I swear i've referenced & linked a million times to the presentation below Amy Jo KimfromShuffleBraingave at Etech 2006, and i recently had the pleasure of catching up with her in SF for a game geek dinner, then in San Diego for Graphing Social Patterns West. It's one of my absolute favorite discussions on user engagement & how to think about app / web design & user engagement by using strategy from game mechanics. Amy's one of the noted experts in the field, along with Raph Koster (A Theory of Fun) & a few others. I highly recommend reading more by both of these folks.
After much begging & pleading, i was able to get Amy to upload her presentation to SlideShare.net for easier display & distribution, and she graciously obliged (thanks amy!). Hopefully using SlideShare makes it more accessible for her fans (both current & new). i also chose a very basic SEO-friendly headline for this post to make it more findable.
for more on this topic, i suggest checking out both blog & website for Amy & Raph (linked above). since i'm somewhat new to the field, i'm also interested in other references people are aware of -- please feel free to add more in the comments. i know Jeremy Liew, Susan Wu, and Andrew Chen have written on these topics from startup / vc perspective as well.
my friend Eric Marcoullier asked me to post this par-tay announcement... unfortunately i'll be out of town monday night in vegas, but sounds like a blast:
Marc Pincus & Zynga are hosting a party for GDC geeks & social games / casual games developers at Jillian's (Sony Metreon). Go there & get your game on!
Marc & Zynga will be speaking on a panel along with Shervin / SGN + Mike Lazerow / Buddy Media, moderated by Jeremiy Liew / Lightspeed, at my Graphing Social Patterns conference in San Diego March 3-4. Hope you can join us :)
i'm probably late to the party, but i've been hearing more & more about companies in this space, and after the NY Times article on Zynga i'm guessing it's now officially the hotnew VC investment category for 2008.
(note for bandwagon entrepreneurs: "hot" does not necessarily mean "smart" or "likely to make money", but it probably does mean we'll see more startups jumping in & VCs opening their wallets ;)
but wait a sec, what the hell is a "social" game? aren't all games social by definition? what's new here?
Social Games = Casual Games (user engagement) + Social Networking (viral distribution)
briefly: "Social Games" is the handle for a new group of startups that combine the user engagement / retention attributes of "Casual Games" (easy-to-learn games with a broad audience target) with the viral distribution potential of social networking platforms like Facebook, MySpace, and others.
why is this such an interesting area? 3 reasons i think:
social networks are a great environment for using & distributing games
"casual games" are accessible to a very broad audience of users
games drive deep[er] user engagement & retention (which might help monetization)
(btw: i'm still exploring this area & hardly an expert, so please feel free to comment / pile on / make corrections in the comments)
other companies in the space i'm aware of: Webs.com, Buddy Media (also created the FB app AceBucks), Hive7, and perhaps SocialMedia, which for the moment is positioned as a third-party ad network for Facebook. Kongregate is probably also in the
mix, altho no social networking angle there yet that i'm aware of (did
i miss it?)... still, would be pretty easy addition / integration for
them (in fact, now that i think about it Kongregate might be an interesting acquisition target for Facebook).
others i missed?
links to folks who seem knowledgeable on casual games / social games:
for those who haven't seen it performed live, Half-Baked dot Com works like this:
25 players count off into 5 teams of 5
audience selects 50 random words for the teams to use
each team selects 2 words to use for a name (ex: blank-blank.com)
each team then has 10 minutes to create a biz plan
in addition to their name, the biz plan is comprised of:
1) a tagline
2) a logo
3) the product or service (your solution)
4) the business model (how do you make money)
5) the marketing plan (how do you get customers)
each team then has 2 minutes to pitch their plan
each plan is judged by our esteemed panel of VCs
hope you can join us, and get ready for barely controlled fun & insanity :)
UPDATE: the 5 half-baked teams who played chose the following names:
AsymmetricLosr.com - american psycho 2.0
SubliminalMonkey.com - you can't punch our monkey
ChunkyCadaver.com - reinventing the afterlife
CorpseTwitter.com - the longest tail (*** winner! ***)
KamikazeCadaver.com - living death to the fullest
there was a notable focus on the deceased & disconnected for this session of half-baked... either the Web 2.0 world is missing a big untapped market, or the Dead are making a comeback.
this round of half-baked was a close race between SubliminalMonkey.com (online subliminal advertising) and CorpseTwitter.com (SMS services for the departed), however the online presentation materials & logo for CorpseTwitter really stood out... particularly the reverse long-tail slide. i'm waiting for a link from Kevin Marks for the slide deck, and will post as soon as i get it...
So i've been a bit remiss in posting the rest of my Foo photos, and in blogging my thoughts from such a gloriously fun & educational weekend. i'll try and get all the Flickr pix up soon (took over 200, still sorting them out), but in the meantime here are a few brief vignettes from my wondrous journey down the rabbit hole known as FOO camp 2006...
so i drove up to Foo with James Levine (my former colleague & partner in crime from SimplyHired) and Paul Rademacher, now a Googler and the Artist Formerly Known as the Mashup DJ of HousingMaps. James & Paul are both alpha geeks i can't hold a candle to, so i felt privileged to shoot the shit with them on the roadtrip up to Sebastopol. quick aside: i met Paul a year ago, but just a few months back while sharing a shabu shabu lunch we discovered we both grew up in West Virginia. imagine, yet another hillbilly entrepreneur here in Silicon Valley... small world.
anyway, Paul & I had recently exchanged emails on what kind of talk we'd like to give at Foo (participants are encouraged to give presentations on their areas of interest / expertise, except that paul has lots of the latter & i only have lots of the former). as usual, we were down to the wire and hadn't quite nailed down our topic. we tossed around a few ideas about creating personalized agents and simplifying / automating search engines, but realized we better come up with something quick... by nightfall we'd have to choose a name for our talk on the Foo UnConferenceBoard. maybe our brains got fried from traffic on 101, but in the end we came up with something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT called HalfBaked.com: Entrepreneurial Improv Theatre.
Here's the concept behind HalfBaked:
Act 1: start by having people yell out ~50 random words.
Act 2: split into 5 teams, each chooses 2 words + ".com"
Act 3: each team has ~10 min to prep their BlankBlank.com biz plan
Act 4: each team does a 5 minute pitch on their product to a VC
Act 5: vote on who did the best job, then celebrate the insanity :)
Our winners (pictured above) were the imagineers of a business called BottlecapPorn.com, led by Rael Dornfest, Christine Herron, Greg Sadetsky, and a few other creative friends. (and yes, they really did pull together that website DURING the session, in < 15 minutes... impressive extra credit!)
We were also fortunate to reel in David Hornik & Paul Graham as judges, who didn't quite realize what was going on until we had them cornered. I know David pretty well and he's a gamer, but i must say a special thanks to Paul, who gave a talk earlier in the day on his experiences with Y Combinator that helped inspire our HalfBaked craziness. David is one of my favorite and shortest VCs, and Paul is one of the most eloquent, stimulating entrepreneurs & thinkers around (if you haven't read Hackers & Painters, i encourage you to check it out).
Thanks to James for all the photos above... he captured several exquisitemoments while i was emceeing the whole affair. And many thanks to all the fun folks who came out for our session: Rael, Christine, Chris DiBona, HB, Avi Bryant, many others... we had a great time!
i'll post more stuff soon on the rest of Foo, Werewolf, more foo pix, and a few of the amazing sessions i got to attend. thanks Tim! what a weekend :)
(update: added link to Greg Sadetsky, CTO of BottlecapPorn... apologies Greg!)