Zynga and PopCap: Differing Strategies In A Social Gaming World

Garth Chouteau, Vice President of Public Relations at PopCap Games, believes that PopCap Games, Inc takes a different approach to gaming than their competitors, "At PopCap, we're focused on building short, social iterations of our classic casual games, and continuing to grow and improve them over the long haul so they're always getting better and never getting boring or stale." According to Chouteau, "PopCap's competitors seem awfully similiar, and not terribly fun -- more like social interaction exercises within a 'game' wrapper." These are two different methods that produce contrasting results, which produces better games?

Garth Chouteau, Vice President of Public Relations at PopCap Games, believes that PopCap Games, Inc takes a different approach to gaming than their competitors, “At PopCap, we’re focused on building short, social iterations of our classic casual games, and continuing to grow and improve them over the long haul so they’re always getting better and never getting boring or stale.” According to Chouteau, “PopCap’s competitors seem awfully similiar, and not terribly fun — more like social interaction exercises within a ‘game’ wrapper.” These are two different development methods that produce contrasting results: which produces better games?

Take a look at Zynga, one of PopCap’s top competitors. According to AllFacebook.com’s Stats Tool, Zynga owns the top five list of monthly active users: CityVille, FarmVille, Texas Hold’em Poker, FrontierVille and the Mafia Wars Game – every single one of those games is a Zynga product. How about the top six list of monthly active users? All Zynga games. What about the top seven list of monthly active users? Zynga. In fact, seven games out of the top 10 list of monthly active users were created by Zynga.

From what I’ve just expressed, Zynga must have the better overall approach, correct? Instead of looking at MAU, let’s take a look at DAU (daily active users). Out of the top five list of games by daily active users, Zynga developed four out of the five. PopCap, on the other hand, developed the fifth game on the list, Bejeweled Blitz. Even though Bejeweled Blitz has a declining weekly growth rate of 95,000 users, its rate of daily active users has fluctuated steadily in the 4 to 4.5 million range throughout the latter part of 2010. Compared to games like FarmVille, CityVille and FrontierVille this range of steady daily active users is low, however, it does prove that PopCap’s games bring consumers back for more.

However, even though PopCap does have a steady base of players, they are still not at the same level as Zynga. Just by taking a look at MAU, gamers obviously want to still play games like CityVille, FrontierVille and FarmVille. There is nothing wrong with taking the same gaming concept and using it over and over again. If it works, then use it.

I don’t necessarily disagree with Chouteau’s comments regarding other companies, he does have a cohesive argument. Unfortunately, developers may think they know what the consumers want, but unless it’s based on rigorous polling and analysis, it’s just their gut feeling, and that doesn’t work a lot of the time. Three out of the top five games are almost exact replicas of each other.

We will know when it’s time to change the types of games by looking at the numbers. When games like CityVille, FarmVille and FrontierVille begin moving down the list, it’s time for an alternative type of game. However, once we find the game type people are looking for, it’s important to stick to Zynga’s approach to gaming development. As of now, CityVille is the only game out of three I just mentioned that is still currently growing. Could the tides be changing?