The ten best social gaming articles of 2012 – part 2

Matthew Warneford

Amongst all the cat pictures and Gangnam Style tributes there’s a wealth of social gaming knowledge on the internet. For over two years we’ve been collating the best social gaming articles and publishing them in our This Week in Social Games (TWISG) newsletter. Read by over 1,000 subscribers.

With the year coming to an end it’s time to highlight the best of the best – the ten most insightful articles based on the percentage of clicks by our readers. From finding out what’s in Zynga’s ‘secret sauce’ to how to get your first 1,000 players, plus a handful of articles on making money by giving stuff away from free, it’s all here.

If that’s not enough, you can also read part one of this blog from back in June and get the twenty best social gaming features of 2012.

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So let’s begin with….

1. The secret sauce of social games

Reading this article from The Verge is the perfect way for anyone new to social games to become an instant expert! Featuring contributions from Zynga, Kixeye and Storm8 it looks at everything, such copycats, in-game spending, Whales, trends in game design and much, much more. Even if you think you already know it all, you will still find something new.

2. How to make money when everything is free

We’ve run plenty of stories in TWISG concerning the freemium business model, but what makes this presentation from Games Brief’s Nicholas Lovell worth sharing is that it makes the reasoning behind going freemium so straightforward. For instance, do you find it bizarre that so many in-game items cost so much? Who’s buying these things? The answer is that enough people to make items costing over $20 the biggest contributor to in-game revenue.

3. 15 golden rules for free-to-play

Speaking at the F2P summit this month, Gamesbrief’s Nicholas Lovell outlined his 15 rules for social game success. Some comments, such as those concerning New Star Soccer, may raise a few eyebrows but that’s all part of the debate. Visit Edge Online for the complete list, including advice to be generous and to kill the tutorial.

4. How much does the #1 game on the App Store make?

Winning the World Cup, the Super Bowl and reaching the final of X-Factor, for iOS developers all these dreams pale into insignificance compared to topping the App Store chart. But how much is this lucrative position worth? Of course, if your app costs £3.99 you’ll probably be earning more than those 69p apps, but with in-app purchasing the whole process gets much more complicated.

In this post on Inside Social Games Ethan Levy, co-founder of publisher Quarter Spiral, takes a good stab at estimating the value of the top spot. While there’s no way of verifying his estimates, his process and the feedback received, indicates that he’s on the right track.

5. How to get your first 1,000 players

Finding your first 1,000 players is key to the launch of a new casual game. This group is often full of early adopters and the type of players that will evangelise about your game – in turn, making it easier to find your next 1,000 players. But where are they and how do you attract them? Those questions are answered, albeit in a rather simple way, in this post by AltDevBlogADay blogger Tyler York.

6. Low cost tips for testing your game concept

For every Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters and Where’s My Water there are plenty of games that will never make it, residing at the bottom of the iTunes chart and buried at the back of the internet. So what can be done to ensure you have a hit on your hand? The answer is counterintuitive, but really quite obvious – don’t build the game until you know kids enjoy playing it! Sounds bonkers? That’s why we wrote this blog post, with plenty of examples of how research can help you find out if kids will love your game, even before the first line of code is written.

7. A history of Zynga clones

Back in August when we carried this story it was hardly news that a publisher was suing Zynga for copying their game, it was a pretty frequent occurrence. But when that publisher is Electronic Arts, the third largest gaming company in the world, then it’s big news. EA was accusing Zynga of copying their Sims Social title and turning it into The Ville. Instead of producing a lengthy article filled with legal jargon, Pocket Gamer has gone over the history books and looked at every game Zynga has been accused of copying and its Zynga-developed counterpart. Can you spot the differences?

8. How to improve monetization in social games

In August an event took place to showcase methods of maximize virtual goods revenue. The event covered subjects including how to leverage branded virtual goods, best practices for maximising revenue in free-to-play games, and monetising by emotion. Fortunately the three presentations for the event have been summarised in this blog post, with links to the slides on Slide Share which provide a great resource for anyone looking for was to generate extra revenue though their social game. If you’re a fan of Slide Share you can also view and subscribe to our presentations by visiting the Dubit Slide Share account.

9. 5 lessons every iOS developer can learn from Bad Hotel

Bad Hotel is a peculiar game, on one hand it’s a tower defence-style puzzler and on the other it’s a musical toy. It’s also a massive success with sales and critical acclaim in abundance. But in such a crowded market place how does such an odd title make it big? To find out The Guardian spoke to the games co-designer, Yann Seznec who revealed his five key lessons from the launch of Bad Hotel, from the impossibility of understanding the App Store rankings to the importance of features.

10. Key metrics from the biggest kids’ games

Ever wanted to know the ARPPU of Habbo or how many monthly active users Zynga has? What about the number of people moderating Moshi Monsters compared to Club Penguin? It was being asked questions like this that drove us to publish our big list of benchmarks for kid’s digital games and to prove we’re not making them up we’ve provided links to where we got our data from. It’s a great way of evaluating the space and seeing how well your competition has been doing.

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