At last month's Casual Games Conference in Seattle, I spent about 30 minutes chatting with Daniel James, CEO of Three Rings. Daniel told me an interesting story about how Puzzle Pirates, the hit Java MMO, has accelerated user base growth.
Puzzle Pirates utilizes few other distribution portals outside of www.puzzlepirates.com. But one site Daniel has had phenomenal success with has been Miniclip.com, the browser-based games portal.
In Daniel's experience, a stunning 1 million out of Puzzle Pirates' 3 million players have come via Miniclip alone.
Because Miniclip users are younger, they don't monetize as well as other players. Daniel's estimation was 1% monetization for Miniclip users vs 5% among the rest of the Puzzle Pirates user base. However, according to Daniel a secondary wave of word-of-mouthers join Puzzle Pirates shortly after each wave of new Miniclip users and the conversion rate among this secondary wave is much better.
I bring this up now because of this very recent Ypulse article, which contends that Miniclip has been the primary growth catalyst for games like Club Penguin and Runescape as well. A degree of influence not surprising given the "explosive growth" of the Miniclip.com site itself, as illustrated on this chart.
Here are some quotes from the Ypulse article:
Without Miniclip, it is likely that there is no Club Penguin phenomenon. The product launched in October 2005 and was able to eke out a base of about 25,000 users. A few months later, the game was posted on Miniclip and experienced explosive growth. By September, the product had over 2.6 million users. Runescape's user base saw a similar, if slightly less dramatic, increase from a niche game to a multi-million user success.
With a core demographic of 10-24 year olds, Miniclip has built a portal with the power to instantly launch a youth brand. What network TV was for The Transformers, so Miniclip has been for Club Penguin. Great products can travel virally, but the task is a lot easier if the starting point is 30 million exposures.