Socialgamesobserver

The Latest News on the Social Games Market in Europe and Emerging Markets

27Apr/11

Kobojo Secures €5.3 Million Funding to Grow User Base

By Sebastian Sujka

French social game developer Kobojo has announced the completion of the first round of its fund-raising campaign, which raised a total of €5.3 million ($7.5 million) from Endeavour Vision, as lead investor, and IDinvest Partners. For the last 3 years, Kobojo has been editing and publishing a wide variety of social games and apps such as Goobox and PyramidVille. Kobojo, with its current workforce of 30 employees, intends to use these funds to step up its development in France as well as internationally. New international offices will be set up, the first new office will be opened in Madrid, Spain. To lift the user base (from currently 3.2 million Monthly Active Users according to Appdata) Kobojo will probably use a significant share for large scale non-organic user aquisition.

ggKobojo already has a number of successful games under its belt. The company was founded in 2008 when Franck Tetzlaff and Vincent Vergonjeanne, CEO and VP for Products and Strategy respectively, former finalists and winners of the Imagine Cup and graduates of the French computer engineering school EPITA, decided to create gaming applications on Facebook. Their first game “Petite Questions entre Amis” (“A few questions among friends”) was successful, gaining 8 million MAU in just two months. The team launched “Goobox” in July 2009, which gained 3 million monthly active users in one month. PyramidVille, Kobojo’s latest release, gained 1.6 million installations in less than 6 weeks in France (climax at ca. 1.3 million MAU).

“Raising the funds is in line with Kobojo’s strategic goals to become international and create new user experiences. We want to localise versions of our games in markets with increasing demand for social gaming, in particular Spain and in Italy. These funds will also help us focus on R&D to enable us to provide these games on various platforms such as Smartphones and touch tablets, as well as Facebook in the very  near future.” says Vincent Vergonjeanne, VP for Products and Strategy at Kobojo. “Our ambition at Kobojo is to become the leading gaming software editor in Europe. We believe that these funds, combined with our unequalled technical expertise and our ever-growing group of fans, are the perfect ingredients to achieve this,” he adds. Vincent did not want to communicate more precise details on company goals at this point but stressed that he sees Kobojo’s “hyper-localization” as one of the biggest future success factors. “Hyper-localization” is already practised by Kobojo and means total localization in a country, not only in terms of language but also in terms of culture. An example for the lack of “hyper-localisation” are promotional items for Thanksgiving or Halloween, to which most Europeans cannot relate.

With the new round of funding Kobojo joins the race with Wooga (24.3 million MAU), Social Point (17.5 million MAU) and Megazebra (4.1 million MAU) to become the biggest social game developer in Europe. Just recently Megazebra has announced a round of funding as well while Europe’s currently biggest social game developer Wooga took over the fourth position globally.

26Apr/11

Bigpoint Announces Summit Partners and TA Associates to Make $350 Million Investment

By Gary Merrett

Browser game giant Bigpoint today announced that Summit Partners and TA Associates have signed definitive documentation to invest $350 million to recapitalize the company and position it for continued strong global growth.“The investment by TA Associates and Summit Partners is a validation of Bigpoint’s leadership position within the gaming industry, and will give us a huge boost toward becoming one of the most successful gaming companies worldwide,” said Heiko Hubertz, CEO and Founder of Bigpoint. “Summit Partners and TA Associates are supporting Bigpoint’s international expansion — a course we set out upon in recent months with the opening of new offices in the United States and Brazil. I’m looking forward to a future partnership of mutual trust and cooperation.”

TA Associates and Summit Partners jointly will own a controlling share of Bigpoint. Previous shareholder Comcast Interactive Capital’s Peacock Equity Fund will sell their holdings in this transaction. GMT Communications Partners and GE will sell a majority of their stakes. Hubertz will retain his existing ownership stake.“Regarding myself, I kept my share,” said Hubertz.“I see the potential in Bigpoint to exceed a value of one billion dollars and become the top online gaming company in the world.” Added Hubertz,“Our thanks go to GMT Communications Partners and Peacock Equity Fund for three very exciting years. Their support has seen the company rapidly grow during this period.”

