Looking for the next big thing? Social gaming startups heating up

As the Facebook Platform matures (i.e. Facebook cracks down on application spam and users become more skeptical/tired of applications), entrepreneurs and investors are looking for ways to break away from the mold of the now over 15,000 applications in the Facebook Platform directory.

pie1total.pngOne area that’s been getting more and more attention from entrepreneurs on Facebook recently is social gaming. Often posting eye-popping daily active user ratios of over 10% or even 20% (compared to 4% or 5% for most healthy Facebook apps), Facebook games have demonstrated that Facebook users want to bring their friends back into the gaming experience.

Not only are traditional casual games being repurposed for the Facebook context, but an entirely new breed of casual asynchronous MMO’s is emerging. Many of these games can seem silly at first but are actually thoroughly thought out, employing many traditional principles of game design creatively enhanced with new kinds of viral game loops.

pie2active.pngWhile most Facebook apps contain some game-like characteristics, there are a few developers focusing primarily on building a portfolio of casual game applications across Facebook and other social networks. They range in size from Zynga, which recently raised a $10 million Series A round, to Simeon Dorsey, a student from Wisconsin. The graphs at right show the top Facebook game developers by total installs and daily active users.

As you can see, while Blake Commagere’s apps the most total installations, Zynga sports the highest total daily user counts, while Scrabulous has the most impressive daily active user ratio at a whopping 23%. Notably, the big game development houses are nowhere to be found at the top of the list – though EA does have unannounced projects going (see below).

Here’s a quick look at the top game developers on Facebook today:

Zynga Game NetworkZynga Logo

  • Founded: 2007 by Marc Pincus, Michael Luxton, Andrew Trader, and Eric Schiermeyer
  • Popular Games: Poker, Attack, BlackJack
  • Reach (Facebook): 10.1 million installs, 750k daily active users
  • Investors: Raised $10 million from Avalon Ventures (Rich Levandov), Foundry Ventures (Brad Feld), Union Square Ventures (Fred Wilson), Reid Hoffman (CEO of LinkedIn), Peter Thiel (Managing Partner of Clarium Capital), Pilot Group (Bob Pittman and Andy Russell); formerly known as Presidio Media

Social Gaming NetworkSocial Gaming Network

  • Founded: 2007 by Shervin Pishevar, TJ Murphy and Haroon Mokhtarzada
  • Popular Games: Warbook, StreetRace, Fight Club
  • Reach (Facebook): 3.3 million installs, 200k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: formerly a Freewebs project

Blake Commagere Blake Commagere

  • Founded: 2007 (Individual)
  • Popular Games: Vampires, Zombies, WereWolves, Slayers
  • Reach (Facebook): 18.7 million installs, 465k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: very early Facebook developer; long time RockYou partner


  • Founded: 2007 by Josh Williams, Scott Raymond, and others
  • Popular Games: PackRat
  • Reach (Facebook): 15k installs, 3k daily active users
  • Investors: $2 million from Founders Fund (according to VentureBeat, but a comment on the story quoting Alamofire’s Josh Williams says this is not entirely accurate)
  • Notes: formerly a Firewheel Design project (makers of IconBuffet)

Agarwalla BrothersScrabulous

  • Founded: 2007 by Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla
  • Popular Games: Scrabulous (most daily active users of any Facebook game)
  • Reach: 2.6 million installs, 600k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: apparently in legal limbo due to complaints by Hasbro, makers of the popular Scrabble board game

Team MoulinTeam Moulin

  • Founded: 2007 by Unknown
  • Popular Games: PetrolHead, OneTrack
  • Reach: 4.4 million installs, 230k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown


  • Founded: 2005 by Richard Fields
  • Popular Games: MindJolt Games
  • Reach: 1.4 million installs, 180k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown
  • Notes: customizes games developed by Mochi Media for the Facebook environment


  • Founded: 2005 by John Hwang
  • Popular Games: Speed Racing
  • Reach: 3 million installs, 270k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown

Simeon DorseySimeon Dorsey

  • Founded: 2007 (Individual)
  • Popular Games: Jetman
  • Reach: 3 million installs, 210k daily active users
  • Investors: Unknown

