Friday Podcast: Interview with Donna Powell, Co-Founder of NeoPets and Meteor Games

For today’s Podcast Friday, we sat down with Donna Powell, one of the co-founders of Neopets who has now helped found social gaming company Meteor Games. Their debut title, Island Paradise has rocketed to 7.5 million MAU in only a matter of months without leveraging advertising networks: the game grew mainly by word of mouth. See below for the podcast.

This conversation is definitely worth a look if you’re interested in social game design, monetization and distribution. Donna has a lot of experience in the games arena, and there’s a lot to learn here. Here are a few highlights.

  • Donna and the team were interested in 3D MMOs, but caught wind of the social gaming trend early and moved fast
  • They reached their 7 million MAU without using any advertising or banner networks
  • Island Paradise was released at the end of August, and has been growing mainly through word of mouth
  • Little Rock Pool has 600,000 MAU, again built on the strength of the game and word of mouth
  • Donna and Adam were the cofounders of NeoPets, and now the main creative direction is taken by Adam and his designers and directors.
  • Meteor Games uses a regular iteration process to keep their games fresh
  • Island Paradise and Little Rock Pool used a shared currency, but Meteor Games has no plans to create any overarching currency platform: it’s just an easier way for users to buy and spend money in the game
  • Games with more depth are what Donna sees coming for the future
  • NeoPets expanded to consoles and other areas, but Island Paradise has no immediate plans. There is talk to bring the game to other platforms.
  • Donna is a fan of WoW and “you keep leaving but it sucks you back in”, is a fan of the Wii and how it gets her parents able to play games.
  • Adam and Donna Powell founded NeoPets in 1998, and the game eventually grew to 35 million unique users, 11 million unique IP addresses per month, and 4 billion web page views per month. The game is considered to be one of the first casual MMOs, and at the time was compared to games like Tamagotchi and Pokemon.
  • Island Paradise’s high production values, great social features and attractive virtual currency suggests that the game may be earning a high average revenue per user (ARPU) for its 2 million DAU.