The number of people who actively use Facebook has reached epic proportions. Last year the site had approximately 500 million active users and over this past year it has grown to over 800 million users. As the number of users continues to grow, so too does the amount of time we spend on Facebook. According to one article, Facebook accounts for about 16% of our total time spent online.
Perhaps one reason people are spending more time on Facebook is because they’re enthralled with games that can be played on the site. If you’ve ever played a game on Facebook – you know how addicting these games can be. One game I’ve been obsessed with recently is called Mousehunt. Founded by a social gaming company called HitGrab, Mousehunt has been attracting hundreds of thousands of players since its inception in 2008.
This week I sat down with HitGrab’s Co-Founder Bryan Freeman to hear about how he started the company. “I used to work at a dotcom,” he said, “but then I started doing some marketing work on the side to make a few extra dollars.” After earning seed money, Bryan and his Co-Founder Joel Auge decided to start a new venture. “Originally, we started out doing some web-based experiments to see what stuck,” said Bryan. After dabbling in a few different areas, the duo started working on Facebook development and noticed there was a bigger opportunity in creating games for the popular website.“One night we came up with a concept about catching mice, and when we shared it with everyone at the office they thought we were mad,” laughs Bryan. But after the initial shock, the team saw the potential for the game and then they spent the next couple of years developing it.
The game’s revenue model is similar to many online games. The game is completely free for people to play, but players can buy additional features if they want an enhanced gaming experience. I was shocked when I heard who the paying audience was made up of. “In Singapore we have an audience that’s really young, in the UK we have an audience of middle aged women, and in the US it’s completely mixed,” he said.
The widespread appeal of the game is a big part of HitGrab’s success. As HitGrab employees shared the game with their friends and family members, the game went viral and more people started joining all over the world. “It really was amazing to see how fast the game caught on, and we were shocked to see our players come from all over the world” said Bryan. To reward their success, Facebook gave the company 1 of 5 coveted grants for $250,000.