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PopCap: Zynga 'buys customers'

CEO Roberts claims solid game design will triumph over marketing

Popcap CEO Dave Roberts has suggested that Zynga might ultimately end up on a backfoot in social gaming.

"They are in some ways struggling to catch up because they are not gaming in their heritage," Roberts claimed at the Washing Technology Industry Association TechNW conference yesterday (as attended by TechFlash).

"They are a marketing company. They are a media company. They are awfully good at it. But we believe that ultimately, and it's our bias, that... great games are always going to be better than great marketing."

"Zynga is really good at sort of using money to buy their customers every day," Roberts added. "That's an interesting business model, but becomes complicated.

Reiterating recent comments by Popcap CCO Jason Kapalka, Roberts felt that "a lot of the easy money that catapulted companies like Zynga into this crazy stratosphere - the easy money days are gone."

"That doesn't mean the platform is dead, it just means that you actually now have to work at it. Now, it is not about luck, it is about good, old-fashioned hard work."

Roberts observed that Popcap's first Facebook title, Bejwelled Blitz, was currently drawing more daily unique visitors than Mafia Wars, and had not required advertising to do so. However, he did not make the same comparison with FarmVille or FrontierVille.

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Latest comments (10)

Ben Cousins General Manager, Sweden, ngmoco:)6 years ago
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William Kavanagh QA Technology, Codemasters6 years ago
I'd have to agree with Roberts here. Strong gameplay will win out in the long term.
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Ultimately everyone wants to have fun and engage in something interesting, if you can deliver that you will find an audience.

Some of these other games are more like applications focused on addiction rather than enjoyable and beneficial experiences, nice to hear this being commented on.
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Show all comments (10)
Henri Lindgren6 years ago
I concur 100% with Roberts here.
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John Kauderer Associate Creative Director, Atari6 years ago
It will be interesting to see what happens to Facebook gaming, or Facebook in general over the next few years. Could Facebook be the next Friendster? Stranger things have happened, but Facebook seems to be making all the right decisions.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game6 years ago
From personal experience, I find it's easy to get hooked on zynga games for a short time, but ultimately feel no satisfaction, and that I wasted a great deal of time over maybe 5 weeks. It's all obsession and no entertainment. Put peggle or chuzzle or plants vs zombies on, several hours later I have a smile on my face as i try that umpteenth 'one more try'. So I know which style of casual gaming I'd like to thrive. I don't know that my opinion matters much, but I'd guess people kick mafia wars and try to avoid games like it in future, but people who get hooked on bejewelled will be happy to play it again in the future.
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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts6 years ago
You guys clearly have no clue what good marketing can do. Take a look at Disney's products. It creates horrible, cookie-cutter manufactured "goods" and, after millions of dollars in marketing, sells them to every man, woman, and child that goes to their theme parks or watches their channels or enters their stores. There are other products that are far, far superior to everything Disney makes yet it outsells the competition purely because of its marketing campaigns.

If you have a good enough campaign, a crappy product will outsell a great product any day of the week.
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Wojciech Mroczek Awesome Content Specialist, GOG.com6 years ago
"great games are always going to be better than great marketing"

If only that were true... But well. It's not. There's about 80% of the games market to prove this words wrong. So "always"? No. But sometimes. And I'll guess that still counts for a lot.

But still - my heart is all in favour of Roberts' point of view.
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Damien Robson Studying Games Software Development, University of Sunderland6 years ago
You can throw as much money into a game as you want, but if it's not playable (in the sense that people want to keep playing it, time and time again), then it's going to be lost in the darkness. There's no point making a game out to be an epic experience only to let your gamers down.

Case in point: Fable 1. A game which was the victim of it's own hype. The marketing guys made it appear to be so much more than the game actually offered. They promised "open worlds". We got "open gardens with foot-high fences and invisible walls".
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology6 years ago
i 100% agree with robets view....now only if game companies would listen....maybe we would have good games once more....l
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