Socialgamesobserver

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

31May/11

Wooga Raises $24 Million Series B Investment

By Sebastian Sujka

Europe’s largest social game developer wooga just announced a $24m Series B investment led by Highland Capital Partners. Tenaya Capital and existing investors Balderton Capital and HV Holtzbrinck Ventures also participated in the funding round. Today wooga has close to 30 million monthly active users and takes the third place in the developer leader board on Facebook (Appdata). Wooga started the year from the fifth position and gradually moved their way up doubling their user base from 14 to 30 million monthly active users. The goal to gain one or two positions by the end of the year is already reached before the end of Q2. After leaving prominent names like Crowdstar and Playdom behind wooga is now within reach to surpass EA and become the second biggest social game developer after Zynga.

The company states that the finding will be used for new game development and hiring new talent. After two years wooga employs 85 people and plans “to build the team to 150 employees by the end of 2011, hiring two new employees per week“, according to wooga CEO Jens Begemann. It is also likely that wooga will spend a great share of the funding to acquire more users. So far the company and focused on retention and virality spending little on customer acquisition. Now with EA being just 2 million MAUs away wooga is likely to increase spending. It is also likely that after two years the company will add more monetization features in their games, an aspect that is not fully developed in all wooga games. Wooga is the only developer next to Zynga that has more than two titles in the Facebook Top 20 of games, namely Monster World, Bubble Island and their newest game Diamond Dash. The other wooga titles are Brain Buddies, wooga’s first game, and Happy Hospital.

With Crowdstar in reach CEO and Founder Jens Begemann shares his ambitious long term plan: “We have a ten-year vision to build one of the largest gaming companies in the world by 2020. For 40 years, computer games have been aimed primarily at young males – roughly 10% of the population. But we believe that playing is a core human need, and therefore we design games for 100% of the population. Our games attract more viewers than some of the biggest TV shows. Millions of users spend on average 20 minutes a day playing our games, returning several times daily. Social gaming is about to transform the entertainment industry and this funding gives us the means to lead that change…”

30May/11

Indian Developer Zapak Launches First Facebook Game

By Sebastian Sujka

Indian game developer Zapak has introduced “Zapak Tambola”, their first stand alone game on Facebook.The game is based on traditional Tambola, also known as bingo in the UK. Zapak already launched their gaming portal “Zapak Games” on Facebook in July 2010. At launch the portal contained over 30 games which could be accessed directly via Facebook. The game portfolio primarily consisted of casual games including sports, arcade, strategy and action games like Ice Hockey, Street Soccer, Speedway Racing or School Cricket. In August 2010 Zapak partnered with social game publisher 6waves to offer more games on Zapak Games.

Now Zapak launches their first stand alone game. In Zapak Tambola the player is given an amount of virtual currency after playing a tutorial, which he can spend for Tambola tickets or on his avatar by acquiring dresses and other features. As usual, you can customize your avatar with different costumes, change the gender, hair, face and skin color and share it on your Facebook profile. The scoreboard displays the highest scores of the day, the week and of all times. It does not compare a user with his friends, but with unknown players. It looks like a typical social game but does not feel like one. The menu is highly confusing and even the tutorial is not intuitive for the average user. We expected more of Zapak Tambola. Zapak Games continues to fall below 50k MAUs and although there have been many adaptions Zapak Tambola is unlikely to be the next chartbreaker.

27May/11

Supercell Raises $12M and Launches Gunshine in Open Beta

By Sebastian Sujka

Finnish game developer Supercell announced that it has secured an investment of $12 million from Accel Partners, whose previous investments include Rovio (Angry Birds), Playfish and Gameforge. Klaas Kersting, founder of German browser-game giant Gameforge and currently CEO of flaregames has also invested in the round, as did London Venture Partners, one of Supercell’s previous investors. The other previous investors of the company include Initial Capital, Cerval Investments and Lifeline Ventures. “We are proud to have Accel and Mr.Kersting as investors. Given Accel’s extensive experience and track record in gaming, internet and social media, their investment is a powerful endorsement of Supercell’s vision of combining the power of social networks with deep and immersive core games that are instantly accessible from anywhere, anytime,” said Ilkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell.

