Twitter, the Ultimate B2C Support Platform

Twitter is probably one of the more polarizing social networks out there. Despite how long it’s been around, Twitter still has so much untapped potential.

Though projects like the revamped Twitter homepage, Safety Center and Project Lighting have been in the works, things are still moving fairly slow. But there’s a number of reasons for this – one, in particular, is that the executive team has been having quite a number of issues internally.

In June, Dick Costolo stepped down from his position as CEO and had Jack Dorsey, one of the site’s original co-founders, take over the reins as the interim CEO.. while still serving as Square’s CEO and, as of late, filing a not-so confidential IPO for the payment company. Back in May, Twitter had their CFO, Anthony Noto, take charge of all things marketing while they continue their search for a CMO / Head of Marketing.

Ever since the dawn of TweetDeck (before Twitter acquired it from Iain Dodworth), independent developers have been making all sorts of different third-party apps for Twitter. A sample of some of these apps can be found on Product Hunt, but standout apps include: Flutter, Social Hunt, Buffer and most recently, Storyline (posted by Mark Cuban). All of these apps (and more) are taking advantage of all that Twitter can offer but doesn’t.

As a rabid Twitter user, one of the non-features that continues to stand out to me most is customer service – it’s the shiniest diamond in the rough.

The Internet has given unsatisfied folks everywhere countless ways to voice their opinions. Occasionally, a customer complaint video on YouTube will go viral, but this has happened less and less as YouTube continues to get diluted with nearly 60 hours of video being uploaded every minute.

Sometimes Facebook posts get attention from the media about shopping experiences gone wrong, but you would need to get a ton of shares and likes to do so. Comments are usually the best way to get a brand’s attention on Facebook, but even then, back-and-forth conversations start getting messy, especially since you can’t respond directly from notifications- unlike Twitter.

And that’s what makes Twitter such a wonderful tool for customer service.

This isn’t a secret at all. Harvard Business Review, The Guardian, Quartz and many other publications have written about how users should be Tweeting companies for better service and how companies should be taking advantage of Twitter as an inexpensive support ticket alternative.

Graph courtesy of HBR.

Graph courtesy of Harvard Business Review.

This blog post, in particular, was inspired by two fantastic experiences I had with Airbnb and Weave.

After taking a survey about Airbnb and filling out some demographic information, I was a bit irked that I couldn’t put down multiple options for race (I’m half Japanese and German). Here’s how the conversation went:

airbnb1

airbnb2

I won’t cover up the fact that I wasn’t the nicest customer when I first tweeted at Airbnb. But you know what? Whoever handles customer inquiries and complaints does a marvelous job. Even if the feedback I provided isn’t applied in the next survey, at least for this time being, it’s nice to know that I was heard (though I hope my feedback is used).

Another example is when a particular feature in the Weave app wasn’t working for me.

weave1

weave2

This exchange was by far one of the most memorable I’ve had with a company. The person on the other side, tweeting on behalf of Weave, truly cared about both the product and the user, and wanted to do his or her best in helping me out.

At this point in the post, I probably have some skeptics. And if you’re doubting some of my ideas right now, I can’t blame you because there’s one important detail I’ve left out – Zendesk.

Like I’ve said before, using Twitter for service tickets is not a new idea, and Zendesk saw this potential a very long time ago – in fact, about five years ago.

According to this press release, the Zendesk-Twitter collaboration lets users…

– Turn a tweet into a new Zendesk ticket — a twicket — with one click
– Record threaded Twitter conversations with full audit trail
– Combine public and private dialog while maintaining confidentiality
– Switch a Twitter conversation into an email conversation
– Seamlessly integrate with social media monitoring tools such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, Twitter.com, and the Twitter iPhone and Android apps.

Being completely honest, I’ve never been on support-side when using “twickets.” I’ve contacted Twitter before for support issues within the past five years and I can’t say that I had the best experience (but don’t take my word on this – it was a while ago).

But regardless of whether or not companies use Zendesk’s Twitter integration feature for service tickets, there are still many reasons that Twitter works just fine as a standalone service app.

Email – the one digital creation that we still can’t use masterfully. Why do we hate email so much? Why do emails get so messy?

