Socialgamesobserver

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

24Nov/11

WeeWorld Conquers Mobile With Personalized Apps

By Regina Leuwer

WeeWorld is rocking the mobile world: The UK-based social platform for teens and women is seeing some remarkable results – especially on iPhone. We sat down with WeeWorld’s CEO Celia Francis to discuss the company’s mobile approach.

WeeWorld has been around since 2002, it started off as an avatar creating site and later expanded its services to a standalone platform for female and teen audiences, allowing them to style avatars, decorate places, meet people and play mini-games. According to WeeWorld, 50 million avatars -or WeeMees- have been created so far.

Paid apps monetize well, but freemium is here to stay

Since 2010, WeeWorld publishes free as well as paid iPhone apps, the most successful one being the WeeMee Avatar Creator (priced at $0.99), which features additional in-app purchases and was downloaded over 3 million times, according to WeeWorld. The company achieves strong results with in-app purchases – one fifth of users pay for additional virtual items. On Android, however, things are different: With app discovery being a main issue in the Android Market, WeeWorld has published only one (free) Android app that has about 100,000 downloads.  The freemium trend hasn’t gone unnoticed, so more free apps with in-app purchases are to be expected from WeeWorld for both iOS and Android.

Mobile became an effective user acquisition channel

While the opportunities for cross-platform approach are enormous, HTML5 still isn’t quite where it should be. WeeWorld is keeping an eye on HTML5 but focuses on building individual apps for each platform at the moment: “Native apps allow us to take advantage of all the different features of handsets, which is something that we are very keen on,” Celia explained. All of WeeWorld’s mobile apps provide distinctive features, rather than reproduce the whole platform.  “So far, we keep it simple on the mobile side,” said Celia. People tend to use mobile apps in between other activities, that’s why they’re made easy and fun  – rather than overloaded with too many features.

For WeeWorld, mobile apps have become an effective user acquisition channel that allowed the company to tap into new audiences, Celia explained: “Usually, our user base is 20 years our younger, but our mobile apps attract older demographics as well. Especially middle-aged women discover our platform through mobile apps.”

Users share creations rather than achievements

Establishing more connections between their mobile offerings and the core web-based platform, is the main focus for the months to come. Be it on mobile or web-based, WeeWorld is all about self-expression.  “Our audience is younger than the Facebook audience. In Facebook, you use your real persona, we take a different approach by offering personalized entertainment,” said Celia. Especially young people enjoy to express themselves and play different roles, or even become someone else for a day.

There are overlaps with Facebook’s social graph, but most of the users choose not to post WeeWorld updates on Facebook. And interestingly, only around 20% log in with Facebook Connect. “There are a lot of sharing opportunities around achievements. But to share something you have created, is an even greater motivation,” Celia believes. These means of self-expression are not only attractive for teens – the CEO herself is an avid user.

Justin Bieber and other stars stop by regularly

Even though WeeWorld is operating in the UK, their main user base is located in the US. So far, WeeWorld doesn’t localize for European markets. “We utilize network effects to grow our audience and that’s a lot easier in a homogenous market,” explained Celia.  Because of  the attractive user demographics, integrating branded virtual goods has helped to provide another solid revenue stream. Also, WeeWorld frequently integrates celebrity-themed virtual items by stars like Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, and teenage idol Justin Bieber.

23Nov/11

Nordeus Releases Popular Top Eleven Game for iOS Handsets

By Gary Merrett

Social games developer Nordeus is on a roll: Last week, the company was presented with the best gaming startup trophy at The Europas awards, today, the Belgrade-based developer announced a Top Eleven iOS app. Top Eleven is a football (soccer) manager where users select, train and build their own squad of players to compete against others.

“We aim to provide a seamless gaming experience for our Top Eleven fans no matter what device you’re using,” said Branko Milutinovic, Nordeus CEO. “You can kick off a Top Eleven game on a desktop, and if you have to pop out at half-time you can now continue to follow your game on your iPhone.” The app is free to download, players can use in-app purchases to buy tokens, allowing for faster development and progression through the game.