Bigpoint is one of the leading companies in online games that can be played directly in the browser. With more than 185 million registered users, the company has a varied portfolio of internationally successful and recognized games and brands, including Battlestar Galactica Online,FarmeramaandDarkOrbit. The company’s over 700 employees are currently working on the next generation of gaming with upcoming blockbusters such as The Mummy Online, RamaCity and Drakensang Online. Summit Partners and TA Associates will join the Bigpoint Board of Directors, which consists of Founder Hubertz and Board Chairman Simon Guild. Completion is subject to regulatory approval and other standard conditions.

26Apr/11

Aeria Games Europe Launches with ATLAS Interactive Deutschland

By Thorsten Bleich

Europe’s leading provider for mobile payment solutions ATLAS Interactive Deutschland will handle mobile payments in the online games published by Aeria Games Europe as of today. Aeria Games Europe is one of the rising stars in the gaming industry and joins the ranks of major gaming companies which are also working with ATLAS Interactive on a national and international level. With the rise of online games and the need of small transactions or micro payments on the internet, it is becoming more important for these companies to choose a payment provider they can trust. Players are now spending several million Euros a month on online games.

Whether its special food for the animals of the farm, sophisticated ammunition for your army or a new shirt for the avatar it is a diverse purchasing world for virtual goods in online games. “The market for mobile payments in online games is more competitive than ever. The partnership with Aeria Games Europe underlines that we are extremely well positioned and ready to compete”, said Lars Ketelsen, CMO of ATLAS Interactive Deutschland, about the newly announced deal.

26Apr/11

Mobile Social Games – An Outlook

By Gary Merrett

One of the questions that commonly comes up when discussing the future of social gaming is the role that mobile will play in the evolution of the genre.  The big trend, starting at the end of 2010, and continuing in 2011 is that of the convergence of social and mobile, with more traditional social games trying to expand their presence into mobile.  We’ve asked guest blogger Leon Kitain who works on both mobile and social games to talk a little bit about the difference between the two platforms:

Audience/Theme

Mobile games tend to target a different demographic than social games. Just look at the income comparisons between Facebook and iPhone games below.

iPhone

Facebook

Source: digitalsurgeons

While iPhone users are generally quite affluent (47% 100k+), Facebook users tend to be primarily lower/middle class. Because of the difference in demographics, iPhone social games can actually explore more interesting themes, as people with higher incomes tend to be more accepting of experimentation. So while Facebook games mostly focus on Farming, Food and Shopping, there are actually successful social games on the iPhone that have Fantasy and even Science Fiction themes and have seen relative success.

Session Length/Frequency of Play

Traditional social games have more frequent engagement than mobile games and often longer playing times. For Facebook, The vast majority (95%) of social gamers play multiple times per week; nearly two-thirds (64%) play at least once a day.  For mobile, as you can see from the chart below, the frequency of play and the duration of play is wildly different.

Because of this, the design of mobile social games has to focus on shorter session lengths and less daily engagement. The same sort of appointment mechanics that dominate Facebook games work poorly on mobile because users aren’t as likely to keep those appointments. In fact, the social mechanics that are most becoming to mobile games are ones that provide instant, session based satisfaction.

Monetization

The monetization vectors for mobile games vs. social games are a bit different at the moment. Within the social game umbrella, the prevalent paradigm is that the best way to monetize users is through virtual goods. Virtual goods have become accepted by users, and Facebook, as a platform, tries to do their best to make the purchase of these goods as seamless as possible. On the other hand, in mobile games, virtual goods have not yet become as ubiquitous. In fact, on the platform, both advertising supported games, as well as paid games are completely viable, something that has not really worked for social games.

