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Playfish: Sims Social proves brand power

Success achieved with minimal marketing spend, will "absolutely" be number one

Playfish London's general manager John Earner believes that The Sims Social offers proof that brands have the potential to dominate the social space.

The Sims Social was launched on Facebook last month with just under 5 million MAUs. Now, it is the second most popular game on the network, with an audience of 51.5 million MAUs.

"It's amazing retention," said Earner in an interview with IndustryGamers. "So the number of people who come back on day two versus the ones who tried on one day, that number is significantly higher than most of our other titles."

"The amount of outbound virality - feeds, things that people share - is extremely high. And it's high because it's genuinely what people what to share."

A significant motivator of that virality is the power of the Sims brand: it draws in those who have played the franchise before, of course, but its reach goes much further than most people think.

"If they haven't played a Sims game themselves, they've got a friend who played it, a brother who played it, a billboard that they've seen on their commute home. And these things cause them to click the various feeds and invitations at a much higher rate than any other social game."

"And the end result is, within a couple weeks, you've got a game that's already number two and looking like it's going to be number one."

Earner has worked at Playfish for over 3 years. He was the product manager on Pet Society, the company's first hit game, and he claims that the rate of growth achieved by The Sims Social is unprecedented - even in the days before changes in Facebook's terms of service placed restrictions on virality.

"It is growing extremely quickly. I think more interestingly than that... is that this game got over 7 million daily active users without any marketing stunts. Again, we were spending a few dollars here and there just to calibrate, but there was no main full spend in the game. No one has seen that kind of growth ever."

Earner concedes that Playfish has begin spending "quite a bit of money," but the majority of the game's marketing budget remains. That could prove decisive in The Sims Social's ability to reach number one, but Earner is still wary of the fickle nature of the average social gamer.

"Ultimately, this process of making live games is like filling a bathtub with water. There's always a drain that's always sucking water out of the bottom."

"There's always a faucet putting water in, and it just gets harder and harder to keep that tub full because the users that you acquire are typically less and less valuable over time. The ones who really want to play the game have already been in the game. So over time, it does get harder, inevitably."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar

Matthew Handrahan


Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.