“Since launching the mobile version of Top Eleven we’ve seen the average daily players of the game increase, as well as an increase in the frequency of check-ins. Players are spending more time within the game to help their team’s progress,” said Branko Milutinovic.

The iOS app follows on from the Android version last month, which has 80,000 downloads from the Android Market, so far. The Top Eleven Facebook app sees
3.3 million monthly active users (MAU).

23Nov/11

Iconicfuture Markets Real World Brands in Social Games

By Sebastian Sujka

Lady Gaga did it, Enrique Iglesias did it and Snoop Dogg did it – selling branded virtual goods in social games is heavily trending. But licensing rights still are complicated and expensive to obtain. So what about smaller developers who don’t have the muscle to negotiate directly with premium brands and artists? Here’s where German startup Iconicfuture steps in. The Hamburg-based company helps game developers integrate premium brands into their games without facing complicated paperwork and lofty fees.

Current licensing models don’t support social games

In Iconicfuture’s latest effort, FC Barcelona, the unarguably best football club of recent years, is integrated into online football game Goal United by developer Northworks, a Hamburg-based studio belonging to Travian Games. All original names of stars such as Lionel Messi, photos, and player data, as well as Barcelona’s official home shirt are included in Goal United for the next ten days. Players can purchase friendlies against the Catalan champions and those who manage to beat Barca receive a unique cup to adorn their virtual trophy shelf.

“The existing licensing model doesn’t support development of social and mobile games that spend as much and in some cases more money after the game is launched than beforehand,” Ze’ev Rozov, CEO and co-founder of Iconicfuture, tells us.  The company was founded by sports licensing company Media Group that works with right holders in sports, entertainment or music. Iconicfuture acts as an intermediary between brands and games and aims to simplify the process of adding licensed rights to online and mobile games.

Resource managing games – a new playground for brands

According to Rozov, the advantages for game developers are higher engagement but also uplift in user acquisition and, of course, revenues: “Users are willing to pay a much higher fee for a branded item than they’re willing to pay for a regular item in a game,” he says. Game partners include Bigpoint for whom Iconicfuture has integrated popular children’s franchise Shaun the Sheep. Resource management games work especially well for this model, i.e. all types of farm or city building games. In-app purchases in mobile apps are another projected growth sector, Rozov says.

Revenues from virtual goods sales are split so that game developers keep a majority of the revenue of the items sold, the second larger piece to the right holder and Iconicfuture also receives a share, depending on the game, platform and type of rights.

More expensive items sell better

So far,  game makers can choose among the partners that Iconicfuture already offers. Especially in sports, licensing is complex and varies across countries and leagues. The company promises to get in touch with desired brands that are not listed yet and add them to their portfolio.

On the side of the right holders, Iconicfuture project manages the process of licensing and validates that the rights will be used in line with license approval to prevent a brand sellout.

The company also helps game developers to set the price points for branded virtual goods. Surprisingly (or maybe not), their data suggest an affinity to higher priced virtual goods, Rozov: “The more expensive the item, the more people buy it.”

22Nov/11

Start Developing HTML5 Casino Games for Facebook

By Sebastian Sujka

At the Social Gaming Summit in London last week Julien Codorniou gave the opening keynote with the title “the power of the graph”. As Head of Platform Partnerships at Facebook Julien stressed the potential of HTML5, talked about the growing importance of European social gaming companies and shared what game genre he expects to be booming in the close future. We also talked to Julien about the most current developments and perspectives.

Julien Codorniou, European Head of Gaming Partnerships

Strategy as a platform

Facebook does not develop any own games. This will not change in the future. Facebook’s strategy is to create a platform for developers to grow on and monetize via the 30% credits revenue share they receive from developers. Unlike some competitors, it is not Facebook’s strategy to acquire or in invest in social gaming companies. “We don’t want to compete with our own partners. We see more opportunities as a platform, so we put all our energy into building the best possible platform for developers,” Julien concludes. Facebook also does not restrict developers who have a stand-alone platform outside of Facebook. “Facebook provides the tools for developers to create a personalised experience on whatever platform they are using – on Facebook.com, the web or mobile. For example, look at music. Spotify is a great Facebook application – outside Facebook,” Julien adds.