Supercell will develop titles for gamers who want online browser-based games that are bigger in scope than the most social games, but less involved than massively-multiplayer games. The team has developed a proprietary and scalable technology platform along with a conversion tool that allows them to build high quality game features across different platforms. The company was founded in June 2010, and released the Closed Beta of its debut game, Gunshine.net, in February this year. Shortly after the investment announcement SuperCell also announced the Open Beta launch of Gunshine.net.

The game bridges the gap between browser-based massively-multiplayer games and social games, with deep online gameplay and extensive social features. Set on a prison island dominated by a corrupt pharmaceutical company, players must take down the gangs that run the island’s neighbourhoods at the company’s behest. Kill big bosses, gather loot and upgrade your hero as you try to liberate Dawnbreak City from the clutches of Labycore. The remarkable about Gunshine.net is that players can play with their Facebook friends even if they are offline. Asynchronous gameplay is bridged by the possibility to recruit online friends into your team. Offline players get their rewards after they log in and can join the mission to play synchronously.

25May/11

Peak Games Receives $5M to Focus on Emerging Markets

By Sebastian Sujka

Turkish social game developer and publisher Peak Games today announced a $5 million Series-A investment to foster continued growth in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world including Turkey and MENA (Middle East North Africa). The round is led by Earlybird Venture Capital, one of Europe’s most successful, early-stage technology investors. The funding will be spent on four main areas which will be recruiting for in house development, local offices, marketing and customer acquisition and the growth on mobile. Part of Peak Games’ success has been driven by how the company reaches underserved markets with localized and culturally-specific games that employ strong engagement and monetization strategies. Most developers did not invest in Turkey, partly because they followed the low hanging fruit principle and harvested countries that were easier to access and partly because Turkey has the reputation of being very hard to monetize. When we asked Peak CEO Sidar Sahin about monetization he had a very simple answer for us: “If you have a good product, people pay”. He also assures that if the game is adapted well to the Turish culture ARPUs (average payouts per user) can be higher than in Brazil, China or Eastern Europe. Entering new markets, Peak Games is expecting the most revenue to flow in from GCC countries (Gulf Co-operation Council:Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) and Jordan, but also expects a lot of traffic from Egypt.

Launched in October 2010, Peak Games has quickly established itself as a leading social gaming company in Turkey and MENA, reaching the position of the 10th largest social gaming company globally by number of daily active users (DAU). These numbers are not yet reflected on AppData, as the publisher metrics are not a sum of the list below yet, but we are sure the stats will be updated soon. Follow this link to view more details for Peak Games on Appdata. Much of this rapid rise is due to Peak’s focus on games based on traditional Turkish and Arabic card and board games, as well as localized content showing a strong understanding of its audience. Peak Games has also partnered with several other social gaming developers including The Broth which created Barn Buddy, and MagnetJoy which created Pet Party, to create and publish localized versions of those games (Komşu Çiftlik and Petiler) and spread them successfully on Facebook. Earlybird’s investment follows an initial $2.5 million seed round from a number of investors including Hummingbird Ventures and serial business angels Evren Ucok and Demet Mutlu, bringing the total amount Peak Games has raised to $7.5 million in just over half a year.  Peak Games’ growth to date includes: Peak Games’ most popular game is card-based Okey, which is by far Turkey’s most popular online social game with 3.4 million monthly active users on Okey and 1.1 million on Okey Plus (MAU). Other titles include: Poker Star, Komşu Şehir, Komşu Kabile, İkon Kız (FabGirl), Bizim Dünya, Komşu Çiftlik and Petiler.

Another reason why social gaming is will spread across emerging markets like Turkey and MENA Countries is the level of liberty. In Turkey or in MENA countries people frequently are not exposed to the same levels of personal liberties as in the Western world. Often it simply is not possible for everybody “to go to a bar or to go to a tennis court” to meet. However, they need a platform to interact and to talk freely and Facebook provides this platform. Turkey is already the fourth largest Facebook market, with over 28 million users and still growing. Taken as a whole, the MENA region is one of the fastest growth areas for Facebook and social networking, with the number of users growing by 78 percent year over year and is forecasted to reach 150 million users by 2015. For more information on Turkey, MENA and Peak Games click on the thumbnail  below to view the infographic provided my Peak Games:

24May/11

CrowdStar Secures $23 Million in Funding

By Thorsten Bleich

Social Game developer CrowdStar has announced it has closed its first-ever round of institutional funding in the amount of $23 million. The gaming company has attracted major media, technology and global funding investors for the round, led by Intel Capital, Time Warner and participation from China’s The9 and NVInvestments. The Company plans to add about a hundred employees particularly game developers, server developers, artists, producers, business analysts and content managers. CrowdStar, a YouWeb incubation, was founded in 2008 and has never before taken in institutional funding.

