When Zynga shelled out $200m for OMGPOP, the maker of Draw Something, the social gaming giant was buying what was, at the time, the owner of the hottest mobile game in the world.
But despite its popularity and the fact that it was generating hundreds of thousands of dollars each day in revenue, the steep price Zynga paid for a company that was once on the brink of failure naturally raised questions about whether it overpaid.
Those questions remain, particularly in light of figures which make it look as if Zynga may have purchased OMGPOP at the height of Draw Something’s popularity. But Zynga has a plan for Draw Something and, perhaps not surprisingly, it involves brands.
As detailed by AdAge, the company that has turned virtual goods in iconic social games like Farmville into a multi-billion dollar business is now “inserting advertisers’ paid terms into the game for players to literally draw brands”.
One of the first advertisers getting involved with Draw Something is the National Hockey League, which, according to AdAge, has been buying up hockey-related terms. The league is then posting some of the pictures Draw Something users are producing on its Pinterest pages.
OMGPOP’s CEO Dan Porter, who is now a VP and GM at Zynga, said that the brand initiative was developed after the company experimented with brand-related terms. “People loved to draw the Colonel and bags of Doritos,” he told AdAge.
Obviously, the prospective of inserting your brand into one of the most popular mobile games ever is an appealing proposition for brand marketers, even if the ROI calculus is hard to produce.
But there is risk. Just how far out Zynga will be able to extend Draw Something’s popularity remains to be seen, and by injecting advertising into the Draw Something experience, it’s possible that Zynga will alienate some users, hastening the game’s seemingly inevitable decline.
What is clear is that advertisers are clearly willing to experiment with more integrated advertising initiatives in mobile games, something that is good news for Zynga and the growing number of companies setting their sights on mobile gaming riches.