It’s the reason why users like using Twitter to voice concerns. They don’t have to go to their primary email provider, hit compose, figure out who to send the email to, write the email, then send the email. Humans like simple things. Twitter makes service requests for users so much simpler and quicker. Compose, write, send – there’s no guesswork.

Of course, when questions and requests take up more than 140 characters, then it’s possible for DMs to come into play, but that then adds another layer of communication, which isn’t advised.

With all this being said… what can be done to bolster Twitter as a Service?

1. Offer different features as part of Twitter for Business. Recommend and reserve business/brand hashtags with “Help” at the end of their handles, like Airbnb does already (and many other companies). Add the ability to organize, tag and prioritize customer service-related Tweets in a different portal.

2. Make prices competitive to those of Zendesk. I’ll be honest – Zendesk already has really great pricing options, but when prices are similar enough, oftentimes mere preference is what can make or break a sale.

3. Twitter loves data – after all, the platform allows users a glimpse into their Twitter analytics for free (with the hope that they buy ads from Twitter, of course). Why not make a separate data page for customer service – showcasing which brands actively serve customers using Twitter, how many times a day brands respond to users, keeping track of each user’s service requests, etc. This could be a fun project for Twitter, but would take many, many hours to figure out how to collect this data (if it’s even possible at this time).

It should be said that Twitter uses Zendesk for its service tickets, so I highly doubt any of these ideas will be put into place any time soon. Not to mention, with Twitter Flight in the next couple of months, I’m sure Twitter has many of its own announcements to make.

Unless, that is, Kim Kardashian recommends this blog post to Jack Dorsey.

kimk

Courtesy of Business Insider.

Tweets, Reblogs, Upvotes – Oh My!

Everyone has their respective opinions about social media. Some people LOVE to share on Facebook. Others count tweetstorming as a serious hobby. There are also people (believe it or not) that shy away from social media completely.

I’ve been around social media for nearly a decade, but have been most invested in it during these past couple of years. I’ve struggled with some serious FOMO, had to go cold turkey from Instagram and, as of late, quit using Snapchat too.

Even though May is Social Media Month (apparently), I wanted to take the months of July and August to share my thoughts on social media, and also hear other’s thoughts as well. Snapchat and Facebook may only seem like small aspects of our lives, but depending on who we talk to, they play a much larger role than we think.

I wanted to end this post with a fantastic piece from Nir Eyal on FOMO. Enjoy.

sm

via Huffington Post

TwoDots case study: A more effective IAP model for mobile gaming

While I was abroad for about a month, I found that with my limited access to the Internet, I started playing offline-compatible games that were still on my phone that I hadn’t played for some time. The game that I went back to most, almost obsessively, during my travels was TwoDots.

For anyone that doesn’t know about TwoDots by now, it’s the more grown-up version of the original Dots game, which took the casual mobile gaming universe by storm. It takes less than 30 seconds to understand the game and the interface (for both games) is both elegant and clean. The team beefed up elements in the game where, perhaps, a lot of developers wouldn’t pay much attention to otherwise (See NYT’s piece on TwoDots’ charming soundtracks).

Since the Playdots team launched TwoDots, they’ve spruced up some of their pay walls. Here are some examples:

2015-06-27 12.17.39

When you’re about to start a level, the game gives you the option of starting with a boost. I’m pretty stocked up in terms of boosts, but for users that have already run out of boosts, they are available for purchase.

2015-06-27 12.21.49

If you get very close to finishing a level but fail, the game usually gives you the option of purchasing a boost and a couple more moves.

2015-06-27 12.25.01

If you run out of lives, you can either wait 20 minutes for another life or refill your lives for 99 cents.

I’ve briefly written about TwoDots before, and how for a fairly casual game, they’re putting in a lot of effort to seamlessly monetize without being too pushy. I have to admit, it’s pretty effective. I’m not bothered at all by the pop-ups because they combine both helpful information (e.g. number of lives/boosts I have left) and chances to make a purchase. Though occasionally the placement of the “Refill lives” or “Buy more boosts” buttons are a little tricky (I find myself accidentally pressing them all the time).

