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Draw Something, ANYTHING: Why OMGPOP's Hit App Popped

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The web often gets blamed for destroying our ability to focus on things like paper books and conversation. But we haven't always got the attention span for the internet, either -- even when it makes buzzes, finds our friends, and gives us prizes.

Witness the rapid rise and (what looks to be) fall of Draw Something, the social app from gamemaker OMGPOP, which Zynga bought for $200 million at the peak of Draw Something's popularity. Six weeks ago, Draw Something, a Pictionary-like mobile game, was the "uproarious, ingenious" "new sensation" envied by game makers everywhere. Since early April, however, it has shed nearly 4 million daily active users, according to AppData and the Atlantic Wire, which first highlighted the decline. AppData's stats show only Draw Something users who signed in via Facebook, which is optional, but the steep slide suggests the downward trend likely holds true for the "good chunk" of Draw Something gamers who log in without Facebook.

So what happened?

I was one of the millions who adored Draw Something and pestered my friends to sign up for the service. I took great pride in my drawings, delighted in others' sketches (you wouldn't believe the gem my friend Chris drew for "odor"), and even played with strangers when my buddies took too long between turns.

Which is exactly why the Draw Something app has since been relegated to a cobwebbed folder on the third screen of my iPhone: Too often, there was nothing to do.

As McDonald's or Big Tobacco know so well, addiction begins with instant gratification, and Draw Something didn't reliably deliver an endorphin hit.

There were times it made me beam, but more often I was just made to wait. Even with numerous concurrent games, I'd check back in while waiting at the elevator or tapping my foot in the Starbucks line only to see I was still on hold waiting for Jason G. or Daphne J. to appreciate my artwork and share their own. And then I'd open Jumbline, a word game for one that always has something to do, or maybe Pulse, which gets refreshed regularly with the latest news.

Draw Something was supposed to be Zynga's mobile-savvy savior. But the app failed to consistently satisfy the short-duration, high-impact engagements we crave on our phones. A hit app needs to deliver a hit that makes us feel connected, entertained, or amused, quickly and every time.

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