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Summary:

Statistics suggest that a third of Draw Something‘s active users have deserted the game in just a month — bringing into question Zynga’s actions and judgment since deciding to purchase maker OMGPOP for $200 million.

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It’s barely a month since Zynga surprised everyone by splashing out $200 million to buy OMGPOP, the makers of the mobile smash hit Draw Something.

But while Zynga CEO Mark Pincus was all smiles on signing the deal, he may be less impressed six weeks on, thanks to an intriguing report from Forbes that indicates a precipitous decline in the game’s user base since the acquisition.

According to figures from AppData.com, the simple and highly-addictive drawing game — which rocketed to 36 million downloads in just a few weeks — has lost around a third of its daily active users in the past month.

So what’s going wrong? There seem to be three major possibilities on the cards.

Technical problems

Lots of players have reported trouble accessing the game over the past few weeks. That seems to be a scaling problem, with the servers struggling to meet the demand of more and more downloads — though the move to shift OMGPOP’s traffic onto Zynga’s “Z-cloud” may also be a culprit, since similar reports are also surfacing about another game, Words With Friends.

For many new and existing players, server issues that mean dropped games or lost moves are an immediate black mark against the game: something that can really hurt in the instant gratification world of mobile entertainment.

Zyngafication

Moving to the Z-cloud meant something else, too: the addition of new features that seem to have soured many players’ relationships with the game. For the most part, this means pushy Facebook and Twitter integration — though the company does seem to have also expanded the number of advertisements, too, taking more money from Doritos, the NHL and others to include brand-related words into the game’s dictionary.

These might not be a turn-off for everyone, but they do seem to have had an impact on some users who feel uncomfortable at the commercial options.

Natural wastage

While Draw Something was an overnight success — spreading virally, zooming up the charts and bringing in a lot of revenue for its makers — many people are saying that they bored of it rapidly. That’s not entirely untypical for a faddish game, and since it has little variation, a pretty limited dictionary and real no long-term stickyness it appears OMGPOP hasn’t done a great deal to boost the game’s longevity.

This sort of wastage is pretty normal for short attention span games, which makes their success all about growth: you have to keep marketing the game to new players and expanding the overall market to compensate for those who switch off.

So who’s fault is this? And is it a real problem, or just a temporary glitch?

Some may argue that this isn’t a big deal for Zynga, since it owns not just Draw Something, but the entire business and team behind it. However, as we wrote at the time, Zynga’s purchase was not really about talent acquisition — while OMGPOP’s team are no doubt smart, they’d produced so many duds that the company didn’t have many rolls of the dice left.

No, for Zynga it was a numbers game: the revenues and user base of Draw Something were interesting, but underneath it all it was really about gaining access to a large, mainstream, purchase-happy audience.

Those users are great targets for Zynga to sell its other games to. And the speed at which Draw Something was growing — it had more than 36 million downloads in just a few weeks — meant that the audience was going to be significant.

Except it’s not. And that’s got to hurt.

If this drop continues — in fact, even if the decline is arrested — it could become a really serious problem for Zynga. After all, it not only shows a lack of judgment from management in buying into a fad when it’s at its very peak, but it also suggests that the company wants to strip mine new assets rather than build them up.

Because while scaling issues and a lack of longevity may be rooted in problems at OMGPOP’s end, the reality is that all these issues have been made worse, not better, by Zynga’s involvement. It’s either failed to support the game fast enough and bring in enough new users, or it’s been actively making it worse for players.

And none of those are good news.

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  1. mittalpatel Sunday, May 6, 2012

    “many people are saying that they bored of it rapidly.” I suppose could be the main reason as I also got bored of it soon after I enjoyed a lot for couple of days ;-)

  2. computerlearnhow Sunday, May 6, 2012

    I have to be honest I have started to find it a little boring although still fun on occasion. I guess its like anything else eventually it gets stale maybe they should look at someway to make it fun again

  3. This is the same as so many other succesful apps. One exception is of course Angry Birds which however has a gameplay that should really intice more play with levels and further.

    I feel more bad for the industry the app has created in form of best drawing sites and cheat sites like http://www.drawsomethingcheats.com.

    I do however feel that Zynga has something up their sleeves. But apps are mostly shortlived and one should appreciate the succes as long as it lasts

  4. Keith Townsend Sunday, May 6, 2012

    I never downloaded DrawSomthing but I know it’s a fairly simple but addictive game. I think Zynga will have to over come it’s cultural issues that include the heavy in game advertising and aggressive marketing to their existing user base. I just don’t personally believe in the company. The whole way they handled employee stock options during their IPO just really turned me off to the company and their products.

    I think eventually this will effect their ability to perform as they will have a difficult time retaining top talent. They have a cross between too highly sought skills, Cloud Experts and Creative Software Engineers. Competition for these skills are fierce and what would compel top talent (which is what they need) with these skills to join Zynga?

  5. yuryprokashev Sunday, May 6, 2012

    fully agree. I played 3 words and get bored completely.

  6. Gregory Alan Bolcer Sunday, May 6, 2012

    Love the game, but you can’t start multiple games.

  7. Lots of glitches and slow load time for me

  8. I know several people who were fans of the game, but dropped it like a hot potato when the pushy integration with Facebook started.

  9. I download the paid version of this game. I had it for about 2-3 months where it worked just fine. Then, with the most recent of updates, I haven’t been able to access the app for about 2 weeks now. It’s very frustrating when you pay for something and can’t use it.

    1. This also happened to me. I deleted it, redownloaded, and works fine. Because I’m logged in with Fb, it saved all my games, even tho the warning message said it would delete all data when I deleted it

    2. me too just downloaded it the payed version and it keeps telling me it is trying to conect to facebook keeps spinning and spinning and then tells me to try again have tryed taking it off and relaoding it with no luck is there anybody who can help is there a number in India you can call or something???

      1. It seems like the game itself was having issues the past 2 days. I couldn’t access it either, today working just fine, try again. It IS glitchy, I’ll give you that. Good luck

  10. Nancy Hale-Fesler Saturday, May 26, 2012

    The letters shown do not match the word to be drawn. What’s going on? I just paid $1.99 for the upgrade. Ripoffs.

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