SGS 2010: Social Games Across Platforms with ngmoco's Jason Oberfest

Yesterday, leading iPhone games developer ngmoco’s Jason Oberfest discussed Social Games Across Platforms with Kara Swisher, and revealed a lot of interesting insights about the challenges. He talked about payment systems, the split between ads and virtual goods, design decisions on the iPad and more. Read more below.

Jason began by discussing that Apple’s move to open their platform the to developers has been a smart move. But the question is now how developers are going to be able to develop these applications and move them across platforms. “Moving across platforms is a difficult thing to do. When you think about what you need for things to happen is a really good payment and billing infrastructure.” To really make something work across platform, you need a social graph to work, you need virtual items to work and you need reasonably consistent messaging platforms.


There are 2 or 3 key learnings happening by social game developers at this moment:

  1. Thinking about cross platform ; trying to find ways to do little cross platform experiments with given constraints
  2. Understanding and evolving with the platforms is a full time job. Platforms are always iterating, trying to create the best experience for their users.
  3. Developers are in an important transition stage where the platforms of tomorrow are now being built.

Apple Platform

When asked “Is Apple the most important platform right now?”, Jason said that it totally depends on the philosophy of the company. Each platform has unique opportunities. The payment system in Apple is more sophisticated and the intimacy with the device increases the propensity to spend. ngmoco was founded on the premise of the iPhone functioning as a stepping stone in this widening industry. iPad , iPhone and excited about some new Android devices are the most important devices, and the reasons are:

  • Form factor, multi touch, accelerometer (and other hardware functions)
  • Size of the user base
  • How app environment works
  • Services available on the platform

Advice To Small Developers

Here are some of the results of being challenged a small indie developer in today’s app ecosystem.

  • difficult for upstarts and indie operators due to logistics and other factors
  • representative of a maturing industry
  • smaller guys should work with big developers for distribution
  • console games are getting more social and pushing in that direction; getting more about live content; less of a packaged good model like it used to be


When asked about design elements, Jason mentioned that Apple provides rich libraries to help facilitate easier design. Touch Pets renders very nicely because of the native libraries they have access to developing in the Apple environment. They are not trying to simulate real time human 3d interactions but can imagine doing that.

Some other notes from the session:

  • Mazefinger and Topple, paid and free respectively (not sure about this), saw a 10x diff. between them. Figuring out how to monetize 10x of audience is more fruitful than trying to monetizing less people, especially if you don’t have a way to monetize after that initial engagement. Its better to monetize use of the app and not the download.
  • Virtual Goods / ads diff. can be close to 50-50. Ngmoco is excited about iAds. Product placement is harder / more work and its in its premature phase.
  • What’s overhyped and what’s under-rated? Whats overhyped is , as a result of consolidation, is the focus on just the biggest companies even though the market is a little more opaque now.
  • A lot of interesting things happening on a small scale that may not be as apparent.
  • location based things will become more interesting