Conclusion

Still, in the end, I think that we’ll begin to see social games and mobile games converge in each of these spaces. Android is driving the affluence of mobile gamers down, while the merging of mobile and regular devices (such as the iPad) is going to drive up frequency of use and number of sessions. In addition, I have no doubt that Apple will do their very best to push and optimize the virtual goods model, making that monetization path more appealing to developers, while at the same time, clamping down on the value of CPI models as seen with their recent campaign against the offerwalls.

Leon Kitain is employed at Electrified Games, a full-service game developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

21Apr/11

Social Gaming Summit and Virtual Goods Summit First Time in Berlin

By Sebastian Sujka

Keynoting the conference will be Michael Kalkowski, Co-Founder and Creative Director, GameDuell GmbH with “European Games on Fire: New and Old Frontiers” and Jens Begemann, Founder and CEO of wooga with “ Why Brands and Publishers are Obsolete”. Other speakers represent Digital Chocolate, Tapjoy, TrialPay, Bigpoint, my Yearbook, MegaZebra, OMGPOP, SponsorPay, Gamesbrief , deal united and many more.

Further topics that will be discussed during the summits are: Social Gaming Goes Mobile, Building a Successful Social Games Distribution Strategy on Facebook, YouTube & Co., The Future With Cross-Platform Games, Monetizing Synchronous Games through Virtual Goods, Investing in Virtual Goods Businesses, Measuring the Health of Your Virtual Economy, Digital Goods in Asia, etc. Early Bird rates are available until Tuesday, 26th April.

19Apr/11

Capcom Announces New Publishing Brand “Beeline” for Mobile Social Games

By Gary Merrett

Game developer and publisher Capcom today announced the creation of “Beeline” a new publishing brand tasked with expanding the company’s presence in the burgeoning freemium smartphone space. The creation of “Beeline” marks the first time Capcom has created a separate publishing sub-brand with the intent of targeting a specific sector of the mobile social games market. “Capcom recognizes that the market for social smartphone games is very different from our core video game business,” said Midori Yuasa, President and COO, Capcom Interactive, Inc. “Capcom is extremely committed to the smartphone social game space, and the creation of ‘Beeline’ represents a major investment and strategic refocusing of the company’s mobile operations.”

Capcom realigned its mobile operations to focus on smartphone game development in 2009. Titles released by Capcom include Smurfs’ Village, Zombie Cafe and Lil’ Pirates. Cumulative downloads of these three titles are currently more than 15 million. At launch, Smurfs’ Village became the number one top-grossing app in 55 countries and consistently ranks as a top-ten grossing app worldwide on Apple’s App store. With the creation of “Beeline”, Capcom’s goal is to capitalize on this success with a brand and team focused on the mobile casual gamer. According to Capcom, “Beeline” is expected to publish eight new social games for smartphones by the end of the September 2011.

18Apr/11

Festival of Games: New Market Data Presented to International Audience

By Gary Merrett

This year’s edition of the Festival of Games will take place on 28-29 April in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The gaming trade show sees a major uptake in interest from abroad: More than 60% of this year’s Festival of Games participants are international visitors. Ranging from Jordan to Korea and from Russia to Canada these participants turn the Festival of Games into the major business platform for the European games industry. During the Festival of Games, Deloitte will present a research report with market data on the Dutch games industry that substantiates these advantages. In addition, Newzoo presents the first results of the 2011 National Gamers Surveys. Key insights on consumer gaming behavior in Western as well as Emerging markets: number of gamers, consumer spend, type of games played and a comparison between the Western and Emerging markets such as Russia, Mexico and Brazil. With this, the Festival of Games wants to offer an exclusive and unique view on the games industry and its consumers.

The opening keynote of the Festival of Games Conference will be given by Al Lowe, the creator of Leisure Suit Larry, the adventure game that opened a new genre in the game industry during the 80s. Lowe will be joined by delegates from the international games industry like Activision, LucasArts, Eidos, Endemol,Unity Technologies and many others. Newzoo’s National Gamers Surveys have provided market data for several years now. From the raw 2011 data it already has become clear that the average time spent on games in western markets has grown 50 to 100 percent depending on country. This growth is clearly fuelled by the expansion of mobile devices and social networks as game platforms and the large scale adaptation of the free-to-play business model of online gaming.

