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Playfish's De Halleux: Social Game Users Are Never 'Low Quality', Just The Experience

Playfish COO Sebastien de Halleux (Pet Society) tells Gamasutra that, in the world of Facebook gaming, the concept of 'low quality users' is "bullshit", sugges
Low-quality users in the world of Facebook gaming? "Bullshit," says Playfish COO Sebastien de Halleux (Pet Society). Such a perception simply comes from developers failing to meet social gaming users' needs, he tells Gamasutra -- and if the users are "low-quality...that's your own damned fault." De Halleux is also co-founder of the London-headquartered social gaming company, which runs games such as Who Has The Biggest Brain? across multiple social networks, including Facebook. Success in the highly-competitive social network gaming space depends heavily on user numbers, and many developers and publishers aim to acquire high user volumes rapidly. At the recent Social Gaming Summit, however, Offerpal Media's Anu Shukla said the "quality" of users racked up so quickly tends to be low.. "So, here's something where you're touching a very sensitive topic," said De Halleux, responding to the comment in today's Gamasutra feature interview. "What does 'the quality of a user being low' mean?" Shukla's comment addressed the business standpoint, suggesting that legions of early adopters spells lower conversion rates, less engagement and poor monetization. "That's bullshit," De Halleux stated. "I mean, how can you tell your users, 'you are a low quality user'? I mean, think about that! That's horrible to say, right?" "Every person inherently is someone that has needs," he continued. "If they're 'low quality,' that's your own damned fault! You have not touched that person with something that has meaning to them, right? There is no such thing as a 'low quality user,' there is just a low quality experience." "And if you monetize badly at a certain rate, then you have a low value proposition for some users, not a low-quality user. And that's point number one," he added. Further, the commonly-employed tactic to drive userbases quickly is what De Halleux calls "spamming technique" -- and it's "normal" not to expect those users to yield the same kind of ROI as those who've elected to join the game based on its design and appeal. "Quality aside: we, A, believe that users shouldn't be spammed; B, that you should not push games to them, and so you should make it hard to invite users," he said. Playfish places an invite button within easy reach of users of all its games, and informs them about how having friends join would enhance their experience, and then leaves it strictly optional. "If it's strangers that you need to add to your game, so to speak, you click that button repeatedly," he said. "If it's your best friend, you can spam him once, twice, you know, and that third time he's going to ignore you, right? And you're going to lose some real life social capital, too. So, that's why it's been quite powerful." "Maybe our traffic is, using those terms, "higher quality," because they are more engaged. Because 18 months on, over 50 percent of our players are still playing on a monthly basis, maybe -- but I hate those terms. The failure can only be yours, not your users'. That's an unfair point." The full interview with Playfish's de Halleux is now available on Gamasutra, including lots more specifics on the rise of social network gaming and how to create a 'sticky', fun environment for those playing games on Facebook and elsewhere.

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