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F2P 2012: Studios need to plan for success as well as failure, says Zynga's Matthew Wiggins

#f2psummit Wonderland was without a strategy
F2P 2012: Studios need to plan for success as well as failure, says Zynga's Matthew Wiggins

You might expect a panel on big mistakes within the games industry to be littered with stories of botched releases or games canned during development.

Speaking during the Free2Play Summit in London, however, Zynga UK general manager Matthew Wiggins said titles that manages to be a surprise success (scoring millions of downloads in the process) can prove to be just as damaging as an outright failure.

Panel beater

Wiggins' tale of his former studio Wonderland's struggle to cope with the wealth of interest in iOS smash GodFinger dominated the four man panel talk, which also featured Relentless Software co-founder Andrew Eades, PapayaMobile evangelist Oscar Clarke and Jami Laes, VP of global studios as Playfish.

According to Wiggins, Wonderland had put in place plenty of strategies should GodFinger fail to take off. It hadn't considered what it would do if it proved to be a big hit, however.

"We didn't plan for success. That was our mistake," said Wiggins, claiming GodFinger had been in development for years pre-release, like a console title.

"I had loads of plans ready to go if the game failed, but we had absolutely no content to deliver to our eager users when the game hit #1 on the App Store."

A real Wonderland

Such additional content, Wiggins contested, is crucial for free-to-play releases, but it's arguably even trickier to get right than actually handling the development and launch of the game in question in the first place.

"If you can't deliver new content, you break the faith players have in your ability to run the game," he concluded.

Zynga went on to acquire Wonderland in April 2011, rebranding the outift Zynga Mobile UK in the process.

It was a transition labelled as "smooth" by Wiggins, who said the deal had been a "dream" for a studio with the respective limited resources Wonderland boasted at the time.