LIVE from TechCrunch Disrupt: John Doerr, Mark Pincus, Bing Gordon

TechCrunch Disrupt, the tech blog’s annual conference in San Francisco, is underway. I’ll liveblog the highlights of this first panel of luminaries, which is looking at Building Internet Treasures. FYI, John Doerr is a partner at Kleiner Perkins, as is Bing Gordon (former longtime creative guy at Electronic Arts), and Mark Pincus is CEO of social game giant Zynga.

Actually, Doerr is soliciting audience questions for everyone, and then they presumably will address them. They’re all over the place–where do you look for new ideas, what about micropayments, the wisdom of developing on a closed platform (in other words, Facebook), is advertising the revenue model for the Internet, what’s the future of companies like Groupon, what matters most for the future of the Internet, what is the future of social games, is the intelligent Web real or a myth, is there a future for Flash vs. HTML5, Internet disruption in health care.

Pincus starts out. 33 million people as of yesterday played a Zynga game. 1200 full-time people. Won’t disclose revenues.

Pincus says the best companies are creating products and services that we now can’t imagine living without–Amazon, Google, etc. That’s what an Internet “treasure” is. He says Zynga measures its users’ “net promotion score,” which has to do with how much they spread the word of their game experiences to others, if I understand correctly.

Doerr says he’s getting a different sense of games culture today–more analytical than creative. “We’re data junkies. We measure everything,” he says, and Zynga has invested in big data warehouses–more than a petabyte of data a day. “We’re adding a thousand servers a week.” Yikes.

But, he adds, design and creativity still really matters.

Doerr: What is disruptive about social games? Gordon: Four big disruptions from the Internet: Social, analytics, APIable Internet (app economy) and new payment methods. What’s disruptive about social games is that they combine all four in one. Pincus: In summer 2007, I was here for the Facebook apps platform launch (so was I). Games and fun were not a big macro on the Internet yet. The disruptive thing for me was not apps and platforms, but that they took down the barriers to entry to playing games–you could now design games that three clicks in, you know how to play them.

Doerr: Is the social Web going to create other great possibilities beyond games? Pincus: We are going through the biggest change in Internet consumer behavior since using the browser. Somebody will become the travel icon on my phone–and be that throughout the Web as a result. Health is waiting for someone to turn it into a consumer product that’s useful.

Turns out John Doerr’s daughter Mary, in high school when meeting Pincus along with her dad and Gordon to assess whether Kleiner would invest in Zynga, sealed the deal by saying, “He’s cool.”

Pincus: Wanted to keep control of the company to avoid “death by a thousand compromises.”

Doerr: Zynga has the notion that every employee is a CEO. That can’t be right, can it? Pincus: We sure try. People have to define what they’re the CEO of, and how they’re going to kill it (that goal).

Doerr: Is it the app economy? Pincus: Every consumer behavior on the Web is going to become an app and a new kind of industry. Consumers are going to expect the way they interact with a service is an app.

Will there be a revenue stream besides advertising? Pincus: I’m a big believer in the user-pay economy. Just as offline, ads will eventually be a small part of the overall Internet economy. Advertising [online] is only a $50 billion industry–smaller than the auto industry.

Pincus: We’re still far far away from being an Internet treasure. People can still imagine life without playing our games. Gordon: I don’t know, I was harvesting wheat at 6:15 this morning. Pincus: We have to make the daily grind have more meaning. It’s a big challenge.

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One Response

  1. Eric,The key point here is that Zynga doesn’t have to leave the Facebook platform to avoid alomst 100% of the impact of the 30% Facebook Credits tax.Based on stats from other top games, only 2% of the users are payers. Of this group 80% of the revenue comes from the top 30% of payers. That means that only 0.6% of a given game’s user population (i.e., the whales) account for 80% of the revenue.So, for Farmville’s 80 million users, only 480,000 whales generate 80% of the revenue in the game. This means that if Zynga fully embraces Facebook Credits for the 98% of users who pay nothing and the 1.4% of users who pay a little, its bottom line revenue will not be hurt that much (i.e., about 6% = 30% tax * 20% revenue).The key is to ensure that as Zynga’s small payers (i.e., minnows) begin to become whales (based on their repeat purchases over time) that they are lifted out of the Facebook ocean and placed in the Zynga lake (i.e., FarmVille.com or zyngalive.com).The great thing is that by making Farmville.com or ZyngaLive.com an exclusive place that is ONLY for whales, Zynga can actually get folks to pay more in the game to gain access to all of the extra perks available to whales. This is just like in Vegas where the whales get comp’ed rooms, meals, show tickets, cars, etc. as long as they stay loyal to a given casino and gamble $500K a day at the tables.So, in reality Facebook doesn’t have a stranglehold on Zynga’s business model because they don’t need to coax 80 million people off of Facebook (which would be hard). The key is that only 480,000 Farmville players really matter from a revenue point of view. Once these folks are extracted, Facebook Credits could charge the full 30% or higher tax and it wouldn’t materially hurt Zynga’s business model.So, it makes sense that Zynga and Facebook have reached in accommodation where both parties walk away winners. The most interesting play will come when Facebook allows Facebook Credits to be used on 3rd party web sites and creates the first micro-payment solution with enough user adoption to convince a critical mass of web sites to support it.The ability for advertisers to reward targeted Facebook users with Facebook Credits for watching video ads and providing their e-mail address to the advertiser (either inside of Facebook.com or on a web publisher’s site using Facebook’s upcoming AdSense killer) will give Facebook yet another way of increasing the CPC and CPM rates for their ads. It will also dovetail nicely with the existing TV advertising format of 30 and 60 second video spots and the ad agency infrastructure that goes along with it.Thanks,Lee

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