But here’s the thing – I haven’t paid a single penny. Yet at the same time, I wouldn’t mind coughing up some cash for the game either. What gives?

As much as I talk about games and love reading news about gaming, I am not a devout gamer. I’ve taken gaming personality tests in the past, and each time, my results identify me as a very casual gamer. I am not a whale – I will not spend money unless I have to upfront for a game like, say, Monument Valley. I download freemium games to get a sense of what the games are like, but rarely do I ever stick with these game for more than a month or so (there are exceptions).

When I come across a game or app I really like, the more I use it, the more I get comfortable with it. And the more comfortable I get with an app, the more I feel ok with spending money on it, since it’s already served me well. The problem with a lot of freemium apps (especially for mid-core/hardcore games) is that their monetization strategies are geared heavily towards getting whales to pay up. It’s not a bad strategy, especially when whale users, who make up 0.15% of mobile gamers, bring in 50% of the revenue.

Monetization gets a little trickier though when it comes to TwoDots, a game that’s not mid-core or hardcore, but pretty casual.

It’s worth noting that TwoDots hasn’t done too bad in terms of grossing, but it’s nowhere near Clash of Clans or Candy Crush status.

iphone

iPhone stats for TwoDots within the past year via App Annie.

android

Google Play stats for TwoDots within the past year via App Annie.

As I mentioned previously, the more I play TwoDots, the more I would be ok with paying. However, I’d prefer to not pay 99 cents every time I need lives because it does add up over time. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind paying $5 to play as much as I want. Obviously, this is not a new revenue model at all – in fact, it’s how games have been sold since they were created. Buy so-and-so game for Xbox, and you can play it as much as you want.

So I’ve been thinking – whales bring in a lot of money, but they only make up a small portion of the gaming audiences (note: this doesn’t mean that non-whales DON’T pay – they just don’t bring in nearly as much cash as whales do). It’s true that you can’t directly use users’ UDIDs, but most major gaming companies have found a way of going around UDIDs by giving users their own ID numbers/codes to be able to define cohorts and gather data. Why not use the data you already have on users to make the gaming experiences slightly different? And I’m not just talking about tailored push notifications (which is already being done) – I’m talking about tailoring the ways to get users to pay up.

For users that are loyal to the app but have yet to spend anything, change the experience for them – send out a *limited time offer* to spend $5 for infinite lives (just don’t tell the whales). By doing this, it’s true that once the users opt into the $5 deal, they will never spend money in the app again… but hey – would you rather get $5 from a user or nothing at all?

At the same time, this kind of customized monetization experience can be slightly risky – the obvious factor being that people start finding out and getting angry that they’ve already spent a bunch of money on the app while the non-payers only have to pay $5 for infinite lives. Since this is a difficult situation, it might be best to roll out a “differentiated experience” like this when a company/developer(s) realizes that the game either is A) tanking or B) is not monetizing at all, since at that point, there aren’t too many options left to save the app.

Meerkat, Periscope and Snapchat: Shrinking the World One App At a Time

As if the world couldn’t get any smaller, with the help of apps like Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat and other related “teleporting” apps, seeing places like Canada or even Saudia Arabia is just a press or click away.

Getting a glimpse into a stranger’s world with apps isn’t anything new. Browse Product Hunt on any given day and you’ll probably find a new social app connecting strangers with one another through some sort of niche capacity (my personal favorite is Be My Eyes, an app that lets you “lend” your eyes to the blind).

Since getting downloads, not to mention engagement, on apps is difficult enough, what about Meerkat and Periscope made people so excited? Just like the concept of connecting strangers from all over the world, live-streaming is an even older concept. With platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Ustream and others like them (the Subservient Chicken sort of counts too), we’ve always been fascinated with being able to interact and be part of someone’s world, even for a little bit.

Remember this darling of the Internet back in 2001?

Remember this darling of the Internet back in 2001?

But mobile has changed all of this. It’s one thing to sit at your desk, maybe turn on some music, and chat with viewers about what’s on your mind, but it’s another thing when you can show people from all over the world your home, your school or your community. With Meerkat and Periscope, you have the ability to see Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles or be part of a Q&A with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres all within a matter of minutes.