“We plan to invest broadly across all areas of our business, and particularly to add more extraordinary talent into the company.” says Peter Relan, co-founder, chairman and CEO of CrowdStar. Relan, who had taken over as CEO of the company in January, has been explicit about not only growing the business on Facebook, but also adding mobile and global expansion into the mix. Intel Capital – which also invested in and exited CrowdStar’s sister-YouWeb incubation, OpenFeint – and the company will work together to further expand social gaming in the mobile space. Time Warner brings an outstanding library of high quality, branded IP to partner with in the social games arena. And, a partnership with The9 will help CrowdStar to enter the Chinese marketplace, a major goal for the Company.

23May/11

“Kung Fu Panda 2” Teams with Zynga

By Gary Merrett

DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures and Zynga have announced a new in-game item and quest for players of CityVille to promote the opening of Kung Fu Panda 2, which debuts in theaters on Thursday, May 26th. CityVille’s more than 88 million monthly players (according to AppData) will be able to place a Kung Fu Panda 2 themed drive-in movie theater in their city. Players who place the theater will also receive collection items, members of Kung Fu Panda’s Furious Five: Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. When all five items are collected, an exclusive Po the Panda statue will be unlocked and available to players as a reward for completing the Kung Fu Panda 2 quest. “Nearly a third of all Kung Fu Panda fans on Facebook have also played CityVille, so the integration is a natural fit and something we think our players will love,” said Manny Anekal, Global Director of Brand Advertising at Zynga. “It’s important that we collaborate with innovative brands like DreamWorks Animation that resonate with and are meaningful to our players and enhance their game play.”

“Our exclusive integration of Kung Fu Panda 2 in Zynga’s CityVille gives millions of players a fun and deeply interactive way of connecting with Po and the Furious Five,” said Jason Alex, Head of Online Marketing at DreamWorks Animation. “Po journeys on a memorable kung fu quest in the movie and through this online challenge we’re able to reward fans for further engaging with the characters they love.” The Kung Fu Panda 2 quest runs through May 31st on CityVille. This announcement follows recent Zynga movie-themed integrations with Paramount Pictures to bring Rango into FrontierVille and with DreamWorks Animations on Megamind, where Megamind launched his very own “Mega-Farm” within FarmVille. In the first 24-hour promotion period more than 9 million people engaged with the “Mega-Farm.”

19May/11

Localization: A Review of Ten Offer Walls on Facebook

By Sebastian Sujka

When it comes to offer walls on Facebook there is a lot of uncertainty these days. Facebook Credits will become the mandatory currency starting the first of July and it is still not clear how offer wall providers will deal with the new situation. Two weeks ago Facebook announced who will be partnering with TrialPay’s Dealspot platform to receive Credits for watching videos. The initial partners will be Sharethrough, EpicSocial and SupersonicAds. There has been no update from Facebook yet as to what will happen with the remaining offer wall providers. For over a year now Facebook has been working with Trialpay directly and there is reason to believe that this constellation will not change. Other offer wall providers will probably arrange agreements with TrialPay to be integrated into the TrialPay platform. There has been no statement as to whether TrialPay will charge for its services on a revenue share basis. It is also possible that Trialpay will be free to decide upon the the number of offers from external providers that will be displayed.

With all eyes on offers these days, and given the number of pending deals and an approaching deadline, one would expect offer wall providers to be very cautious about how they are perceived by their users and customers. In the case of offer wall providers, the way they are perceived heavily depends on the product they offer. In Europe this primarily depends on one aspect: localization. This aspect is crucial for European companies and is frequently neglected by US and Asian companies. We had a closer look at the localization levels of offer wall providers. We picked Ninja Saga on Facebook to compare the offer providers because Ninja Saga integrated ten different providers, namely SupersonicAds, OfferPal (Tapjoy),TokenAds, SuperRewards, SponsorPay, gWallet (RadiumOne), Revsnapp, TrialPay, Matomy and Peanutlabs. The product tested is the offer wall which is displayed as an iframe within the game. Therefore, factors we looked into are menu titles, offer titles, offer descriptions, offer details and instructions.

