Category: Gaming

Thank you Zynga

Zynga LogoAfter almost four years at Zynga, I’ve decided to make a significant personal change and leave the social gaming industry.

Thanks to my managers Steve Parkis, Cadir Lee, John Osvald and Roy Sehgal for their guidance and support during these years. Thanks to all my incredibly talented colleagues who made every day, even the challenging ones, enjoyable. Thanks to Mark Pincus for creating a company from a unique vision with meritocracy at its heart. I can’t think of a better company to have developed my career, it has been an amazing professional and personal experience. Thank you.

Still not tablet ready?

A month ago I published a post on the iPad outselling all major PC manufacturers. This week Forrester published a study that makes it clear that tablets are also changing user behavior; disrupting print and online media, music and gaming.

Device convergence is nothing new, but for many the device of choice is still mobile phones. The richer UX that tablets provide enables more complex and longer experiences, that can be monetized better.

This chart shows the results of a survey among U.S. tablet owners regarding changes in their media and device use since they own a tablet.

Crowdfunding as an alternative to bootstrapping or venture capital?

This week, industry veteran Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango), managed to raise $3,336,371 to fund his next game. Crowdfunding is now so popular, especially for games, that there was even a session at GDC 2012.

So far, however, crowdfunding has been mostly a way to fund projects with unclear commercial potential. What we haven’t seen yet is a startup that uses crowdfunding as essentially a “free” series seed. Entrepreneurs could prove there is a market for their product and get customer feedback.

I am sure it will not take too long.

If you never saw the video Tim used to raise funds, here it is:

Are you tablet ready?

This chart compares iPad sales to PC sales.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, Apple's tablet outsold all major PC manufacturers.

No, I’m not asking if you’re ready to wait in line for the new iPad. I’m wondering if you’re taking seriously the importance of the tablet as a key device.

Perhaps you have to rethink your product and design “tablet first”. Perhaps it helps your business or hurts it.

No matter what the impact to your business is, you should take it seriously. The tablet is not going anywhere.

I’m the Ambassador of Spain!

Spanish Ambassador to CityVille
Does he look familiar?

Well, kinda. If you play CityVille today you will be greeted by the Ambassador of Spain to CityVille. He’s bringing a lot of new Spanish-themed content and looks a lot like me. Thanks to Matt Winalski and Andy Wang from our great art team.

If you want to learn more about CityVille in general and the art process in particular, watch this NBC video.

CityVille!

CityVille
Are your ready to build the city of your dreams?

I have spent my last year and a half in Cafe World focusing mainly on product and more recently acting as Executive Producer. I have now joined CityVille as Director of Product. I want to thank everyone in Cafe World for making my day to day amazing. I can’t wait for the challenge of making the biggest game even better.

Launching Café World

Cafe World Logo
Have you played it yet?

A week after my last Farmville post, I joined Zynga as Product Manager. Being part of Café World’s launch team has been an amazing experience so far. It’s great to be on the other side of social games. This new role deserves all of my attention so I will unfortunately not be as active in blogging or tweeting.

If you want to know more about how Café World became the fastest growing game ever, you can read an interview with my boss here. If you want to have fun, you can play the game here.

Farmville animals

Farmville animals: cute but not very productive
Farmville animals: cute but not very productive

A lot has happened since my last post. I have a lot to thank to Lisa Chan, Zynga’s blogger, who featured it.

I’ll cover the impact it had in my personal life in a later post. Today,  let’s figure out the economics of animals on Farmville.

Are they there just to look pretty? Should I sell them, ignore them, buy more?

We’ll work with the same assumptions we used for the treeconomics:

  • Investment period and residual value: the animal is sold for its residual value after 90 days.
  • Discount rate: to simplify I’ll do a comparison of investments.
  • Available investments:  at this point only the cow, chicken and sheep are available to purchase.

First we’ll compare the animals among themselves to see which one has the highest daily revenue:

Cost Revenue/Harvest Days to Harvest Daily Revenue Daily Rev/ Invested $ Days to Payback
Sheep $700.0 $28.0 3 $9.33 1.33% 75
Chicken $400.0 $8.0 1 $8.00 2.00% 50
Cow $300.0 $6.0 1 $6.00 2.00% 50

Not surprisingly the sheep wins.  On “bang per buck” (or ROI) both the chicken and cow look better though.

Let’s compare a 90 day investment in a square full of sheeps with some crops and trees. Don’t let cartoon logic fool you, you can actually fit 16 sheeps or chicken in a single Farmville square. Only 4 cows though.

Daily Profit Total Profit Initial investment Residual Value Profit
Date tree square $368.0 $33,120.0 $12,800.0 $640.0 $20,960.0
Tomatoes $174.0 $15,660.0 $15,660.0
Raspberries $132.0 $11,880.0 $11,880.0
Chicken square $128.0 $11,520.0 $6,400.0 $320.0 $5,440.0
Sheep square $149.3 $13,440.0 $11,200.0 $560.0 $2,800.0
Cow square $24.0 $2,160.0 $1,200.0 $60.0 $1,020.0

It seems that animals are not a great investment. It turns out that the best among them is a chicken square, given that the cost is much lower than a sheep square. However, it is still lower than, for example, pineapples.

Animals in Farmville will earn you badges but won’t make you rich. They also make a beautiful gift for your friends.

Farmville treeconomics: is this going too far?

