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Draw Something nosedives: Is Zynga losing its touch?

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It’s barely a month since Zynga (s ZNGA) 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, 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.


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.

21 Responses to “Draw Something nosedives: Is Zynga losing its touch?”

  1. Kathy Miller

    The letters do not match the drawings 1/2 of the time!!!
    Class action Lawsuit!
    I want my money back!
    What a freaking joke!!!

  2. music time

    Before, you could see exactly when your guesser figured out your word. Not now – the timing is off. Why speed that up? They already have a “skip” button if you don’t want to wait. Also they need more words.

  3. It’s to be expected that a game with such hype ($180 mil worth) surrounding it there will be users who download, play once, and leave. Not to mention the attention span of mobile app users is second shortest only to goldfish. Specific to Draw Something my suggestion to Zynga is to “spice it up” add some new words and find creative ways to make the game new/fun again. Good luck!

  4. Mommom Bev

    I have Draw Something on my phone. I even paid for the upgrade. Since I forgot my password I am locked out and do not get a reply to my e-mail. Please refund my money or get me back into the game. Thank you. This sucks.

    • Alison

      Are you able to create a new account? I would try that if you’re not at a very high level. Or try looking on their help website. Good luck

  5. Mary Marchuk

    I liked Draw Something, but I am have gotten pretty made at them. I have paid for bombs that disappear. I have paid colors that have disappeared. I don’t know of any other app that steals your money. Every updater seems worse than the original. They need to get their act together or they will disappear also.

  6. Alison

    I, personally, will probably never get tired of draw something. But by my nature, I love to draw, doodle, my whole family has great artistic talent. Yes, certainly some glitches, and yes, would love an update with some new words. I can understand how non-artists could get “bored”, but even without good artistic ability, I’ve seen some horrible drawings, but have creative or funny stories to them.

  7. michelle

    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.

    • Alison

      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

    • Ronda Stephens

      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???

      • Alison

        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

  8. Mcbeese

    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 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?

  10. 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

    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

  11. computerlearnhow

    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