We start in the order in which the offer walls appear in Ninja Saga’s “Earn Saga Tokens” section, click on the thumbnails to view full size screenshots:

supersonic ads social gamesSupersonicAds: Everything is localized well and comprehensible. Just the Box “Verdienen Sie” (Earn) is slightly confusing as it is not stated in that particular box what can be earned. Conclusion: Well localized, except for the slightly confusing box there is no need for any changes:


OfferPal (Tapjoy):
The Cityville Ad that pops up when you click on OfferPal is poorly translated, yet understandable. All instructions in the pop up are displayed in English. Within the offer wall itself the instructions are in German, but again in very poor German. Some offers are not localized at all and are fully displayed in English. Conclusion: Poor localization, mostly understandable but annoying for users:


TokenAds: The TokenAds offer wall is well localized. Minor things that need improvement: one instruction in the offer wall is still in English and the way the user is addressed is inconsistent(the informal “Du” vs. the formal“Sie”). Conclusion: Well done, just minor corrections necessary:


SuperRewards: The offers in the SuperRewards wall are fully localized and comprehensible. SuperRewards is the only offer provider who displays video ads on the starting page. In the video the title is German but the instructions are displayed in English. Conclusion:Well done, just the video needs to get fixed:


SponsorPay: Menu titles, offer titles, offer descriptions, offer details and instructions are completely and clearly localized. Conclusion: Well done, no changes required:


gWallet (RadiumOne) – Menu titles and user instructions are not localized at all, the offer titles and descriptions on the other hand are displayed in proper German. The offer rewards in the descriptions are displayed in US dollars or without currency, which is most confusing for the user. Most offer descriptions are well localized and some are displayed in English. Conclusion: Poor localization, inconsistent overall picture, confusing for users:


Revsnapp: Probably the worst localization possible. All information is displayed in English, except for the first offer which is displayed in Indonesian. Three offers are displayed in total. Conclusion: Horrific localization. When a user clicks on Revsnapp he is heavily incentivized to leave the page immediately:



TrialPay: Just a few weeks ago TrialPay’s level of localization was poor, at least in German. TrialPay seems to have tackled this problem and now boasts a perfect offer wall. Conclusion: Well done, no need for further changes:



Matomy
– Matomy has a different offer wall structure in which single offers are displayed with a picture. When the cursor is hovered over the picture the offer description text becomes visible. This way more offers are displayed on the first page. At first glance everything looks smooth, as there are hardly any texts. The ones we do see are well localized. But when hovering over the single offers we find room for improvement: some descriptions are in Dutch, others in French, sometimes currencies are displayed in British Pounds. Offer descriptions in the wrong language make some offers useless. Conclusion: Decent localization with some problems:


Peanutlabs: The Peanutlabs offer wall is also structured in a slightly different way than most other walls. The offers are displayed in just one line with no picture, fitting more offers on the first page. Although the offer description is just one line, some offers give the impression of having been pasted in from an online translator. Some descriptions have two major typos in a five word title. Only a few offers are clearly understandable. To be fair, some titles are understandable and not confusing if they consist of a maximum of two words. When the cursor moves over the offer title a partly understandable description is displayed. However, it seems questionable whether users will keep the cursor on the offer title long enough to find out about the descriptions. Conclusion: Horrific localization, confusing and hardly understandably for users. The iframe does make a spammy impression because of the wording and the incredible typos:


Overall verdict: Out of ten offer walls just four are localized properly, two are acceptable and four offer walls are almost hostile to a German audience. It seems as if some offer wall providers do not care about the European market and express this by not even spell checking their offers. In the context of the current developments, our test results leave the impression that just a few offer wall providers are here to stay.

18May/11

Tagged Launches Game Studio

By Sebastian Sujka

Social network Tagged today announced it has formed an in-house game studio. Tagged has already created five social game titles, including its most popular game “Pets”. Over five million unique trade interactions are made just on Pets each day and over 100 million new friend connections are made across Tagged each month. For 2011, the Studio currently has three original titles in development and plans to double its game design team in the coming months.

“Gaming is an important part of our social discovery platform and generates millions of new connections between Tagged users every day,” offered Tagged’s CEO Greg Tseng. “Creating the Tagged Game Studio to develop our future titles was the next logical step in reinforcing Tagged’s position as the best place to meet people online. We wanted the best in the social gaming field to lead our efforts, and in Andrew Pedersen we got what we wanted. Under Andrew’s guidance our Studio is primed to deliver unique titles that don’t just entertain an audience, but also inspire players to build new connections. It’s an exciting move for us, and for social gaming in general.”