Successful HTML5 launch

Julien’s resume of Facebook’s HTML5 was positive. Many developers already launched games in HTML5, amongst them Zynga and Wooga. Facebook is sending the message that the way to go for every game developer in the future is to build a game once with one technology and to be able to run it on every device. The opportunity of HTML5 and the Facebook platform for mobile is that “it brings social distribution where you had no social distribution before on the mobile internet”, Julien adds. Hence, especially gaming companies that start from scratch should build on HTML5. Indeed, most companies believe in the technology. The question is rather when it will become a standard.

Next growth genre: casino games

Facebook’s dedication to the technology could not be communicated any clearer: “If I had to start a company tomorrow, it would be an HTML5 gaming company focusing on the Facebook platform.” But this is not the only advice Julien shared. He also explained that right now he would focus on HTML5 casino games on Facebook. Casino games appear to be an underrepresented in the Facebook gaming portfolio. A possible reason is that casino games on the open web enable a user to win and cash out real money – a feature that Facebook does not offer with its Credits system. Although Facebook users play casino games just for fun, this genre is highly lucrative. “We see casino games on Facebook today and the monetization numbers are just unbelievable,” Julien explains.

Opportunity in fantasy sports games and religious games

It is in Facebook’s interest to bring diversity to its game portfolio. Other underserved gaming genres on Facebook right now are fantasy sports games or religious games, according to Julien. Especially religious games are highly interesting. The potentially interested target group is huge and other mass media goods on religion like music, books or TV channels are extremely popular. “So why not games?” he asks.

Europe on the move

A positive trend that seems to continue is the European social game developers landscape itself. Today, the top positions in the developer charts are pretty mixed between European and American companies – a very different picture from one or two years ago.

The creativity in Berlin, Barcelona, Belgrade or Paris is enormous. There is no gorilla but rather smaller companies. Julien stated to be “very optimistic for the European social gaming ecosystem” – and rightfly so.

The next Zynga

Julien did not want to comment specifically who could become the best candidate to push Zynga off the throne. It is also unclear whether it will be a new or an existing company. The success of The Sims on Facebook shows that there is a chance for existing companies. Also, some companies that target a mid-core and hardcore gaming audience monetize well and grow rapidly.

For Facebook it does not matter who beats whom, as the company profits from every developer to the same extend. As Julien points out, it is rather in Facebook’s focus to facilitate the growth of every developer. “Zynga is said to be a 20 billion dollar company. I am sure we will see other billion dollar social gaming companies in the future.”

22Nov/11

Rocket Ninja Pockets $7.5 Million Series B Funding

By Gary Merrett

Rocket Ninja, a developer of social 3D entertainment apps for PCs and connected devices has closed $7.5 million in Series B funding. Leveraging its Shr3D(TM) technology, Rocket Ninja creates applications that live inside web browsers, mobile devices and social networks. The company’s instant-play 3D offering is accessible across devices and applications and does not require downloads or plug-ins. Rocket Ninja’s financing round was led by European private investor Marcel Boekhoorn.

“3D revolutionized the gaming industry, and it will forever change the social web by delivering a new dimension in self-expression and interactivity,” said Oded Pelled, CEO of Rocket Ninja. “There’s a need for a company that has the technology, the killer apps and the savvy to showcase compelling 3D in entertainment across the social web.”

Rocket Ninja’s technology lowers the barrier to entry, running even on low-spec, non-hardware-accelerated systems with limited bandwidth. Earlier this year, Rocket Ninja launched its first game, Wrestler Unstoppable on Facebook. The game has currently 80.000 monthly active users.

