It looks like I'm not the only one getting bored with Draw Something.
Once upon a time (OK, a month ago), I found myself eagerly waiting for my friends to hurry up and take their turns so I could try my embarrassingly inartistic hand at whatever words were thrown at me by the app that social-gaming slumlord Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA ) paid so handsomely for.
Who's coming with me?
Now a month later, days will go by without even a glance or consideration for the Pictionary knockoff that had me captivated not so long ago. I might check it once or twice a week, at most. Of course, anecdotal evidence from one Fool doesn't paint a complete picture of whether the title is fading from the public eye, but looking at statistics from third-party tracker AppData, it appears that my weariness of the game is not an uncommon occurrence.
Looking at Draw Something's monthly active users, or MAUs, after topping out near 36.5 million, we see the game has lost more than 2.5 million MAUs in a matter of weeks. The trend is pretty clear, as I don't see any upticks in that falloff.
The trend of daily active users, or DAUs, paints an even gloomier picture, and I find DAU metrics more telling of how engaged players are. For example, I would count as an MAU since I've played within the past month, but I'd fall short of the DAU criteria.
Draw Something has been shedding DAUs like a bad habit, and while there have been upticks on the way down, we're still talking about losing approximately 5 million DAUs -- or more than a third of the high -- in a month.
Looking at it on a percentage basis, a month ago almost 45% of MAUs were so hooked on the game that they were using it daily. That figure has now fallen to just over 25%.
That $180 million doesn't seem like money well spent, if you ask me. What's an acquisitive social-game maker to do?
When all else fails -- advertise!
According to a recent report from Ad Age, Zynga is looking to further monetize the game by including household brands among the drawing choices. That would be a clever way to subtly advertise to users without some of them even realizing that they're being pitched to.
Draw Something has already tested household names such as Nike (NYSE: NKE ) , Yum! Brands' (NYSE: YUM ) KFC eatery, and PepsiCo's (NYSE: PEP ) popular Doritos chips. I've even seen Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad appear as a choice, which I went ahead and drew on the iPad I was playing on. The NHL is one of the first advertisers to pay up for some words, coinciding with the current Stanley Cup playoffs.
Selling brand names as drawable items in the game will help Zynga further monetize Draw Something beyond in-app purchases, while also avoiding horrendous banner-ad displays.
Zynga recently reported first-quarter earnings, and 8.8% of the $321 million in revenue came from advertising. That's up from 5.3% of sales a year ago, so Zynga is definitely looking to expand its revenue streams.
Advertising to the rescue?
While the move should help Zynga bring in more dollars from Draw Something, it probably won't affect user engagement in any meaningful way. Are users going to play more just so they have the chance of drawing the Colonel chowing down on a bucket of fried chicken (I tried this one and failed miserably)? Or to illustrate a pair of running shoes or a bag of chips? Not likely.
Seeing as how the value of ads is directly linked to user engagement (which is why Facebook tracks your "likes" and comments), Zynga needs a way to rehook players. Since the acquisition, it's added a few new features to the game, including an "undo" button and commenting, among others, but those minor perks aren't likely to turn the DAU tide anytime soon.
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