According to Reinout te Brake, CEO of MMO Traffic, the research results show that MMO / social gaming will achieve exponential growth in the coming years. “This is driven to a large extent by a move towards ‘free to play’, the participation of new groups of gamers, and mobile gaming. We expect that especially the latter will provide a great boost to the market in 2012.” Te Brake is pleased with the growth in the international character of the Festival of Games: “With this show The Netherlands underline their role and ambition in the worldwide market for online gaming and beyond.” The participation at the Expo & Career Fair is free, you can sign up here.

14Apr/11

Top 10 Secrets of Success for Social Games – by GameDuell Co-Founder Michael Kalkowski

By Sebastian Sujka

The number of social games that exist today is staggering. facebook alone has over 10,000 game apps. Still, only 20 facebook games have more than one million daily active users (DAU). Why are so few successful? To find out, we looked at the 25 largest social games as well as the fastest growing newcomers. We wanted to understand what the best have in common and which features have the highest impact on monetization, virality and stickiness. What we found was quite surprising. Here is our top 10 list:

#10 Daily Bonuses: The best apps reward players for coming back. A simple way is to reward daily login and increase it each consecutive day. What works even better is to add an element of chance like a slot machine. A great example is the daily spin in Bejeweled Blitz. There players get a daily coins reward, a consecutive days bonus, a random spin, and even a viral incentive (the more friends you have the more bonus). When PopCap introduced this in July 2010 it increased DAU by 60%.

#9 Cuteness: Another trick is to exploit human instinct to protect and nurture. Simply show players a cute puppy with large baby eyes and few can resist. People have to click and pet it – and show it to their friends. The best way is to combine it with a viral dynamic as in the baby whale example from Happy Island. When CrowdStar introduced this in January 2010 it generated tons of feed posts and free viral installs.

#8 Appointment Dynamics: Some features require players to return at predefined times in order to get rewarded or avoid punishment. The classic example is harvesting and withering, which was first seen in Happy Farm in 2008. Many city simulation games like Millionaire City also use this. Players rent out buildings and must come back on time to collect rent to avoid losing it. Appointment schedules combined with loss avoidance and rewards are a strong psychological incentive.

#7 Boosts: In contrast to decorations, boosts are virtual items that give players a functional advantage. That could be extra time, a tool for faster harvesting, or items that increase health. Boosts are one of the best drivers for monetization. A good example are the multipliers and color bombs in Bubble Speed. The trick is never to give unlimited boosts but consumables that deplete over time.

#6 Energy: Some apps limit how far players can advance in each session through scarce resources, such as energy or lives. Then they sell refills that let users advance more rapidly and save time. Energy was first seen in Metamoki’s Mob Wars and today is the core monetization driver of most Zynga apps. Even poker apps use it in the form of chips. However, it can be a double edged sword. If you limit resources too much, users get annoyed and churn increases.

#5 Achievements: Rewarding players with virtual badges can significantly increase stickiness. What works best to direct gameplay with quests (players get explicit tasks). When Mafia Wars introduced achievements in April 2009 their stickiness ratio (DAU/MAU) increased from 23% to 25%. Not surprisingly, Zynga also added ribbons to FarmVille and stickiness increased from 33% to 37%. Some apps even use quests for cross-promotion. For example, in order to get the rare bowie knife in Mafia Wars, players have to solve a quest in FrontierVille.

#4 Friend Interactions: The best apps increase retention by encouraging players to interact and re-engage their friends. Brilliant examples are the franchises in CityVille and the neighbor visits in FrontierVille. Players collect coins, XP and hearts for visiting their friends‘ homesteads. An even more effective friend interaction is gifting because of its reciprocity. Players feel obliged to send a gift back. This creates a endless loop and is also viral – the more friends players have, the more gifts they can send and receive.