From what I’ve seen so far, both the Periscope and Meerkat communities are very friendly – comments like “Hi from Portugal!” or “This is great!” showing up on your screen makes the whole experience really fun and tight-knit.

Recently, Snapchat has also joined in on the fun by spotlighting different countries through curated stories.

2015-04-15 09.15.112015-04-16 14.43.292015-04-18 00.24.37

Even though Snapchat isn’t real-time, the curators behind these stories have done a great job so far of creating a sense of oneness among viewers around the world – from teens in Dubai playing 2 Chainz in the car to Norwegian students taking selfies.

Sometimes it’s a little silly, but it’s also really fun to see that we’re a lot less different from each other than we think.


The other night, as I was walking out of a movie premiere in Hollywood, it dawned on me  – how cool is it that I’m in Hollywood right now? I wanted to share this epiphany with someone… so I pulled out my phone and started a Periscope stream.

I was able to get about 120 viewers and maintained good retention when I focused in on a man dressed like Jesus jamming on his drum kit. A viewer commented, “This made my night!”

I walked around Hollywood for a little longer, showing viewers Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Roosevelt Hotel and the Hollywood Wax Museum. I was by myself while I was doing all of this, but even when the viewership dwindled to just four people, I didn’t feel alone at all. There was a subtle yet sheepish grin on my face as I took my time walking around, stopping to watch street performers, waving back at strangers who, seeing that I was recording a video, waved at me.

After all of the times I’ve been to Hollywood, there was something magical about this visit. With Periscope, I was showing people Hollywood through my perspective but, at the same time, I was inadvertently seeing Hollywood through what I imagined to be their eyes – trying to capture the lights, the people and anything I came across as exciting during my 10-minute stream.


When I first heard about Meerkat and then Periscope, I was skeptical. I figured the buzz surrounding these apps would be only temporary and so I ignored what I heard… until curiosity got the best of me. My first attempt at livestreaming a keynote of Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger, Inc., was a bit of a flop, but the more I tuned into different streams, the more I understood what interested people.

Like so many products, the amount of viewers you’re going to get depends on how you market your stream. In the case of Meerkat and Periscope, it depends on: 1) Your copy (for the title), 2) the person initiating the stream, 3) your content, 4) your location. If you’re a big brand or a celebrity, chances are that your location or copy won’t matter as much, but in order to retain viewers, you still need good content. If you’re not a celebrity but you’re doing some sightseeing in Florence or live by the Golden Gate Bridge, if you can slap an alluring title onto your stream, chances are that you’ll also get some good viewership.

Not to mention, Meerkat and Periscope offer huge opportunities for brand-user engagement. If you’re in charge of social media for a company, you’re probably already overwhelmed by the InstaPinSnapBook behemoth that you have to tame on a daily basis. But think about it – a fireside Meerkat chat with the CEO? A Periscope tour of HQ? It’s more personal and it brings to life the Instagram photos you would normally post or the #AskOurCEO hashtags you would use.

The Periscope team setting the trend with their own HQ tour.

The Periscope team setting the trend with their own HQ tour.

As much as I love mobile apps, admittedly, I’m also very skeptical about them. Whenever I read something along the lines of “X social app is like Snapchat for Pugs” on TechCrunch, I’ll skim the article, download the app if I’m interested enough… but 99% of the time I end up deleting the app in a couple of days.

I’m very optimstic about Meerkat and Periscope (the argument between the two is another blog post, but I am partial to Periscope at the moment) and I really like where Snapchat is headed (except for their original series Literally Can’t Even).

It’s not too difficult to imagine the advanced versions of what these apps are trying to accomplish. As you probably have already guessed, Facebook is planning to do the same but with a more immersive slant as soon as consumer-friendly versions of Oculus come out. Magic Leap already has its own plans for hyper-immersion and interactivity as well. Will we be seeing social sharing via drones five to ten years from now?

I’m not entirely sure.

But whether or not I can handle the degree of immersiveness that’s about to hit us in the near future is something I’m both excited but also *slightly* dreading to find out.

