Stuart Dredge, guardian.co.uk
US firm OMGPOP is the latest independent developer to spark a mobile gaming craze, with its Draw Something social game racing to more than 30m downloads on iOS and Android just six weeks after its release.
The game takes its inspiration from Pictionary, and wraps Words With Friends-esque asynchronous social gameplay around it. Players are given words – Elvis, Football, Zombie etc – and must draw them on-screen for Facebook friends to guess.
The game’s designer Dan Porter, who’s also chief executive of OMGPOP, tells GigaOm that Draw Something is adding another 1m downloads every day, has generated more than 2bn drawings, and is making “low six figures” in daily (dollar) revenues from a mixture of paid downloads, in-app purchases and advertising.
According to industry analytics site AppData, Draw Something currently has 13m daily active users (DAUs), making it the most popular social game in the world by that metric.That’s ahead of even Zynga’s Words With Friends and CityVille (8.4m and 7.9, respectively at the time of writing.
No wonder Zynga may be interested in buying OMGPOP. TechCrunch claims the two companies are already in talks, although other social games companies like Gree and DeNa are thought to be in the hunt too.
Separately, GigaOm suggests that the asking price may be $200m. Any negotiations should be interesting: Zynga has the capability to make its own clone version – Draw With Friends, for example.
Doing so would risk a controversy even bigger than that around its Dream Heights game earlier in 2012, though, which was accused of being a clone of another indie hit, Tiny Tower.
Porter appears to be playing a canny hand with the game’s rapid rise, talking regularly to the big US tech blogs about its growth, and quite possibly fuelling the speculation around it – last week a TV show was also being mooted.
Having seen Rovio remain independent and run with its Angry Birds franchise, the big social games firms won’t want to let another breaking hit get away.
What’s happening here, though? Draw Something appears to be a genuinely word-of-mouth phenomenon, and one that is appealing to a wide demographic – mums and non-techies through to hardcore gamers judging by my Facebook feed and Twitter timeline.
Draw Something’s non-gameyness may be the key: something Porter talked about in his GigaOm interview: “We’re taking game play and wrapping it in the framework of communication, sharing experiences and playing together,” he said.
“I just wanted this to be something hilarious with no winner or loser… I’m not a game designer and I don’t pretend to be one so I didn’t really think about the rules of making a game. Most designers would have said you need scores or leaderboards but it didn’t feel right so I didn’t do them… We want to make games for people that don’t put games on their phone. That’s how you get to massive scale.”
The other interesting thing about Draw Something is that it demonstrates the continued ability of the App Store and Google Play (formerly Android Market) to spawn independently-developed hits, contrary to expectations of market consolidation as time goes on.
In that sense, Draw Something sits alongside Imangi Studios’ Temple Run, which has been downloaded more than 40m times on iOS alone since its release in August 2011, with an Android version due to be released on 27 March.
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