Social gaming companies like Zynga and Playdom have proven that casual/social gaming can be an extremely lucrative business. But their success can’t be solely attributed to the quality of their games — they’re also finely tuned to maximize their virality. Users are often asked to invite their friends to join them, or publish stories to their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other services. Today HeyZap, the startup that helps Flash games get distribution and monetize effectively, is launching a new “Viral API” that helps developers integrate similar features into their own games.
Co-founder Jude Gomila says that up until now, developers have had to figure out how to implement these syndication features on their own — now they’ll be able to do it quickly using HeyZap’s APIs. To put the API to the test, HeyZap built a game called Balloon Boy Game (in honor of last week’s horror story-turned-scandal), which allows users to share the game with their friends via Facebook and Twitter. Over the course of a few days, the game saw 4 million game plays and 5,000 tweets. This was no doubt helped by the timeliness of the game, but it’s likely that the viral loop played a significant role.
Alongside the new viral API, HeyZap is rolling out a new Analytics feature that will allow developers to track how many times their games have been played, as well as how many times links to their games have been tweeted or shared on Facebook. Developers can do this with some other services like Mochi Media, but Gomila says that HeyZap is unique in allowing developers to see exactly how long gamers are spending during a game session. He also says that the company is working on expanding the feature to allow developers to see exactly when gamers tend to quit the games (say, at the end of a certain level), which could help them tweak the gameplay.
HeyZap is also seeing growing support from publishers, who like to use the service because it allows them to monetize Flash games that they used to host for free — whenever a developer integrates HeyZap payments into their game and someone purchases something, the publisher hosting the game gets a cut. Recent additions to HeyZap’s client roster include College Humor and ebaum’s world.