Christmas Yetis and Poopy Pigeons: Favorite apps of 2014

It’s been a crazy year for apps. From the breakthrough of Glu Mobile’s Kim Kardashian: Hollywood to top-chart newcomers like Crossy Road, the diversity of this year’s viral apps continues to make people wonder what it takes to publish a popular mobile app. Though I wish I knew the answer to this, I’ve picked out a couple of mobile apps that stood out to me this year based on features I thought were really unique and had that special “virality factor” quality. Let’s begin…

peter

Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff

I was addicted to Hay Day for one summer and I’ve played my share of Simpsons: Tapped Out. Despite all of the F2P, management-based games I’ve played, Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff, published by TinyCo in partnership with Fox, is hands-down the funniest and best maintained game I’ve ever played since I’ve had an iPhone. No, I’m not being paid by anyone to say this – I really do mean it, so let me count the ways. First, character development. It’s not something you would usually think of for a mobile game (an AAA console game, yes). Most people tend to tap past speech bubbles because they don’t really do much for the game. But in this case, dialogue is integral because it keeps the game fresh. The humor is, as expected, a little raunchy at times (mostly due to Quagmire), but it’s still hilarious.

2014-12-30 13.52.48

The TinyCo team also has an exceptional Live Operations team. Most games of this genre usually don’t survive because they start getting stale: Pick your crops, plant them, wait for them to grow and pick them again. But for Family Guy, their live ops go above and beyond the usual (and oftentimes obligatory) holiday or Halloween themes. Think attacking Christmas Yetis, hypnotizing mall santas and throwing snowballs at Christmas shoppers. It’s pretty fun.

I think the final feature I wanted to address for this game actually goes beyond the app itself. Like most management-based games, there’s a heavy push towards social media. Supercell, for example, maintains very active social media pages for its games in order to give out extra prizes or help connect players. TinyCo, through its Family Guy page, does a great job of staying in character when responding to users and, as far as I’ve seen, responds to nearly ever single person who has a question or suggestion for the game. Nicely done, TinyCo and Fox.

crossyroads

Crossy Roads: Endless Arcade Hopper

I discovered Crossy Roads about a month ago after seeing it on the front page of the App Store. It wasn’t published by a Storm8 or DeNA type of mobile company – instead, it’s published by Hipster Whale, a three-person team of indie developers. Every time I show my friends or colleagues the game, they almost always bring up Frogger but add “except its infinite.” And it’s true – the obstacles (i.e. logs, cars) are undoubtedly inspired by the classic 80’s game. But the big difference? Characters. Instead of just one plain Jane frog, Crossy Roads gives players a chance to play with up to 53 (and counting) characters, including Pew Die Pug, Floppy Fish, Rusty Robot and Poopy Pigeon, my personal favorite.

Even though you can easily buy characters you want for 99 cents, like most F2P games there’s usually a workaround. In this case, once you collect 100 coins, you can use these coins to win a prize (aka a new character) – a gacha element that I think Hipster Whale did a great job of localizing. The only thing I would suggest to tweak would be load the game quicker. Right now, it takes about 10 seconds for the splash screen to transition to the actual game. It isn’t too much of an issue, but it would be definitely appreciated if it were improved.

mvalley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is by far one of the loveliest games I’ve ever played on an iPhone. Developed by none other than ustwo, which also developed and published kid-friendly Whale Trail and Blip Blup, the company already has a record of creating great products. But Monument Valley is definitely ustwo’s best work yet. The soundtrack is delicate and mysterious. The art is good enough to frame and hang up (which you can, if you’re interested). And the mazes are often compared to M.C. Escher’s drawings – you are forced to think out of the box in order to complete each maze.

mv2

Going beyond the game, Monument Valley has also been able to show how, unfortunately, the gaming landscape (though particularly mobile gaming) has changed for the worst. When ustwo released its expansion pack in mid-November, some people were appalled because the additional pack was not free.

ustwo

As someone who has worked in the F2P industry, I am aware of the downsides. In this case, because so many games out there are free, people are expecting everything to be free these days. But let’s get this straight: The people who were part of the Monument Valley team worked extremely hard on this game – it was their job. If they gave these games out to everyone for free, how would these hard-working people get paid? Though the expansion pack hasn’t done as well as the original game, there are still many exciting projects in store for ustwo… like their gorgeous new VR game, Land’s End.

