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“#spymaster is so last friday.”

Spymaster took off like a rocket over this past weekend.  A little bit of hype, plus the desire to be playing with the cool new thing, and boom… you’ve got an instant hit. There was a dark side, however, in the way that it used Twitter to communicate with users and recruit others to the game.  The Twitter audience is not the Facebook audience, and many Twitter users reacted negatively.  Even those who tried it, rapidly abandoned the game.

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Yesterday I started seeing the first signs that the Spymaster phenomenon might have peaked.  I had a busy day at work.  In the morning my circle of Spymasters was 78.  By the time I checked it last night, it had shrunk to 62. This morning, bit.ly showed that users clicking on the Spymaster links had flat-lined from Sunday to Monday also.

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What can you learn from Spymaster’s experience?

  1. Pick the audience that you’re targeting your viral experience at carefully.  Spymaster chose the Twitter audience, but they might have been better off chasing Facebook users.
  2. Make sure there’s enough product to engage the customer without turning on the viral engine first.  A lot of folks, myself included, concluded that Spymaster was dull.  While beautiful to look at, the gameplay wasn’t engaging enough.  Virality alone can’t drive an application to success.  Success requires that all of the elements that make for an engaging game, or useful application, be there already.  Virality is simply a way to drive down marketing costs. The Spymaster team could have chosen to spend an a little more time developing more engaging game play and profited more from the viral wave they created.

The Spymaster team already understands both these points.  Developer Eston Bond commented here yesterday that “we are literally only three weeks into the development cycle and on our first shot at having ever built an online game. I’m sure the team and I still have a lot more to learn about compelling gameplay, and at the end of the day it’s going to be the players that help shape its future.”

Full marks, Eston.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • kevinthompson June 2, 2009, 2:14 pm

    I believe Spymaster launched (and I used that word very loosely as it's technically still in private beta) to the appropriate audience, and it was great fun for a friday, but due to it's simplistic gameplay, repetitive nature, and very spammy implementation of twitter notifications, it was short lived.

    Regardless, my hat goes off to the folks at iList for creating a brilliant game their first go around and for quickly addressing bugs, exploits, and the aforementioned notification issues. They've created something commendable that makes great use of twitter as a social gaming platform. I expect at this point they will continue to polish the game and officially lunch to the public, but with a large portion of twitter's core audience either having gotten their fill, or or being left with a bad taste in their mouth, the damage may already be done.

    Gameplay aside, iList has created a visually and technologically stunning web application. As I mentioned in a related tweet, "#Spymaster would have made a great launch vehicle for #Typekit" (http://twitter.com/kevinthompson/statuses/1966162185). The website is a wonderful work of typography & design, and they've creatively utilized a number of technologies.

    Great job guys. Better luck next time.

  • bigboxshops June 4, 2009, 1:52 am

    I believe Spymaster launched to the suitable persons. Although it’s simplistic gameplay, repetitive nature, and very spammy implementation of twitter notifications, it woule be fun to friday .

    http://www.bigboxshops.com— cheap dvds,free shipping .

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