“While it seems various social networks have recast themselves recently to attempt to be gaming hubs, Tagged has always seen social gaming as a way to double-down on their success as the social discovery leader. Engaging games are the ultimate catalyst when it comes to social discovery,” said Andrew Pedersen, Tagged Vice President & General Manager, Social Games. “Helping to form the Tagged Game Studio is unlike any other opportunity out there and I am extremely excited by our future.”

17May/11

Social Analytics Firm Claritics Raises $1.5 million in Series A Funding

By Gary Merrett

Social intelligence company Claritics has announced it has received $1.5 million in Series A financing lead by Cervin Ventures and TiE Angels. The financing is meant to enable Claritics to accelerate its mission to turn social data into social intelligence that helps application developers improve their reach, retention and revenue campaigns. “Social gaming and social commerce provides a unique opportunity for companies to understand their customers’ activities, behaviors and demographic profiles like never before,” said Raj Pai, CEO and co-founder of Claritics. “Our goal is to organize the enormous amount of social data in a way that not only delivers immediate, actionable insights but allows our clients to create automated processes around it and leverage predictive modeling to optimize campaign performance on-the-fly. This allows us to offer forward-looking social intelligence instead of the typical, backwards-facing analytics approach.”

The funding will be used to develop Claritics’ suite of SaaS social intelligence applications, which track data from across multiple social platforms in real-time and deliver it via a dashboard  to help marketers and application developers take immediate action on their acquisition, engagement and monetization campaigns. “The rise of social commerce is being led by social game developers, but there is tremendous opportunity for nearly every type of merchant, from retailers and media companies to service providers and resellers,” said Neeraj Gupta, managing director of Cervin Ventures. “But to operate in this realm effectively, companies have to harness the incredible amount of data flying around, which requires a fundamentally new approach. Claritics gives app developers the ability to identify trends in real-time and make immediate improvements to their application’s content, viral features, marketing campaigns and other business-critical functions.”

Claritics’ analytics platform has been in private beta and has been working with social game developers like Grab Games. There is certainly a demand for social analytics in both, games and e-commerce. The company with the currently biggest momentum is the US based company Kontagent, but more social analytics firms keep popping up like the German company Honeytracks which is still in closed beta.

16May/11

Virtual World “SmallWorlds” Receives New Funding of $2.5m

By Thorsten Bleich

Auckland-based virtual world SmallWorlds has received $2.5m in an investment round led by TradeMe founder Sam Morgan. Launched in 2008 by Mitch Olson and Darren Green, SmallWorlds is New Zealand’s largest virtual world with 6.5 million registered players. SmallWorlds players can choose to buy virtual goods to personalise their character and spaces. The business model of selling virtual goods to a large online audience is increasingly popular, and has also been adopted by companies such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Sony and Microsoft.

According to SmallWorlds “The site’s audience is already growing by about 200,000 players each month, predominately made up of teenagers, as well as females in their 40s, with 80% of players coming from the US. Benchmarks suggest that SmallWorlds players spend well above industry averages.” The new investment will be used to grow SmallWorlds’ audience internationally. This will include expansion into non-English speaking markets, and better integration with gaming platforms and social networks. SmallWorlds currently employs 35 staff and plans to create 20 new jobs this year. TradeMe Founder Sam Morgan, Jade Software CEO Craig Richardson and US technology investor Payman Pouladdej have recently been appointed to SmallWorlds’ board.

sInvestor Sam Morgan says SmallWorlds is well positioned for further growth. “Online businesses like this are hugely scalable and can grow incredibly quickly while maintaining high margins. SmallWorlds has already proven its audience appeal, technology and management capability. Gaming is a huge export opportunity for New Zealand, occupying the sweetspot between technology and creativity. It’s easy to draw parallels with an internationally recognised company like Weta Digital, who also successfully combine these two elements. Our next wave of multi-million dollar exporters may well be trading virtual goods, which is a real and significant global market,” says Morgan.

It seems like the battle for virtual world users goes into the next round. Last year SmallWorlds’ competitor Smeet received a €2.6m funding from Hasso Plattner Ventures and Partech. Today both companies focus more on games than on virtual hangouts. Both want to be perceived as social games and support their claims with a stronger Facebook integration.