PopCap Games Chief Creative Officer Jason Kapalka believes that big publishers have not figured out how to capitalize on the social gaming market, despite several publishers snapping up or investing in market leaders like Zynga and Playfish. In an interview with GI.biz, Kapalka also told the publication that games like FarmVille are more of a threat to World of Warcraft than other MMO's coming out in the future, and that the subscription model for those kinds of games is on its last legs.
"Whether it's a game like FarmVille or Bejewelled Blitz, or a lot of mobile games that have the same idea of 'I have it wherever I go, I can play short games on it.' The game adapting to your schedule, rather than you trying to conform to the game's demands," said Kapalka. "Those are the kinds of games that are probably going to be the big scary ones as far as the current guys like Blizzard, Activision, and EA are concerned. They're going to be fighting them on unequal terms, like asymmetric warfare."
Kapalka believes that subscription-based MMO's are on the decline and that social games such as Farmville are the future, noting that the vibe he's getting is "that people are really deciding that MMOs are a bad place to do business."
While that may be true in the grand scheme of things, Zynga's most popular game on Facebook currently enjoys 62 million monthly active users - but it only grew a mere few hundred thousand users in July. PopCap's own Facebook game, Bejeweled Blitz, enjoys about 12 million monthly active users. On the flipside, since launching in November 2004, World of Warcraft has a current global player base of more than 11.5 million subscribers, according to Blizzard. The difference is that the company makes a massive amount of money off this game from subscriptions.
But the MMO space is changing, as more and more companies evolve their products; companies like Turbine and Sony Online Entertainment have already put both feet into the free to play waters and are finding success. Blizzard has said in the past that, at some point, it may consider offering a different subscription model for World of Warcraft. With a brand new expansion coming out later this year, I suspect that we won't see such drastic changes for quite some time.
On the other hand, companies that have tried to buy their way into the social gaming scene have had limited success in competing with games like Farmville, but EA may turn the corner by converting some of its most popular franchises into full blown Facebook games. Madden is a good example of what the future my hold for social games.