clarium Capital), Pilot Group (Bob Pittman and Andy Russell); formerly known as Presidio Media

Social Gaming Network

  • Founded: 2007 by Shervin Pishevar, TJ Murphy and Haroon Mokhtarzada
  • Popular Games: Warbook, StreetRace, Fight Club
  • Reach (Facebook): 3.3 million installs, 200k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: formerly a Freewebs project

Blake Commagere

  • Founded: 2007 (Individual)
  • Popular Games: Vampires, Zombies, WereWolves, Slayers
  • Reach (Facebook): 18.7 million installs, 465k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: very early Facebook developer; long time RockYou partner


  • Founded: 2007 by Josh Williams, Scott Raymond, and others
  • Popular Games: PackRat
  • Reach (Facebook): 15k installs, 3k daily active users
  • Investors: $2 million from Founders Fund (according to VentureBeat, but a comment on the story quoting Alamofire’s Josh Williams says this is not entirely accurate)
  • Notes: formerly a Firewheel Design project (makers of IconBuffet)

Agarwalla Brothers

  • Founded: 2007 by Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla
  • Popular Games: Scrabulous (most daily active users of any Facebook game)
  • Reach: 2.6 million installs, 600k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: apparently in legal limbo due to complaints by Hasbro, makers of the popular Scrabble board game

Team Moulin

  • Founded: 2007 by Unknown
  • Popular Games: PetrolHead, OneTrack
  • Reach: 4.4 million installs, 230k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown


  • Founded: 2005 by Richard Fields
  • Popular Games: MindJolt Games
  • Reach: 1.4 million installs, 180k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: customizes games developed by Mochi Media for the Facebook environment


  • Founded: 2005 by John Hwang
  • Popular Games: Speed Racing
  • Reach: 3 million installs, 270k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown

Simeon Dorsey

  • Founded: 2007 (Individual)
  • Popular Games: Jetman
  • Reach: 3 million installs, 210k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown

EA Blueprint

  • Founded: 2007 by Neil Young, Alan Wu, and others
  • Popular Games: Smarty Pants
  • Reach: 240k installs, 12k daily active users
  • Notes: currently a stealth division of EA Redwood Shores, working with Creative Artists Agency and dev house Context Optional (according to Gametap)

For more reading on game design and social networks, I highly recommend:

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