Android versions, all of which are designed to interact with each other regardless of platform. The original concept for the game, inspired by the core fun derived of big multiplayer video games like World of Warcraft, was its social aspect.
But it could have gone differently.
“Obviously it [Words With Friends] didn’t ship with a single-player mode, and if it had shipped with one, it probably would have crippled our game,” Thakkar said.
Centering the talk around Newtoy’s decision to make smaller, downloadable or mobile games rather than big traditional AAA video game titles such as those found in the Halo or World of Warcraft franchises, Thakkar described the developer’s approach as being highly agile and true to the scale of the platforms for which it makes games. Cutting features — even features staff members really wanted or believed in — is a big part of the company’s philosophy when it comes to making sure every part of a game supports the fun at its core.
The small approach seems to be working. Words With Friends is an extremely popular title: Thakkar said it was logging four million daily users and had another 20 million unique users who regularly played the game. And those figures were already out of date, he said, since the recent release of Words With Friends for Android.
The small-scale, core-concept design philosophy is interesting, considering Gameloft’s VP of worldwide publishing, Gonzague de Vallois, said that the rising cost of developing games for the mobile platform — or at least AAA games more reminiscent of traditional video games, like what Gameloft makes — will push app prices up and push out developers who make smaller games.
Based on Words With Friends’ success, though, if that shift is coming, it doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. Meanwhile, the mobile space continues to expand and accelerate, and players continue to pull enjoyment out of Zynga With Friends’ “nuggets of fun.” Thakkar said, during his talk, that his company’s servers for the With Friends titles, Words and Chess, process 1,000 “moves,” or game actions, every single second.