weave

Weave

Let’s take a break from mobile games and focus on a social networking app that really grew on me. Weave is the Tinder for networking, where you can swipe right to show that you’re interested in meeting someone for coffee or just getting some advice. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how open the people in Weave’s community are and have learned a number of great things from people I’ve been talking to. From my experience with the app and the community, everyone is enthusiastic to share their ideas and share what they are working on. The UI is simple, so tutorials aren’t necessary. I can definitely see myself using this app more often post-college.

2dots

TwoDots

Remember Dots, the adorable game where you connected matching dots in under 60 seconds? This year, Playdots really beefed up on its monetization model to create TwoDots. Though this game still has the same underlying rules, different elements like icy dots (takes three times to break the ice) and fiery dots (that burn up normal dots) are used as well as a Candy Crush-like path that winds through different worlds and boasts more than 200 levels. What I love about TwoDots is that it still has its original Dots-like charm. No ads and no pushy “Buy this power-up now!” pop-ups. The game boasts cute, minimal illustrations and a soundtrack that The New York Times quickly took notice of.

marvel

Marvel Contest of Champions

As a segue into 2015, another year of many more apps to come, I wanted to add Kabam’s Marvel Contest of Champions to this list. Though this app has been out for barely one month, I got some sneak peeks of it while I interned at Kabam this summer, so I’ve been anticipating the arrival of this app for a while now. And let me tell you, this game is unlike any Kabam game I’ve seen yet. Like the majority of its games, it is AAA quality, and the game play and UX are so smooth and easy to pick up on. This game sets Kabam’s standards even higher, and I’m really excited to see what else Kabam has in store for the new year.

… And that wraps up my picks for this year! There are of course thousands of other apps that came out this year, so if I skipped over any of your favorites, make sure to leave a comment. Happy new year!

The Year in F2P: A Recap

This year, I was lucky enough to attend Casual Connect USA, which was just a couple of blocks from where I intern.

I was stoked to go.

Really stoked.

2588DB25-525C-45C4-987F-A71755637F37

Really, really stoked.

I attended a number of sessions, but out of all of them, my favorite was definitely Free-2-Play Games: A Year in Review, featuring Dave Rohrl (Founder & CEO, GameHound Inc.), Juan Gril (Studio Manager, Joju Games) and Steve Meretzky (VP of Creative, GSN). I found out during their presentation that this is a talk they’ve been doing for a couple of years now, but every year is completely different.

Here’s what they discussed, in fabulous TL;DR form:

1. Simulation games are getting more and more complex. Unlike Hay DayFarmville is pretty simple. Just plant your crops, grow them and build your farm, with the option of spending the money you earn to decorate your farm. Hay Day, on the other hand, involves this and more like cooking, boat orders, quests, etc. The loops for these types of games are getting more intricate.

  • Though these games have incredible staying power, if you want to try and successfully develop and publish your own simulation game, you’re going to need a lot of resources, since the production costs are very high.

2. Puzzle games have been very successful as casual games, but there are some obvious differences between indie puzzle games and commercial puzzle games. Traction is one of these differences. Just think: Voro, a fairly elaborate and addicting game, just doesn’t have the DAUs as sillier puzzles like Pet Rescue Saga or Farm Heroes Saga. Mass market themes tend to do better, and being able to achieve victory in different ways (instead of just one way that can get tedious if too difficult).

3. No one is copying Supercell’s Clash of Clans successfully. Even though there’s a website dedicated to featuring Clash of Clans clones, none of these games have been able to crack the code as gracefully. The only exception is Boom Beach which is developed by… *drumroll*… Supercell! Therefore, the opportunity to make another Clash of Clans is still huge… we’re waiting!

image

4. There’s not much to say about social casino except for the fact that it’s making BANK. These are the leaders in each subcategory of social casino…

  • Slots Only
    • Slotomania, Jackpot Party Casino
  • Bingo Only
    • Bingo Blitz, Bingo Bash
  • Poker Only
    • Zynga Poker
  • Multiple Genres
    • Doubledown Casino, Big Fish Casino, GSN Casino

Unfortunately, these are heavyweights in the social casino genre, which means that it is hard for newcomers to try and compete. If you want to try, it’s best to draw inspiration from land-based casino as well as standard F2P gaming techniques (i.e. unlocking new machines, social elements, time-limited content, etc.).

