In all honesty, I’m not really one for Facebook or Smartphone games. I don’t “get” Farmville, and I’ve seen (but never tried) my kids play Angry Birds, and that’s generally the extent of my first-hand, game-app knowledge.
Except when it comes to one game: Words With Friends.
Words With Friends is an extremely popular app – one that busy people (me) make time for. Released in July 2009 by Newtoy (now Zynga), this game has over 6 million daily users. I’ll often have seven or eight games going at once throughout the day – with my daughter, my wife, my co-workers, and friends. The fact that I’ll take time out of my day to play a word game with multiple people got me thinking – what is it about Words With Friends that makes it so “sticky?”
This is an especially poignant question when you consider that this particular app is one of many word game apps, including the official Scrabble app. So what makes it so different, and what does their success mean for our own businesses?
First – IT’S INTUITIVE
When the developers (brothers Paul and David Bettner) were asked why they think Words With Friends was met with such wild popularity (in an interview with TechCrunch), they “chalk this up to the user experience.”
If you’ve ever encountered the Scrabble app, you’ll know that it takes a few menus and options (Single player? Online or offline? Difficulty level? Type of dictionary?) before you’re ready to play. Words With Friends, however, immediately opens up on the multiplayer game, allowing you to play within seconds. The Bettners paid close attention to the design, making sure it was simple and intuitive. Fast Company quotes Paul Bettner as saying, “The goal was something lightweight and casual, something anyone can pick up immediately, without an instruction manual.”
The result? The competition appears too complicated, and people gravitate towards the simpler option.
Second – IT’S RELATIONAL
This is, I believe, the key reason Words is so successful: it brings people together. Okay, so I know that sounds a little corny, but Fast Company recently ran an article which tells of two Words players who got married after meeting through the game. I couldn’t even make this stuff up.
In the article, Megan Lawless (who married Jasper Jasperse) said she “has never considered herself a gamer, but she said she loves the game because ‘it is about interacting with people…. Like most people, I have friends and family all over the world, and this game allows me to play and chat with those I rarely get a chance to talk to.’”
And herein lies the game’s genius. People who would never consider themselves “gamers” are suddenly playing it nonstop. It’s becoming a social platform in and of itself. Even I have to admit – it’s connecting me with my kids in a way that wasn’t possible beforehand – almost as if every day is an opportunity to have family game night.
Admittedly, it would be nearly impossible for most businesses to recreate this type of connection, but as I’ve mentioned before, we could all be a little more relational in our marketing and with our customers.
Third – IT’S FUN
Millions of people wouldn’t be playing it if it weren’t for the sheer fun factor, right? Zynga is capitalizing on a simple concept: make it fun. Put another way, Zynga is delivering on their essential promise – that if you play Words With Friends, you will have fun.
A few years ago, Seth Godin wrote a great, succinct post about marketing. He said,
“Some organizations work very hard to weasel in the promises they make. They imply great customer service or amazing results or spectacular quality, but don’t deliver. No, they didn’t actually lie, but they came awfully close. The result: angry customers and negative word of mouth.”
The bottom line, according to Seth (and I agree!) is to overdeliver instead of overpromising. In the case of Words With Friends, the app went absolutely viral when John Mayer tweeted that the new game was “the new Twitter.” That’s great free press, but they got it by overdelivering on their promise to have fun, and word of mouth spread.
- Are we making our products and services intuitive for our customers, or are we weighing them down with needless “extras?”
- How am I connecting with my customers?
- How can I form better relationships, and how can I make my marketing more relational?
- What other “sticky apps” should we pay attention to, and what can we learn from them?
- Am I delivering on my essential promises?