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We are a small developer company planing to create our first social game. Social games look like a promising genre for monetization, but looking at the actual market (dominated by big players) and revenue needed, it actually appears like a very, very risky business, besides games being a hit-business anyway.

costs: 4 devs x 5 months x 3k$ + ads+gfx+sfx+server ~200k$ using an optimistic ARPU of 1$/m, we have to keep about 20k DAU per month for one year

This only sounds viable with a very simplistic (costs!) but engaging game ... and lot of luck.

Are there any examples of fast to develop but successful social games - not necessarily indie - besides games such as card games, casino games? There is Pocket Frogs and Doodle God, which look simple to develop compared to content-rich game like FarmTown, but it seems these are the exception.

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Farmville has the best development time to success ratio that I know of in any game development in any genre.

It took them 5 weeks

I have no idea how much they've made as that's not public knowledge as far as I know. I can say that Zynga's latest valuation is around 10 billion USD and farmville was the catalyst that brought their company into the billion mark. They have about 58 million monthly active users.

I'm sure you've thought of farmville in asking this question, but if you look at most of the games from Zynga, you will get the short development time with high success. From appearances, I'de say most of their games initial releases cost less than 200k. Cityville is now their most active game with slightly over 60 million users.

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I'de like to note as you have that this is the exception. Then again, aren't most successful games the exception? Not sure where I've heard it, but I've been told to calculate .33*expected revenue + .66*(expected revenue/3) to give you an idea of what to expect in development. That's based on the probability that you are 33% likely to get your expected revenue and 66% likely to have a flop. :) That's kind of meant as a joke, but still has some merit –  brandon May 11 '11 at 15:33

Facebook is not the exact same place as it was 2 years ago. Prepare to heavily advertise, very, very few games grow organically these days and Facebook gives preferential treatment for certain players so don't expect to be able to do what the big guys do either.

Cost of advertising is also relatively high on facebook.

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