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Wooga's Games For Everyone

Wooga CEO Jens Begemann on Facebook, the future of social gaming, and why it's not all about shooting aliens anymore

While Zynga has been busy snaffling up all the social gaming limelight, German company Wooga has been quietly catching it up, building a massive user base with titles like Bubble Island and Diamond Dash on Facebook. Currently, Wooga is the fourth biggest game developer on Facebook, with 34 million monthly active users.

GamesIndustry.biz spoke exclusively to CEO Jens Begemann just after his talk at GDCE where he revealed that the company was currently expanding at a rate of two new employees a week, and spoke about the benefits of developing for Facebook.

GamesIndustry.bizYou've had great success so far, what do you think you're doing right?
Jens Begemann

I think what we combine at Wooga is analytics combined with emotions. We think both of those are as important as each other. There are some companies out there that just focus on one of those elements, we believe you really have to combine them. It's about looking at every number and every detail and making tiny variations that sometimes just go live for 5 per cent of users, and looking at which of these variations performs best. But at the same time never lose the long term vision, never lose the small details, the small things that you can't really measure with numbers but that in the long run create very loyal players for you.

We've got this company culture where always one person is responsible for one game, has the last word on everything, can also overrule me, and that's a very important aspect of it. To keep the long term, consistent feel of the game, and not just optimising this number and this number and in the end it just feels like a cluttered pieces and not like one big thing.

Never lose the small details, the things that you can't really measure with numbers but that in the long run create very loyal players for you.

GamesIndustry.bizAnd how do you keep people coming back when there are ten new Facebook games a day?
Jens Begemann

It's a combination of various things, a lot of attention to detail, smart user Facebook communication channels, without being spammy. Really using them in a way where people want to send gifts to each other but they don't want to spam each other. Then using things that give people a reason to come back regularly, for example in Diamond Dash we've got a tournament every week. So every week you can win a gold, silver and bronze medals, so every week there's a new reason to come back to try to win this week's tournament. So it's all of these things that make sure people come back all the time.

GamesIndustry.bizYou seem happy with the features Facebook has to offer, so what attracted you to try Google+ as a platform?
Jens Begemann

For us it's not mutually exclusive. The technical port was quite easy because we now have a platform where the differences between those two platforms can be captured. We think Google+ is interesting and we thought we would give it a try and we're curious to see how it develops. But we remain very very committed to Facebook. We will not slow down there.

GamesIndustry.bizAnd Google+ offers a slightly better deal for developers?
Jens Begemann

Yes. Google has made that public. So Facebook you have 30 per cent revenue shares, and Google it's, initially at least, just 5 per cent. But to me all of this discussion about this revenue share is going a little bit in the wrong direction. To me it's not about what piece of the pie is for me, and what's for the platform provider, it's really about how big the pie is that you can create.

I don't think the 30 per cent Facebook share is an issue. The whole Facebook platform is free, you've got tons of communication channels, you've got lots of viral communication to users, it's an amazing platform and you have traffic that's worth millions of dollars, and you get all of that for free. And only when you're successful do you pay your 30 per cent revenue share. So it's fair.

To me it's not about what piece of the pie is for me, and what's for the platform provider, it's really about how big the pie is that you can create.

GamesIndustry.bizSo your main competitor is Zynga, can you beat them? Do you want to?
Jens Begemann

We have a very long term vision to create a very big company, we're not mainly looking at other companies. We're really trying to create our games, make them as good as possible, make them the best experiences possible. Obviously it's nice that we have so many users...

GamesIndustry.bizZynga seem a lot more focused on metrics...
Jens Begemann

I think that's for others to judge.

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Rachel Weber

Senior Editor

Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.