5. Micro Games like Flappy Bird and Piano Tiles are stupidly popular. Because they attract such large audiences, ads are usually the main monetization scheme. Though these games, which can sometimes be developed by as few as one person, might be seen as threats to some gaming companies. But companies like Gameloft (with Ninja Jump) are embracing this formula by publishing their own micro games for the sake of cross-promoting their other games.

6. Hearthstone is one of the few games out there that is doing F2P as fairly as possible. Sure, you’ll have an advantage if you buy cards, but players who don’t pay aren’t at a complete loss. There are two different modes to play in Hearthstone – one which favors payers and the other which favors players. It’s something you don’t see too often in F2P. The game also does away with checklists, something that many, many F2P games use. They don’t leave a lot to the imagination, so Hearthstone replaces it with more time-based objectives, like rewarding users for being in the game for an hour or playing x number of games.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this post, here’s an even shorter TL;DR:

Simulation games like Hay Day are becoming more complex and need a lot of resources to keep players happy. Puzzle games are more likely to be successful if you reward players little by little. The potential for more Clash of Clans games is huge — so go start developing! Social casino makes buckets of cash, but is very competitive. Micro games are being used more frequently to natively cross-promote games. Hearthstone is doing F2P right.

Hope you learned a thing or two more about F2P. Happy (casual) gaming!

In defense of dumb apps

Last week, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I saw this tweet from App Annie:

appannie

Though I’m not particularly enamored with Slingshot, what caught my eye about this tweet were the two other top searches for Kim Kardashian and Yo, referring to two apps that have skyrocketed in popularity within the past couple of weeks.

In case you don’t know what these apps are, Kim Kardashian refers to Glu Games’s Kim Kardashian: Hollywood app, where you can create your own celebrity as well as date and dump some of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors like Riff Raff and Lil Wayne. In other words, this game is a re-skin of their game Stardom: Hollywood, released in early 2013.

And Yo? It doesn’t get as simple as an app meant for saying “Yo” to your friends. Just choose some friends in your contact list and the app will send them a notification, letting them know that you said “yo.” (Yes, this is really an app).

As embarrassed as I am for the state of apps right now, there’s something to be said about these “dumb apps” that suddenly go viral. Here’s why:

1. They keep the mobile app ecosystem interesting

Though we can try and extract as much data as possible from our cohorts, apps like Flappy Bird and Rainbow Unicorn Attack are testaments to the fact that we still do not have an “exact formula” for developing instant hits for mobile. What’s great about this is that the mobile app ecosystem yet remains to be monopolized (and hopefully never will be!) because people can still try their hand at this mobile app lottery and see if they’ll get lucky with the next Candy Crush Saga.

2. They encourage creativity and entrepreneurship

Time and time again, I continue to ask myself “Why didn’t I think of that?” especially when it comes to mobile apps. The fact that these apps are so simple provides even more motivational fodder to hunker down and develop an app. It is true, however, that with stupid successful apps come lots of copies (remember when the App Store started to reject all of those Flappy Bird copies?) which defeat the purpose of originality and creativity. Nevertheless, if there are people who think they can make a better app and act upon their ideas, then mobile app entrepreneurship will continue to thrive.

3. Let’s face it — they make us laugh

As much as I think Yo is the silliest, most useless app in the world… I got a good chuckle out of it when my friend first showed it to me. In fact, a couple of students from Carnegie Mellon decided to launch Yo, Hodor, an app that lets you greet your friends with a friendly “Hodor!” which I thought was hilarious. Whether the creators of Yo are complete trolls are not, it gives people something funny to talk about and roll their eyes at, letting people bond over the silliness of Yo or the ridiculousness of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

fry

And maybe that isn’t so bad after all.