What Zynga really wants from OMGPOP’s Draw Something

Zynga made a huge acquisition Wednesday, snapping up Draw Something producer OMGPOP for a reported $200 million-plus price tag. But let’s be clear: What Zynga is picking up isn’t just a hit game, the team that built it, or even the 35 other titles that OMGPOP has created over the last six years. And it’s not just buying potential ad or in-game sales revenue from Draw Something users. What Zynga’s really buying is a huge engaged audience that it can funnel into its other social gaming properties. Social gaming is a hits-driven business, for sure: Nowhere is that more obvious than in a game like Draw Something or in the …With Friends franchise that Zynga acquired from Newtoy in 2010. But there’s a very powerful network effect that Zynga wants for itself with those purchases, hoping to funnel more users into its existing ecosystem. Draw Something is a particularly special case. It’s not just the 35 million downloads and 15 million daily users that attracted Zynga, to be sure. Think about the first time you heard about Draw Something, or the people you know who are playing it. It’s a whole lot of users who, for lack of a better description, aren’t really gamers — or at least weren’t before the last six weeks. There’s something about the simplicity of Draw Something that has struck a chord with the mainstream public in a way that few other games have to this point. Part of that is a low barrier to entry: Unlike some of the …With Friends games that are part of the Zynga stable, you don’t need a brain like a thesaurus to play. And contrary to some of the -Ville games that Zynga became famous for, there’s no castles or farms or animals to tend to in some tedious cyclical fashion. Draw Something is simple, it’s visceral, and it’s something that anyone at any time can pick up and put down at his or her leisure. There are no special skills required. It is, quite frankly, maybe the most perfect social game made to date. And as a result, it’s become a hit with regular users like few other games we’ve seen. It’s those so-called regular users that are the key to this deal, all those folks that have never played a Zynga game before, or any mobile game for that matter. To Zynga, Draw Something is like a gateway drug that it can use to introduce those users to other pieces of its gaming franchise. Few gaming companies have been as successful as Zynga in converting users of one game into players on another. Think about the bar of other Zynga titles that runs under your list of current moves in Words or Scramble With Friends, and how Zynga uses that to introduce you to other properties you might be interested in, or at the very least to update you on open games in other titles. Now think about how that can be used to help funnel in players from a hugely engaged audience for Draw Something. And that engagement translates into real money. Draw Something users are generating$250,000 a day in revenue for OMGPOP with in-app purchases to acquire different words or additional colors, sources told AllThingsD Wednesday.

That revenue is nice for now, but hits are fleeting — they come and they go. At some point, Draw Something usage will peak as users start to find more and newer games to entertain themselves with on their mobile devices. Zynga knows this. But what it hopes to do is capture that audience, get it hooked on other Zynga properties and keep it engaged as long as possible. After all, that’s where the real network effect and the power of its social platform comes into play.