Ravenwood Fair Creators Explain Facebook Game Monetization: No Sharing, No Buying

Social Times recently attended the “SF Game Developers Workshop: A Post Mortem of Ravenwood Fair” hosted by Yetizen. The featured speakers included John Romero and Brenda Brathwaite, seasoned gaming industry veterans who shared their experiences with regards to the Ravenwood Fair project (facebook.com/RavenwoodFair). Ravenwood Fair has recently surpassed 10 million MAUs (over 1.1 million DAUs) and is one of the best monetizing games on Facebook.
John Romero touched upon several interesting topics, particularly virality and its direct impact on monetization. LOLapps, the company behind Ravenwood Fair, was penalized by Facebook due to user privacy issues at the end of October, 2010. Part of the punishment included blocking all of LOLapps’s viral channels. This action obviously killed off their virality, but also had a similar impact on monetization. Romero pointed out that even though players could still purchase premium items from the store the same way they could prior to the viral channel ban, they simply stopped monetizing once the viral channels were taken down. Since players could no longer share their achievements, send gifts and perform other social activities, it unplugged them from Facebook’s social graph.
We know that 2-3% of all players on Facebook monetize. With that said we can assume that deeply engaged players that make up that 2-3% are heavy users of viral channels. The biggest value add of gaming on Facebook vs. other platforms is the ability to connect and play games with any of your friends. Once players can no longer use their viral channels, monetization drastically drops because the game becomes no longer social.
Many developers tend to overlook the importance of viral channels on Facebook. The more effectively you utilize your viral channels the more social your game becomes, the better the overall user engagement will be and the higher the monetization. This does not mean spamming your players with viral messages, but rather finding the right balance that encourages social behavior while avoiding a negative impact on user experience.