22Nov/11

Yazino Launches Social Slot Game

By Sebastian Sujka

Yazino, a developer of gambling games on the web and casino social games on Facebook today announced the launch of High Stakes, its newest slots game. The game will be available on Yazino.com and an Facebook. “Slots games are the simplest and most popular casino-style games on the web. We took the slots game mechanic and complemented it with a unique Yazino twist by adding a real-time multiplayer dynamic for live social gameplay and the ability to team up or challenge friends,” said Hussein Chahine, Yazino’s Founder and Chief Executive.

High Stakes is a 5-reel, 20-line slot game that lets up to 10 people compete as a team. The game incorporates a goal-oriented back-story that has players competing to move up the ranks in a gang of gem thieves, working their way up the ranks to become the “Boss”, giving they get the chance to crack the code on the safe, steal the gem and maximize your payout.  As players progress, they receive bonuses which, based on the initial stake, increase with every spin.

The more the user plays the higher your bonus becomes. When one of the players guesses the final digit on the safe correctly, the top six members of the team get paid, with rank and bonus of the lucky player determining how big the share of the score will be. “High Stakes takes a game that millions of players already love and turns it into something more fun, more exciting and more rewarding. We have reinvented the slots game as a truly social experience.”, Hussein adds.

21Nov/11

Game of the Week: Top Eleven – European Award Winner Loved by Male Would-Be Football Managers

By Regina Leuwer

This week’s game of the week Top Eleven is the only title by Serbian developer Nordeus. The bootstrapped company, based in Belgrade and founded by ex-Microsoft employees, was awarded Best Gaming or Social Games Startup at The Europas award, last week. Within the past 18 months, Nordeus grew from three people to a team of over 40 and overtook  EA’s FIFA Superstars on Facebook in June 2011. Most recently, an Android version of Top Eleven was launched.

Developer: Nordeus
Genre: Sports, Manager Games
Platform(s): Facebook, TopEleven.com, Android
Launch: May 09, 2011
Languages: English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Serbian, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish, Slovenian, Slovakian, Japanese, Dutch, Czech, Estonian, Thai, Swedish, Hebrew, Croatian, Malaysian, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Arabic, Korean, Finish, Albanian, Hungarian
Monthly Active Users on Facebook: 3,300,000 (November 21)
App Downloads on Android: 50,000+ (November 21)
Monetization: Free-to-play with paid premium currency

What’s inside?
A football (soccer) manager simulation game in which users lead a fictional football club through various contests and compete against other players on Facebook.

What’s it all about?
The goal is to manage a small club and turn it into a champion by controlling tactics, transfers, stadium and infrastructure and finances.

Everything is entirely customizable from players' outfits to stadium facilities.

How to play
The game delivers a classic desktop sports manager gaming experience combined with the social possibilities of the Facebook platform. Players select, train and build their own squad to compete over the course of a 28-day season, with matches taking place once per day. Those at the top of the table get promoted into the next league, facing tougher opponents, more money, better players and the incentive of a Champions Cup. Managers are responsible for every detail of running the club, from developing players careers, picking the best sponsorship deals and building new stadium facilities. For a Facebook game, Top Eleven is astonishingly feature-rich, almost overwhelmingly so. A meticulous attention to detail is part of the game’s allure, so new options and tweaks are added regularly. Thanks to a clean interface and numerous tutorials, players can become accustomed to the controls easily.

The squad's lineup and tactics can be tweaked in every detail.

Top Eleven has a paid in-game currency called Tokens, which are needed for a variety of things: placing bids on players, motivating players, improving players’ condition, or speeding up processes such as injury recovery or construction of facilities.
The Android version utilizes Facebook connect, so users can continue the game with the same account across platforms.

21Nov/11

South Korean NoriTown Studio Launches K-POP IDOL and Little Wizard on Facebook

By Thorsten Bleich

NoriTown Studio, game developer from Seoul, South Korea, announced today that it has released two social games, K-POP IDOL and Little Wizard, on Facebook.  With K-POP IDOL, users can train and manage their own pop star or other celebrity. Little Wizard lets players start off as a novice magician striving to become the greatest wizard of all time.

