Zynga Brings Branding to Draw Something

ZyngaAccording to a report by Ad Age, Zynga has added terms purchased by major brands into the list of words in their Draw Something game.

The first company to jump on board was the National Hockey League, which sponsored sport-related terms like puck and Zamboni relating to specific teams and superstars, with the team taking drawings under the #DrawNHL hashtag on Twitter onto their Pinterest site. They will be expanding with recognisable brands such as Nike and Doritos.

According to Dan Porter, former OMGPOP CEO and now VP of mobile, “People loved to draw the (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Colonel and bags of Doritos.”

There are currently two versions of Draw Something: a free version that displays banner ads, and a $1.99 version that comes without the banner ads. The new purchased terms are in both the paid and free versions. It would appear the shift is not working to increase headcount: according to App Data, Draw Something lost 3 million users for the month of April.

Zynga acquired the company behind Draw Something, OMGPOP, in March for around $200 million.

Analysis: Zynga has done three things that I can see since acquiring OMGPOP and taking charge of Draw Something:

  1. Required Facebook sign-in to be able to play
  2. Caused a massive amount of crashing in their latest versions of the game, if reviews and anecdotal evidence are enough to go off of
  3. Monetized everyone by adding in paid words and little else.

For those unaware, the way Draw Something works is this: the game uses a set of predefined words that players must draw, much like Pictionary. Guessing the drawing correctly earns the guesser coins, which can be used to buy bombs which help reveal letters of words. Leaderboards show who the best players are, and in-app purchases can be used to add coins. One of the biggest complaints people have about Draw Something is that the bank of words is limited, and after a while, repeats come up. So what that means is that the only thing Zynga’s done to address the most key complaint about their new game is add in terms that were purchased by advertisers, monetizing even players of the paid version, and adding in the benefit of crashing and invasive Facebook integration.

From a gamer perspective, Zynga destroys everything it touches, it seems. But what’s interesting to me is the ripple effect this could have on other games. If any game gets popular now, you can expect Zynga to come knocking in their neverending quest to own the entire social market. When you buy a mobile game, you’re not buying the game so much as a license to use the game. So this affects the future “contract”—I think of it as a social contract of sorts—between mobile buyers and the games they buy: it has to be assumed that someone can come in, buy the company, and change things without notice. The great game that was bought in March might not be great in April and could suck in May. Draw Something’s MAUs are indicative that people are voting with their feet, but so long as the remaining players can be sufficiently monetized, that’s good enough for Zynga.

Really, Zynga and Dan Porter deserve each other.

Christopher Bowen

About Christopher Bowen

Christopher Bowen is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus. Before opening Gaming Bus in May of 2011, he was the News Editor at Diehard GameFAN, a lead reporter for DailyGamesNews, and a reviewer at Not A True Ending, also contributing to VIMM, SNESZone and Scotsmanality. Outside of the industry, he is a network engineer in Norwalk, CT and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.