[digg=http://digg.com/playable_web_games/Farmville_treeconomics_is_this_going_too_far]

The farmville date tree. Fill a square with 16 of them and you have a great investment.
The farmville date tree. Fill a square with 16 of them and you have a great investment.

Fred Wilson blogged recently about Zynga, the #1 social gaming company, looking for talent  in Wall Street. He should know, he’s a Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures, one of the VC firms backing the company. I am sure that to many this might seem strange but it shouldn’t. You can put an MBA to good use just to play Farmville.

Adam Nash did just that. He took Farmville economics a step further in his last two posts and Lisa Chan at Zynga took good note of it. The next task in his list is figuring out the economics of trees. I thought I would give it a try.

Like in any financial model we’ll start with a couple of assumptions:

  • Investment period and residual value: like Adam said, people will not be playing Farmville in 2020. Given that the “investment cycle” is daily I thought it was fair to assume that the tree is sold for its residual value after 90 days.
  • Discount rate: I’m a huge supporter of using the NPV investment rule. The problem with this is, like I said, that we have to now find an adequate discount rate. To simplify and given that Adam’s initial analysis was not done on a bang per buck basis, I’ll just do a comparison of investments.
  • Available investments: I still need to level up! Also other trees are available as gifts but cannot be purchased. I’ll base the analysis on the trees I have available to purchase.

First we’ll compare the trees among themselves to see which one has the highest daily revenue:

Cost Revenue/Harvest Days to Harvest Daily Revenue Daily Rev/ Invested $ Days to Payback
Date $800.0 $69.0 3 $23.00 2.88% 35
Lime $750.0 $75.0 5 $15.00 2.00% 50
Lemon $475.0 $41.0 3 $13.67 2.88% 35
Peach $500.0 $47.0 4 $11.75 2.35% 43
Fig $350.0 $33.0 3 $11.00 3.14% 32
Plum $350.0 $30.0 3 $10.00 2.86% 35
Orange $425.0 $40.0 4 $10.00 2.35% 43
Apple $325.0 $28.0 3 $9.33 2.87% 35
Cherry $225.0 $18.0 2 $9.00 4.00% 25

The date tree is the winner, but if we were to rank it on a daily revenue per dolar spent basis (bang per buck) it would look quite different:

Cost Revenue/Harvest Days to Harvest Daily Revenue Daily Rev/ Invested $ Days to Payback
Cherry $225.0 $18.0 2 $9.00 4.00% 25
Fig $350.0 $33.0 3 $11.00 3.14% 32
Lemon $475.0 $41.0 3 $13.67 2.88% 35
Date $800.0 $69.0 3 $23.00 2.88% 35
Apple $325.0 $28.0 3 $9.33 2.87% 35
Plum $350.0 $30.0 3 $10.00 2.86% 35
Orange $425.0 $40.0 4 $10.00 2.35% 43
Peach $500.0 $47.0 4 $11.75 2.35% 43
Lime $750.0 $75.0 5 $15.00 2.00% 50

As a side note, also the crops would look different on a bang per buck basis:

Daily Investment Daily Profit Daily Rev/ Invested $
Super Berries 300.0 900 300.0%
Watermelon 36.3 51 140.0%
Artichokes 21.3 30 140.0%
Wheat 16.7 22 130.0%
Cotton 30.0 39 130.0%
Pineapples 55.0 66 120.0%
Yellow Bell 45.0 54 120.0%
Squash 27.5 33 120.0%
Eggplant 20.0 24 120.0%
Soybean 30.0 33 110.0%
Pepper 85.0 77 90.6%
Rice 120.0 72 60.0%
Pumpkin 135.0 69 51.1%
Blueberries 390.0 156 40.0%
Strawberries 150.0 60 40.0%
Raspberry 420.0 132 31.4%

Back to our analysis. Let’s compare a 90 day investment in a square full of date trees with some crops. Believe it or not, 16 date trees can be squeezed in a square.

Daily Profit Total Profit Initial investment Residual Value Profit
Super Berries $900.0 $81,000.0 $81,000.0
Date tree square $368.0 $33,120.0 $12,800 $640.0 $20,960.0
Tomatoes $174.0 $15,660.0 $15,660.0
Raspberries $132.0 $11,880.0 $11,880.0

Does a date tree square make sense? Sure. The catch? A square full of date trees costs 12,800 coins, you need 35 days just to pay the investment back. If you are looking to optimize your farm on a per square basis it’s perfect. Given that space and not coins is the key constrain in Farmville, it does make sense. Also, the longer the investment period, the better it will look.

Is this over-analyzing and going too far? Maybe, but in a blog about digital media, gaming, VC and randomness, this post fits great. If you need financial modeling to Excel at these games (pun intended), you do need to look in Wall Street to manage them.

Update: you can now see the analysis for Farmville animals here.

Super Berries 300.0 900 300.0%
Watermelon 36.3 51 140.0%
Artichokes 21.3 30 140.0%
Wheat 16.7 22 130.0%
Cotton 30.0 39 130.0%
Pinneaples 55.0 66 120.0%
Yellow Bell 45.0 54 120.0%
Squash 27.5 33 120.0%
Eggplant 20.0 24 120.0%
Soybean 30.0 33 110.0%
Pepper 85.0 77 90.6%
Rice 120.0 72 60.0%
Pumpkin 135.0 69 51.1%
Blueberries 390.0 156 40.0%
Strawberries 150.0 60 40.0%
Raspberry 420.0 132 31.4%