Digital Chocolate's Facebook focus left it lagging behind in smartphone race, says Trip Hawkins

Learning lessons

Digital Chocolate's Facebook focus left it lagging behind in smartphone race, says Trip Hawkins
| Digital Chocolate news

Digital Chocolate founder Trip Hawkins has spoken openly about the mobile publisher for the first time since his departure, claiming the firm focused far too heavily on Facebook.

Speaking to, Hawkins – who also founded EA and the now defunct 3DO Company – said Digital Chocolate invested more heavily in Facebook than its rivals, which left the firm in trouble when the social network began to cut down on 'game spam'.

Fading Facebook

It's a decision that hit Digital Chocolate's efforts to promote games virally, which cut both its games' rate of monthly active users and, in turn, daily active users.

"A change in viral is going to reduce your MAU, and a change in the return rate is going to reduce your DAU; if you reduce the DAU you're going to reduce revenue," said Hawkins.

"And then if you take 30 percent off the top of that, you're going to completely reduce the revenue."

Hawkins claimed said changes were ones "games companies had to absorb", but they happened to come about just as the App Store was taking off – the timing of which meant Digital Chocolalte was "lagging behind" from the off.

"I do think Digital Chocolate's going to do a much better job; it already is doing a better job on the mobile side this year, but it's just late," he added.

Future focus

On the publisher's future, Hawkins claimed those in the mobile market now need to focus on improving "integration with a virtual goods economy, and how to use good principles of merchandising and promotion in that economy, and get customers excited about spending more money."

"I honestly believe that the customers that spend a lot of money on virtual goods are very satisfied customers, because they're basically king of the world," Hawkins added.

"Somebody who's even spending as little as a thousand dollars in a game is going to get an incredible dominant feeling about how well they're doing in that game."

And since the rush to new platforms has prompted a massive rise in the cost of user acquisition, developers need to adjust their focus, he added.

Acquisition costs must be met by effective monetisation, and "you can't just think about 'Oh, the game is fun, great' or 'Oh, the game retains' - that's not sufficient."

Perfect storm

As a parting shot, Hawkins was asked which area of the market he saw as offering the biggest opportunity going forward.

"No question, it would be tablets. I think tablets are the perfect storm," Hawkins replied.

"It's going to be the fastest-growing device in history, and it's being used by every segment of the population

"Everybody likes tablets and everybody has started to consume content and spend money. So that just looks like it's going to be an enormous, enormous market."

Hawkins' interview comes days after reports hit the web suggesting Digital Chocolate is to let 180 members of staff go as part of a streamlining exercise.


James Nouch
James Nouch's news editor 2012-2013