I had lunch Monday with Greg Tseng, CEO of San Francisco ‘social discovery’ startup Tagged. Tseng is something of a social media pioneer; he launched Tagged in 2004 as a competitor to the fledgling Facebook (“We lost,” he said with a smile) before pivoting into the business of helping users meet new people online.
Tseng also goes way back with Mark Pincus, whom he met before the latter founded another social pioneer, Tribe.net. So I asked Tseng for his thoughts on news that Pincus has kicked himself upstairs at Zynga and brought in Microsoft veteran Don Mattrick as CEO.
Tseng said Zynga’s travails mirror those of other social gaming companies. ‘Facebook for a while offered a really cheap way to acquire users,’ he noted. But while Zynga and its rivals have focused closely on mining their users’ activity in order to target new products to them, Tseng thinks they haven’t spent enough time making sure their products keep users hooked.
‘Zynga needs to make games that are fun – and games that are social,’ said Tseng. ‘FarmVille is really a single-player game.You build your own farm, and you only interact with others when you need to buy things for it.’ He added that Microsoft’s Xbox Live, which Mattrick ran, is a good example of how to make online gaming more interactive.
And while I (and some analysts) wondered whether a guy from a console maker can turn around a social gaming company whose future increasingly hinges on mobile, Tseng argued that making really good games will do more than anything else to solve Zynga’s woes.