SongPop creator talks drumming up success, keeping the beat [Interview]


It's official: SongPop has "arrived". The asynchronous, turn-based music trivia social game by FreshPlanet was named the top social game of 2012 by Facebook. Based on Facebook's internal metrics on its App Center, like star ratings, SongPop impressed players more than any other game on mobile or the web via Facebook.

Considering that, before SongPop, FreshPlanet had just a few web-based social games--one of which was rich in visuals and atmosphere--that met mild success, this is no doubt impressive. Today, according to AppData, SongPop has 2.4 million daily players. To learn more about how SongPop achieved such an honor and how its developer plans to live up to it, we recently caught up with FreshPlanet co-founder and CEO Mathieu Nouzareth.

SongPop was just named the top-rated Facebook game, according to its metrics. What's your gut reaction to that?

How the reaction was surprised us too, because we didn't know. It was great joy, and we're very, very happy, obviously. What's good for us is that--those metrics are really--it's been calculated or it's been done on the basis of what the users or players are doing for very long. They're used by people, so it's something really meaningful for us. I don't even know the exact, where they calculated it. I think it's based on the number of ratings, engagement, and what people say. I think it's a lot of different things, but I think it shows the great game, and the players really love the game. So, our reaction was surprise and happiness.

How did Freshplanet come to the idea for SongPop? Wasn't it a Facebook game before you guys brought it to mobile?

No, it was slightly different. We had another music preview game on Facebook for two years, a game that was difficult. We learned from what we did there, but SongPop was really a game from scratch. The same game, we launched it on Facebook, and it was on Android almost the same day.

So, basically we had the idea early this year, and we wanted to do something in music where we'd make a game, and we'd look at the converters of social and mobile. We saw that it would be a great game, so I had the idea earlier this year, and we developed the game very quickly. I think we launched sometime in mid-May, or the end of May, and we had success starting a few weeks after. At the end of June, we knew it was gonna be big, and that's the story of the game.

Is there anything aside from the inherent design of SongPop that you chalk up this large success to?

What do you mean? Like any secret sauce or--

Exactly. This is especially considering how, at least when I talk to other developers, how hard it is to have a game get noticed out there on these app stores, Facebook included.

Song iPhone
Song iPhone

I think there was--there is not one single silver bullet. It's like there's the perfect storm, so to speak, with the app. First of all, I think we're lucky to have a game about music, and music is very powerful. It's deeply rooted in everyone's mood and DNA. I mean, everyone likes music, and every time you turn to music, it puts you in a very specific mood.

The other thing is I think the game is also very simple, and everyone can understand how to play the game very quickly. We don't even need a manual or anything. It's really straightforward. Just launch the game, you know immediately how to play, and you enjoy it.

A. The content is good and B. The game is well-designed--I mean, we did it so the music was good--and C. In terms of viral distribution, we didn't spend anything on marketing. We didn't have the money at the time, so what we did is we used two things.

The first thing is we made heavy use of the Facebook Open Graph, all mobile. That's why I think Facebook also liked the game and the company, because we're making great use of the Facebook Open Graph on mobile devices. So, Facebook Open Graph was instrumental in growing. And B. We also had the old-fashioned word-of-mouth. So, people literally took up their phones from their pockets and would show it to their friends, and they said 'Look what I found. It's a great game. Play with me.' And that was it. There is no secret.

Of course, FreshPlanet has added a bunch of different song packs I think in the past few months to the game. So, what plans do you guys have for keeping SongPop going for the next year?

Yes, definitely. We're taking SongPop in two directions. One is really more about music discovery. I know you can go into iTunes--and we'll add features so eventually you can buy concert tickets if we find out the artist is touring near where you are. That's one example. Music discovery is important for us. And we want people to think of SongPop as a way to start your music discovery and then maybe go somewhere else.

The other thing is really bringing people together for music. And the angle is adding more social networking features: matching people, having user profiles showing what kind of music lover you are. This kind of thing. We think we can have a very strong, long shelf-life for the game. I think the game has a strong longevity potential.

On the other hand, we're also preparing our next games. And I can't tell you what they will be, but we are working on them as we speak. And we hope to make use of, cross-promotion between SongPop and our new games. We'll see where it goes.

It seems like, with the features you're talking about in terms of music discovery, that FreshPlanet is headed in a direction where it may find itself competing with services like Pandora, Spotify and what have you. What do you think about that?

On the one hand, it's tempting. But on the other hand, if you want to compete with Pandora and Spotify and the iTunes of the world, you need massive, massive investments in finance. We like to think of ourselves as a compliment to those services rather than--I have to be honest, it's out of our reach today. We have to be realistic, so I think we can add a lot of value to music discovery, but not replace or compete with those guys. So, we'd like to partner instead.

SongPop Android
SongPop Android

It seems like the most successful mobile games are easily relatable in terms of the hook. For instance, Words with Friends is a word game, Draw Something is simply drawing, SongPop is about music These are all 100 percent, easily relatable themes as opposed to, say, Angry Birds--games that build a world filled with characters and assumptions about what players might enjoy.

Yeah, exactly. Raw material is great. With music, we have a very long time, as opposed to other games where it gets boring--not easier--but sooner. So, we have something that will work and will have a very interesting, a long shelf-life.

Are there any other potential game types that FreshPlanet or you personally see that haven't been tapped yet? We have the established word games, drawing games, and now we have it seems the established music game on mobile.

If I told you, I would give you too many information about our next game. I think there are a few genres that can be tapped. Not too many, but there are a few. A lot of companies have been trying to learn turn-based, asynchronous mobile and social games. Very few have really emerged--I mean only Draw Something, Words with Friends, and SongPop have been massive hits and the rest is more difficult. So it's not that easy as thinking, 'Oh, I'm going to do a turn by turn asynchronous mobile social game.' It's more complicated than this. And you're right: I think there are pockets or other areas of interest, but I'll keep it to myself for now.

Are you still digging SongPop? If so, which platform do you prefer to play it on? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.