K-POP IDOL lets users take over the role of a pop star manager, select and train a young talent as a singer, actor and other celebrity with specific training course including vocal, speech and acting.  Unlike its earlier Korean version, the Facebook rendition provides group performance, in addition to single-character play.

NoriTown’s other new game, Little Wizard, is a combination of town building and Player-versus-Player (PvP) action. Players create and expand their own towns to achieve their goals, while also strengthening their wizard for battle. The game uses mouse-based gesture to provide fun and reality to handling the wizard’s wand.

NoriTown Studio is one of the first social gaming companies in Korea. First created as a startup-subsidiary team within AhnLab, NoriTown has branched off as an individual company in October of 2010. Since then, it has released ten games on Korean social networks such as Cyworld, Naver and Daum. Now, NoriTown seeks to expand their market onto global platforms like Facebook and Apple’s App Store.

18Nov/11

AppStats this Week: Top Gains and Top Losses Across Social Networks

By Gary Merrett
Network
Game
Developer
Users
Gain
Orkut
Guitar Flash
gamesx
3.727.327
+1.38%
 
Pet mania
Vostu
2.555.082
+0.00%
Tuenti
Fitness City
ZED
495.369
+20.75%
 
Jardines de la Muerte
Devilish
338.445
-17.26%
Lokalisten
Goodgamme Poker
gg studios
4.828
-0.02%
 
gimigames
gimigames
39.704
-0.23%
StudiVZ
Dorfleben
halfquest
238.194
-0.02%
 
Cute Pig
Elex
184.125
-0.92%
Odnokl…
World Poker
Crazy Games
6.301.516
+5.25%
 
Happy Farm
i-Jet
8.987.541
+0.64%
SchuelerVZ
Backyard Monsters
Collective
217.786
+0.96%
 
Crazy Charly
Plinga
242.395
-1.72%
Grono
Sonic
Denis-Gib
86.764
+0.91%
 
Surgery
Neomedia
86.022
-0.79%
Myspace
Vampires
Zynga
5.448.875
+0.03%
 
Mafia Wars
Zynga
13.449.597
+0.00%
NK
Rural Life
Plinga
2.320.411
+1.22%
 
Happy Harvest
Elex
2.815.082
-0.25%
vKontakte
Zombi Farm
Vizor
4.391.975
+1.88%
 
Nightclub Life
Playkot
3.197.438
-0.06%
MailRu
Paradise Garden
Astrum
4.079.936
+1.62%
 
City
Astrum
3.076.945
-0.09%


17Nov/11

Nitto Tire Aligns With Cie Games for Integration in Car Town

By Sebastian Sujka

Tire producer Nitto Tire U.S.A. has announced a partnership with Cie Games to integrate the Nitto Tire brand in the wildly popular Facebook game Car Town. Car Town has been around since the end of 2010 and is still counting 4.5 million monthly active users. The yearlong multiple phase integrated partnership will extend to November 2012. The joint collaboration will offer Car Town players new in-game activities, virtual items, community contests and giveaways.

“We’re very excited to partner with Car Town to bring our established brand of tires and vehicles to their audience,” said Stephen Leu, Marketing Specialist. “This is a great opportunity for us to widen our customer base including enthusiasts and even casual gamers with less familiarity with the brand.  The exposure will help increase awareness and recognition of the Nitto brand and our offerings.”

As part of the partnership, players can participate in Nitto-branded game missions featuring the company’s new line of tires. The first mission will introduce the Nitto Motivo, an all-weather, ultra-high performance tire, recently unveiled at this year’s SEMA show, to Car Town players and tie-in real-world benefits to related activities in-game.

Other Nitto branded virtual items that will be available in-game include posters, garage items and custom virtual vehicles modeled after Nitto sponsored race cars.  Additionally, Car Town will host various community contests to create Nitto custom-branded car wraps and/or garages.

Gamers will also be able to partake in the Nitto Tire Car Town Virtual Giveaway, where they can simply visit and “Like” Nitto’s Facebook page, to unlock various branded virtual items, first one being the Nitto Motorsports Big Rig for use in their Car Town garage.