Not long ago, we published a list of the best Facebook games of the year. Heading it up was a title called Nightclub City, which we attributed to Booyah, the company that owns the location-based game MyTown.
But there was something curious thing about Nightclub City: despite the title’s obvious success, Booyah wouldn’t admit to owning the game. Only this morning has the company finally opened up to talk about NightClub City.
Booyah, of course, is already famous for MyTown, which is the largest location-based app around. NightClub City, at first glance, is completely different. While MyTown is a mobile app, Nightclub City is a Facebook game; MyTown has players buy up virtual versions of real places, while Nightclub City is all about managing a virtual club.
Keith Lee, the CEO of Booyah, says that the differences are only on the surface. “Our premise is the intersection of the virtual and real worlds,” he says. “The platform doesn’t matter.”
In MyTown, that intersection is pretty obvious, but you have to play Nightclub City for a few minutes to get it. A large part of the game is about playing music, chosen from one of several categories. The “real world” part is that all of the artists you’ll hear in Nightclub City are indie musicians that you could just as easily hear in a real club.
“All of us are really passionate about music — personally I’m a DJ, so this is the heart and soul of our company,” says Lee. “We didn’t want to go to a large label, we wanted to connect indie artists to a lot of new users. People haven’t necessarily heard of them.”
The music component has helped Nightclub City to expand. When first releasing the game, Lee says that the indie artists whose music was used reached out to friends and fans, telling them to play.
In turn, as the game grew, the artists themselves found new fans. “Some of these people might have spent a week getting 5,000 fans, while we were able to do that overnight,” Lee says.
The feedback between artists and users has so far helped the game to grow to 4.4 million monthly active users over two months, despite a surprising omission: Nightclub City never encourages players to invite their friends, beyond the almost obligatory friend bar at the bottom of the screen. That means no random pop-ups, no incitements to give friends gifts, and relatively few requests to make wall posts about in-game developments.
Lee also says that Booyah didn’t do any advertising for Nightclub City in its early days, and has still kept its ad budget minimal. So by itself, Nightclub City can stand as evidence that a game from a new developer to Facebook can still succeed solely on its merits as a good game.
As for why Booyah didn’t announce Nightclub City sooner, Lee claims that the main motivation was simply making sure that it was a viable title worth associating with the brand — although he also points out that competition is still a concern on Facebook, with other companies able to quickly imitate a product.
The interesting speculation for the future is how Booyah will integrate its cross-platform products. Lee says that development was simple — MyTown and Nightclub City use the same backend, with only the interface being different. But there’s more to do in terms of tying the products together, or moving them across to each other’s respective platforms.
Lee isn’t saying much about Booyah’s plans yet, but he promises more soon. “I think strategically it doesn’t make sense to be on just one platform,” Lee says. “If you start to consider where everyone is going, the mobile companies want to be on Facebook, and Zynga wants to be on mobile.”
For now, Nightclub City players can at least use MyTown to earn Facebook Credits to use in-game — a tie-in that we expect to see more in the future from other companies, since Facebook is itself interested in spreading Credits more widely.