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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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Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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