OMGPOP's Dan Porter sold Draw Something for $200 million to Zynga on March 21, 2012. The social drawing game was on its way up. By April 3, it struck gold at 14.6 million users. The decline since then has been slow and steady - and it's not the kind that wins the race.

Drawing can be a social experience, but it is often times best as a solitary, nongameified couple of hours. Not everything needs to involve another person. The danger of these sorts of games is that the user believes they are connecting and communicating with another human. 

 

The most awkward aspect of the Draw Something game? The mechanism of starting to "play" a game with another user, who might either be a Facebook friend, someone you've invited to play via email, or just a random person who is selected by Draw Something. 

I Sent You a Drawing. Did You Get It? Oh, Ok.

I was thinking about Draw Something yesterday afternoon, during a haircut in-person with real people (technology has yet to master the virtual haircut experience). I walked into the salon, and the receptionist had his iPhone out and was playing Draw Something. He stopped momentarily to check my name off - I was almost 10 minutes late, but that was okay because the hair dresser was running late and he was playing Draw Something. Then he went back to his game.

I sat down and asked for a haircut. Let's got shorter this time, I said. My hair is feeling scraggly and the summer is coming, so I'd prefer to have it off of my shoulders. As the cut began, I couldn't help but ask my hair dresser about Draw Something.

"Do you use Draw Something?" I asked. We'd already been talking about Pinterest and peoples' pinning habits, so this didn't seem like a far-out question.

Another hair dresser answered for her. 

"Oh yeah, I owe you a drawing," she said. "Sorry, I haven't been on there in awhile. I'll get back on and do it soon." 

I stopped by a cafe after my haircut and decided to test it out. I invited three friends to play; none of them responded. Then I started playing with a random person, picked a la Draw Something. We played a round. She sent me a drawing of pink. I guessed that it was PINK. Win. Get coins.

I answered back with a river, an easy squiggly blue line through a dense white pixel field. She hasn't replied yet.

Later in the evening, I had dinner with a friend who tends to get into these social games. For a time, anyway. I had invited her to play with me; she hasn't had a chance to check Draw Something in a few days. It's OK.

The Rise and Fall of Draw Something... or Something

Draw Something became No. 1 in the App Store shortly after its launch on February 1, 2012. It has since dropped, and the paid version of the app is now No. 4 in the App Store. People are downloading Draw Something and definitely still using it, but not in the way they were during its initial bump and subsequent purchase by Zynga for $180 million. After the acquisition, Zynga's daily traffic went up 25 percent. That was back in March 2012.

Nowadays, Draw Something is losing millions of users, proving that it is indeed another social media fad. Sure, the game was downloaded 50 million times in 50 days, making it officially the fastest-growing mobile game ever. 

As of May 2012, the game has changed. AppData reports that there are four million fewer daily active users than there were last month. 

"In a hits-driven business like gaming, stamina is as important an asset as creativity," writes ReadWriteWeb's own Dan Frommer, shortly after the acquisition went through.

Instead, Draw Something went big and is now going home. Its life feels more like a sprint and less of a marathon - but at least the higher-ups at OMGPOP cashed in. So much for stamina.

 

So Wait, Why is Draw Something Losing Users?

Running metaphors aside, Draw Something is bombing out for a number of reasons.

  • Everyone needs to play at the same time: The game itself doesn't work unless your friends are all around at the same time. It is not something you wait for - it's a game that you must stay on, slowing becoming addicted. Then you burn out. If no one is around to play, you must start looking for new people - or start bugging (nudging) the current players. That instills a sense of lameness in most every user.
 
  • Cheating is too easy: If you really care about collecting coins, you can easily just draw the word of what you're actually supposed to be drawing, and allow the other person to guess it. If not everyone is honest, the entire "rewards" aspect of this game - the coins - becomes just another way to loot the system.
 
  • Paying for Coins? Really? Sure, there's a free version of the Draw Something app itself - but actually buying coins and investing in it makes little sense if your friends aren't around. It's like buying livestock in FarmVille and then abandoning the farm, ya know?
 
  • This isn't Scrabble: In Zynga's successful title Words With Friends, cheating is much harder. That is, unless you're simultaneously texting other players to let them know which letters you have. That's like the equivalent of peering over at someone's Scrabble deck while sitting next to them. Are you really going to do that?
 
  • Drawing is fun to do alone together: Picture sitting around at a table with your friends in elementary school. Here's what I remember doing: I would spend a few minutes intently drawing something, and then I'd stop to peer over at what my friends were doing. It never felt like cheating. But then again, I wasn't on my iPhone, trying to connect with someone I couldn't actually see.