What All Startups (Especially Snapchat) Can Learn From The Rise And Fall Of Draw Something

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There are some very important lessons to be learned by looking at the failed apps of yesteryear. Draw Something was once the most downloaded app in the world, pulling in nearly 15 million Daily Active Users (DAU) in April 2012, and its developer, OMGPOP had just been bought out by Zynga for $200 million.

Only 18 months later, OMGPOP was shutdown for being an unprofitable asset.

Sure, something like Snapchat, with its $3.5 billion valuation, seems to have broader applications than an app that was only a game, but Snapchat's last reported Daily Active Users was only five million in spring 2013. How does a program this popular fall so far?

Lesson 1

Depending on continuing popularity is not an actual business plan. Draw Something experienced a huge popularity boom because it was a simple, great idea. Mobile Pictionary: what’s not to love? But users moved on to the next big thing nearly as quickly.

Lesson 2

Developers cannot be complacent. Draw Something users loved the initial idea, but the experience became stagnant as active users soon exhausted all permutations of words and accomplished all incentives. Companies must be constantly tinkering to improve the user experience and to create reasons for new people to join and keep using the program.

Lesson 3

It is better to sell out than to fail. OMGPOP, the developing company of Draw Something, was bought out by Zynga for $200 million and promptly saw its value drop to around $85 million as game users grew bored and left the program. The founders of OMGPOP, though now unemployed, got seriously paid when they were bought out by Zynga, and didn't suffer on account of their idea having run its course.

Lesson 4

Focus needs to be on creating enjoyable products for the users, rather than obsessively on metrics. Zynga's significant attention on data and metrics distracted the company from its fundamental purpose: to design fun games that people want to play.

"That strategy of tweaking every bit of a game’s design to increase growth, retention, engagement, and monetization is arguably what made Zynga so financially succesful in its early years. It may have also eventually contributed to low morale, fleeing talent, and the inability of Zynga to produce any hit games recently." Techcrunch