EA Blueprintea.jpg

  • Founded: 2007 by Neil Young, Alan Wu, and others
  • Popular Games: Smarty Pants
  • Reach: 240k installs, 12k daily active users
  • Notes: currently a stealth division of EA Redwood Shores, working with Creative Artists Agency and dev house Context Optional (according to Gametap)

For more reading on game design and social networks, I highly recommend:

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Leave a Reply

11 Responses to “Looking for the next big thing? Social gaming startups heating up”

  1. Zuckerborg says:

    You’re missing Atomic Moguls, who runs a bunch of “fantasy” apps. Here is a search but they have more…


  2. Business, casual gaming « Executive Summary says:

    [...] casual games (ie. Flowplay and something citypixel.com is looking at). Inside Facebook has a good rundownof the top Facebook game developers. One interesting take away is that the daily active user ratios [...]

  3. citypixel.com blog » Blog Archive » Business, casual gaming says:

    [...] casual games (ie. Flowplay and something citypixel.com is looking at). Inside Facebook has a good rundownof the top Facebook game developers. One interesting take away is that the daily active user ratios [...]

  4. Context Optional » EA Making Moves in Social Gaming says:

    [...] up by Rafit Ali at PaidContent.org, who mentions [context], as well as this week by Mashable and InsideFacebook. _uacct = “UA-2088594-2″; [...]

  5. Hellonline (Eran’s blog) » Blog Archive » Fight Piracy with Innovation, not DRM says:

    [...] next? It seems like casual gaming inside social networks (read: facebook) is set to grow but with a so far unclear business model (ads? microtransactions?) [...]

  6. Brenda Spoonemore says:

    appreciate the note from “Zuckerborg” and thanks for a post that spotlights a genre of quality apps vs the white noise that’s clogging much of the app directory these days.

    Atomic Moguls has over 1.2 M installs across our portfolio of apps, and I can verify the observations about ongoing high engagement metrics on our games. Our strategy all along has been to build for scale, build cool games consumers want to play and share and make sure that the engaging features were part of each app’s DNA.

    not to mention the fact that if you can create a meaningful, ongoing, engaged relationship with a consumer, you have also built a property that addresses many of the concerns advertisers currently have about the efficacy of advertising on social networks.

  7. Inside Facebook on Social Games « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog says:

    [...] by jeremyliew in facebook, games, games 2.0, gaming, social games, social gaming. trackback Inside Facebook has a nice story on social gaming (it’s going to be big!) and a run down of the major [...]

  8. Links of the Week Feb 15th, 2008 | .eduGuru says:

    [...] Looking for the next big thing? Social gaming startups heating up- As the Facebook Platform matures (i.e. Facebook cracks down on application spam and users become more skeptical/tired of applications), entrepreneurs and investors are looking for ways to break away from the mold of the now over 15,000 applications… [...]

  9. Inside Facebook » The race to build the Facebook Gaming platform: an in-depth look at Zynga and SGN says:

    [...] few weeks ago, Inside Facebook profiled the top game developers on Facebook. While there are many more developers of Facebook games that are growing in popularity, two [...]

  10. hayley western says:

    On October 21st, at 9.18am. I had an official looking email sent by a Nancy Weizmann, claiming to be from facebook abuse resolutions, sent to my facebook inbox, the email stated that I had broken terms of conduct and I needed to review and complete an online terms of conduct form in order to prevent my facebook account from being deactivated, there was a link provided on the email, to which I clicked on within seconds over $5,947,346 points were stolen from me. Facebook have confirmed my account was seriously breached. Zynga haven’t even bothered replying to numerous emails. It wont be long before a group of users who have shared similar experiances get together and file lawsuits against the corporation.

  11. Tim says:

    I’d love to have any of you check out my app to play flash games through facebook. Reviews I’ve been getting from other facebook members are that its better than mindjolt.
    About page: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=50789923495

    Application Link: http://apps.facebook.com/timsgames

    I believe my site has some of the best features anywhere, which go far beyond what the other facebook game portal sites do. My site integrates more with facebook by posting your high scores and game plays to your news feed, notifies the old high score owner if you take the all time highs score, shows you what your friends are playing and localizes high scores to just your group of friends, and more.

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