#3 Staffing: The most viral mechanic makes players “hire” friends to get benefits in the game. A basic example is Baking Life. Here players have virtual temp workers in their bakery who cost in-game currency. Alternatively, they can hire friends – who work for free. The crew mechanic in mafia games is even smarter because benefits accumulate: Players get more power if more friends join their crew. The increase even depends on each friend’s strength, which makes this truly social.

#2 Crafting: The most engaging apps let players transform less valuable resources into more valuable resources by investing time, skill, money, or the help of friends. A great example is the horse stable in FarmVille. To complete the building players need to collect virtual items that can be found, gifted from friends, or bought. When Zynga introduced this it increased DAU by 20%, one the biggest gains from a single new feature. There are many variations of crafting, for example the weapons depot in Mafia Wars and the factories in CityVille.

#1 Limited Offers: The best monetization driver of all is to use merchandizing and smart marketing. An example is Texas HoldEm Poker. When users leave the payment flow without buying, a popup offers them a 24 hour discount. This alone can increase revenues by 10-20% through increasing the number of paying users. Even more powerful are limited edition items, typically around holidays like Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day. It makes people buy, who usually don’t buy. And it makes people who usually buy, buy more. The downside is that it requires ongoing fresh content. But since we are talking about virtual goods it scales the larger your app becomes.

Will these 10 mechanics turn every app into a blockbuster? Probably not. No trick in the world can make up for a boring game experience. So the biggest success factor of all is to get the underlying gameplay right in the first place.

About the author: Michael Kalkowski is co-founder and creative director of GameDuell, a global cross-platform social games community. Founded in 2003, they have developed more than 60 games for their own brand website, social networks, and mobile. GameDuell has a team of 170 people with offices in Berlin, Asia and San Francisco and is currently offering over 30 jobs, such as product managers and game designers.

13Apr/11

Mobile Community Mig33 Allies With GREE

By Thorsten Bleich

Mig33, the world’s largest mobile-first community, today announced an agreement with GREE, a major Japanese social networking service provider, to adopt the GREE Platform for smartphone, opening Mig33’s community social game developers throughout Japan and beyond. Games previously developed for the GREE platform can now easily be adapted and made available to Mig33’s more than 47 million registered users.

Today’s Mig33/GREE deal echoes an earlier announcement in which GREE partnered with China’s Tencent. While modeled on both GREE and Tencent, Mig33 differentiates itself by bringing mobile community and entertainment to billions of consumers residing in the emerging, mobile-first markets throughout Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Together, the two deals mean that game developers throughout Asia and beyond can easily make their social games and other applications available to mig33 and tap its fast-growing virtual economy.Mig33 also opens opportunity for games developers to monetize in the untapped market of mobile-first countries.

11Apr/11

WildTangent Collaborates with Levi’s for Mall World

By Gary Merrett

WildTangent has announced its partnership with the Levi’s by bringing the Levi’s Curve ID product to a Mall World on Facebook. Through WildTangent’s collaboration with the Levi’s it brings its proprietary ad platform BrandBoost to Mall World. “Shoppers” can earn coveted in-game items by engaging in a Levi’s virtual fit. Players can also earn a pair of virtual Levi’s Curve ID jeans by exploring a new, virtual Levi’s retail store within the social game. More than six million women and girls play Mall World each month on Facebook. In the game, enterprising types can run their own fashion boutique while fashion-forward trendsetters can shop to their heart’s content.

In Mall World, WildTangent brings to life Levi’s Curve ID custom fit system that is based on shape and not size by leveraging game developer 50cubes ability to integrate the brand’s “Digital Fitting Room” into the game. WildTangent’s BrandBoost platform enables brands to sponsor access to additional playing time or virtual goods that players would otherwise have to pay for. The platform also makes possible the dynamic delivery of branded virtual goods into social games on Facebook. BrandBoost supports third-party ad serving and reporting as well as creative formats ranging from long-form video to social engagement activities.