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OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter: 'We Agonized & Overthought It'

In 2010, OMGPOP had a million loyal users playing games on its website. But it had to go after Facebook to make a huge hit.
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Video Transcript

00:07 Dan Porter: And all of a sudden, we went from feeling like "Oh, my God. We are so great at games, we're the champion of the world." to feeling like total losers.

In 2008, Dan Porter became CEO of start-up OMGPOP, a company that creates real-time online games for multiple players.

At first, users could only play OMGPOP games on its website.

00:27 Porter: And immediately after one or two of the games came out, there was a tremendous amount of traction. The people on the site were very excited. They were playing each other, and they were spending a lot of time. And as we started to grow, and I would review all the kind of letters that were sent in. People liked it so much that they would send in letters in snail mail with pictures of themselves playing our games. But what tended to happen, as we looked to grow, is that our audience didn't grow that much. They loved the product and they were really engaged but they didn't kind of grow in that typical curve that goes upwards.

By 2010, OMGPOP could see that Facebook games were attracting far larger audiences.

01:12 Porter: We thought, "Heck, we have a million people coming and playing games on our platform." And then we'd turn around and we'd see that games on Facebook that either might not have been good because it was early on or were not as complex or as fun as ours had 10 million users. When we saw these raw user numbers, we were just crestfallen about how much bigger the opportunity was elsewhere.

01:37 Porter: And so, that was really how we started agonizing and we would have meetings with the Board of Directors. We would have meetings ourselves. And we'd say, "Well, we should go after this other opportunity." And everyone would say, "Well, what about all the people who love us for what we do?" And finally, at some point, we were in the lobby of our building waiting to take an elevator up in Soho in New York, and one of the developers just said, "I can't go to any more meetings about whether we're gonna do this or this makes sense. Why don't we just build it and see?"

In 2010, OMGPOP created Cupcake Corner, its first game for Facebook.

OMGPOP would go on to create more popular games--but Cupcake Corner was a turning point.

02:18 Porter: It was the answer in the middle in that, number one, it kind of showed that we were more diverse and it allowed us to actually raise a whole another round of funding. And number two is it showed us that we weren't necessarily stuck in our wheelhouse. Where we ended up, when we finally made Draw Something, and we were on mobile, which was a different platform and it was a different type of game, and it kind of finally gave us that growth was off the charts. It was related in some way but it was kind of this one move that opened our eyes and made us realize we were over-thinking it.

02:49 Porter: And I think, for us, we agonized it and over-thought it. So, sometimes, it's potentially more obvious than you realize. But I think what we really learned was that pivot was only the starting point to a different place where we ended up in the end. And so, I think a lot of times you think, "Well, I'm doing A and now I've got a pivot to do B, and B will be successful." But what we learned is we were doing A, we kind of pivoted slightly to do B, but we actually ended up in C. And so, if I had known that, if I had rewound history, I think it would have been a lot easier to try B because I would have realized it's just another step in terms of figuring out where we are. This isn't "we're doing this or we're doing that and there's nothing in between." It's kind of like the whole journey.

In 2012, OMGPOP's Draw Something game for mobile devices was reportedly downloaded more than 50 million times.

Later in 2012, Zynga acquired OMGPOP for $180 million.

Last updated: Oct 18, 2012