Thursday, May 3, 2012

Danger of banking on fast growing user base

The sensation of mobile gaming industry, Draw Something, has been losing its steam.  Its daily active users has been steadily trending down since 4/3.  Coincidentally it was shortly after OMGPOP got acquired by Zynga.  What was supposed to be the next Angry Bird franchise is showing a sign of slowing down, or even contracting significantly.  What might be causing this downward trend?

OMG, it popped, but now it's falling;
time to innovate before it turns into a pumpkin
There are lot of speculations out there.  Some say it is Zynga's acquisition that turned off most of early users to stop playing.  Some speculate that it could have been OMGPOP losing their own creative independence to innovate the product fast enough to sustain the level of growth.  Whatever it might have been, it is very strange that the drop started to happen right after Zynga's acquisition.

I don't think anyone knows the answer for sure.  But what is clear is that keeping users engaged does not happen on its own.  It takes constant tweaking of product, enhancements, bugfixes to keep users engaged and come back the next day for more.  Just as fast as users started using a product, users can  just as easily move on to the next new thing once they get bored with the old.  The half life of product is getting shorter.

Social media can be so effective it could create appearance of mass adoption literally over night.  But having a dedicated fan base and serving them to build a greater adoption are different from just getting bigger faster.

When we look at unbelievably successful launch of Kony 2012, we see the similar story.  After unprecedented viewership and interest within its first week of YouTube video launch, its Cover the Night protest turned out to be a whimper at best.

Number of times 'kony' was searched on Google

Perhaps getting big too fast is not such a good thing.  If we learned anything from two economic bubbles in the past decade, we should have healthy dose of skepticism on anything that's too good to be true.  After all what goes up fast must slow down and fall.

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