Wooga: Virality is Dead, Long Live Engagement

Along with a brand-new game called Happy Hospital, which we reviewed earlier this morning, Wooga is touting a rare achievement today: the company now has more than one game with over a million daily active users each, an achievement which CEO Jens Begemann points out is only shared by Zynga and Electronic Arts on Facebook.

The games are Bubble Island and Monster World, both of which come in just over the mark; the latter just broke through this morning. Wooga only has a total of four games, including the new release.

We chatted with Begemann about Wooga’s progress last night. It’s probably fair to call him ebullient. Only three percent of all Wooga players come from advertising, according to Begemann — a substantial claim, when many developers are complaining that their options to acquire users are narrowing to just cross-promotion and ads.

He points to four channels that fuel Wooga’s growth, three of which are fairly obvious to most developers: cross-promotion, discovery stories and invites between players. The fourth, and less well known, channel driving Wooga’s growth is direct searches on Facebook. Begemann’s theory is that players are learning about Wooga games through word of mouth, and actually taking the time to come search for them on Facebook.

Once you’ve gotten players, they’re only useful if you can keep them, though. “Each user you get, you have to treat like a nugget of gold,” Begemann says. “Virality is icing on the cake.”

Besides Facebook searches, Begemann points to an important change made by Facebook this year: automatic bookmarking and the left-hand navigation bar for games. More than 50 percent of Wooga’s daily active users come through the bookmarks now. “It’s the most important change Facebook has made for 2010,” he says.

Begemann’s theory is that the reality for Facebook developers has made an almost perfect 180 since the social gaming trend started in 2007. Now, virality is of relatively little importance, while retention and engagement rules. For a dynamic view of this change, check out the below Wooga presentation, starting at slide eight. Begemann and a list of other industry leaders will also be speaking at our Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011 conference in January — more details here.

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