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An inside look at how Kabam separated itself from the pack of casual social games by developing a social game for core gamers: Kingdoms of Camelot. Provides insight on strategic steps that led to creation of a new segment, massively multiplayer social games (MMSGs).
Who is Kabam?• Leading developer of Massively Multiplayer Social Games• 7.5mm monthly active users across 3 games• Offices in San Francisco, Redwood City and Beijing• 275 employees
How is Kabam different from Zynga?Audience Soccer Moms Core GamersGame Style Casual Games Core GamesInteraction Model Asynchronous SynchronousDesign Focus Chance-Based Skill-BasedSocial Model Resource Transfers/Unlocks CollaborationSession Length 15-30 minutes 15 minutes to 3 hoursMonetization Quick, Shallow Slow, Deep
"I have played role playing and• Launched in Dec. 2009 strategy games all my life and• First massively multiplayer social game Kingdoms of Camelot for Facebook is as good if not better than many of on Facebook the consoles games on the market.“• Received the IGN Reader’s Choice Gamezebo, September 12, 2010 Award for Facebook Games in 2010• The largest strategy game on Facebook "Its well worth checking out if youve been waiting for a Facebook game• Currently running at 430k DAUs that involves more than farming." IGN, April 16, 2010
How did a small web startup build a game thatwould later win an IGN Readers’ Choice Award?
The Facebook Ecosystem in 2009• The advertising market was reeling from the economic crisis• Facebook traffic expands to 350mm MAUs• Zynga’s footprint rumored to be 100mm MAUs• Facebook revenues clock in at $700mm• Zynga revenues at $200mm
Kabam (Watercooler) in 2009• $8.5mm raised from Betfair and Canaan Partners• Leading developer of Fan and Entertainment Community Applications• 26mm MAUs across 800+ applications on 6 social networks• Fundraise used to pivot into fantasy sports and games• 100% advertising supported revenue model
How We Selected Kingdoms of CamelotStep 1 Believe in the Power of FacebookStep 2 Identify the Target AudienceStep 3 Deconstruct the Competitive SetStep 4 Anticipate the CompetitionStep 5 Execute
Step 1 Believe in the Power of Facebook Development • Social functionality Begins redefining web services • MySpace taught us that a social network could power content distribution • Believed Facebook was fast approaching a tipping point in adoption
Step 2 Identify the Target Audience • 83mm Facebook users in the U.S. • 43% of U.S. Facebook users were Male • 90% of U.S. Male Facebook users were old enough to have a credit card • Farmville was the largest application with 62mm MAUs • Mafia Wars was the 3rd largest application with 26mm MAUs
Step 3 Deconstruct the Competitive Set• Product launches driven by ‘massive’ marketing investments• Cross promotion bars used to amplify the optical footprint of game developers• User interfaces designed to drive virality• Game designs tailored for quick, short gameplay sessions• Monetization focused predominantly on aesthetic virtual goods
Step 4 Anticipate the Competition 2009Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov DecCORE ??? ??? ??? ??? ???CASUAL ??? Development Begins on Kingdoms of Camelot
Step 4 Anticipate the Competition 2009Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov DecCORECASUAL Happy Aquarium Happy Pets Happy Island
Biggest Challenges• Significant uncertainty around core games on Facebook• Doubts about mass market appeal• Concern over team size and experience• Worry about the next round of platform changes• Fear of ever-climbing customer acquisition costs
We did well, but not without some hard learningalong the way.
Team Formation• A small, tight-knit cross functional team was absolutely the right way to go• Project benefitted greatly from having core gamers on staff• Team would have slept better with more QA and Art
Team Structure• Executive Producer, Art Lead and Development Director are peers• Each function is responsible for driving decisions within their area• Producers ultimately have the tie-breaking vote• EPs/GMs are expected to be excellent at: – Strategy Planning – Product Management – Project Management – Game Design – Creative Direction• We have no Product Managers or Game Designers (gasp!)
Game Development• Should have allocated more time to prototyping• Did a good job of scoping our MVP• Should have included more robust instrumentation in our MVP• Did a reasonable job of balancing speed and quality• Correctly assumed that virality would be irrelevant
Game Design• Introduced a novel approach to managing status/progression• Launched with a totally imbalanced resource economy• Should have spent more time playtesting battle• Should have prepared users for frequent, thoughtful change• Should have planned for more PvE
Service Operations (1/2)• Listen to your users• Be honest and transparent about mistakes• Never underestimate the importance of staffing• Don’t underestimate the value of experience• Regularly establish reference points for core flows and KPIs
Service Operations (2/2)• Use promotions to force-multiply the value of content releases• Leverage every messaging channel possible• Keep a close eye on cheating and abuse• Invest in communicating business goals across the team• Don’t underestimate the importance of community
Summary• We learned an incredible amount from Kingdoms of Camelot• We are incredibly excited to be the leader in MMSGs• We look forward to pushing the envelope in 2011 – 9 games planned to launch this year – 100% focused on massively multiplayer strategy and role-playing games – Aggressively staffing up our San Francisco, Redwood City and Beijing offices Thank you for your time!