Socialgamesobserver

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

29Mar/12

Who is Who in Europe: Goodgame Studios Expects to Double Work Force and to See Industry Consolidation

By Sebastian Sujka

Developer Name: Goodgame Studios

Describe what you do in one sentence: Being the fastest growing games company in Germany and currently looking for 150 new employees!

Founded in/Office: Hamburg, Germany

Founded by:
Dr. Christian Wawrzinek (COO), Dr. Kai Wawrzinek (CEO)

Founded in:
June 2009

Funding:
none

Acquisitions:
spotsonfire GmbH

Number of employees:
170, planning to grow to 320 by the end of 2012

Number of Games published:
9

Games published on: our own open web sites, thousands of partner web sites and various social networks

Working with publisher:
no

Acting as a Publisher:
no

Publishing games in which languages:
German, English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Spanish, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Greek

Game genre/s:
Strategy, Role Playing, Simulation, Poker

User demographics (gender):
male and female from 18 to 65

User demographics (location):
worldwide

Best-selling virtual item:
The Tjostplace in Goodgame Empire (permanent productivity increase of units)

Most expensive virtual item:
Bakery in Goodgame Empire (saving expenses for stationed units)

What do you see as the currently most exciting trend in the industry:
This year will see a lot of consolidation while a few companies will keep on growing exponentially. We are excited to belong to the latter group and to see what 2012 will bring with a much larger team and new projects.

List of Games:
Goodgame Empire
Goodgame Mafia
Goodgame Farmfever
Goodgame Poker
Goodgame Café
Goodgame Fashion
Goodgame Disco
Goodgame Farmer
Goodgame Jupiter Jump

28Mar/12

6waves Announces Partnerships with 32 Developers Including Kabam and Atari

By Regina Leuwer

Hong Kong-based publisher 6waves today announced partnerships with 32 social game developers including Kabam, Game Insight and Large Animal. 6waves also announced a partnership with Atari.

According to Jim Wilson, CEO of Atari, the company hopes to leverage 6waves track record as a successful social games publisher to bring Atari’s world-renowned game franchises to social networks in the near future. “Discoverability and user acquisitions are ever-increasing challenges facing social games today, so partnering with 6waves was the logical choice for us,” Wilson said.

Earlier this month 6waves shared news of re-focusing the company on publishing social and mobile games as well as increasing traction in China.

“The momentum that we have gained in both mobile and social in 2012 should send a clear signal to the industry: we are committed to continuing our growth,” said Jim Ying, SVP Publishing of 6waves in the press statement. “2012 will see our portfolio expand significantly in all key genres. We couldn’t be happier to welcome so many exciting independent developers to our fold, as well as a powerhouse brand like Atari.”

Apart from a lot of  Chinese developers there are quite a few Russian companies such as Game Insight, Drimmi and Chiwawa Games as well as UK-based Enteraction among the list of newly signed developers.

27Mar/12

Plink Aims to Fill Facebook Users’ Wallets

By Sebastian Sujka

Facebook credits are on the best way to become a global currency for services offered via Facebook. In the last months acceptance for credits increased significantly and an increasing amount of Facebook users purchased credits for the first time. Currently, most currency is spent in games or apps and Facebook is constantly adding new ways to spend Facebook Credits including downloading music, watching movies or TV episodes.

When a currency is formed it is only a matter of time until reward programs start popping up.  Plink, who launched in January this year, is heading to fill the pockets of virtual currency spenders by rewarding them for dining and making purchases at restaurants and stores. This is how it works: Plink members create an account at Plink.com, link their credit or debit card, and begin earning Facebook Credits by dining-out or shopping at participating restaurants and offline retailers. Participating retailers include Dunkin’ Donuts, Quiznos, Red Robin and Taco Bell.

“Facebook Credits is the missing ingredient that’s been needed to connect social media to offline sales,” said Peter Vogel, co-founder of Plink. “Now with the ‘glue’ of Facebook Credits our national restaurant and offline retailer partners have a way to tap into the nearly 800 million users on Facebook, motivate them to become loyal customers, and reward them.”

Just yesterday Arby’s Restaurant Group, the second largest quick-service sandwich chain in the U.S., joined Plink to increase gamer’s budgets.  Through this partnership, Plink members can now earn Facebook Credits at more than 3,500 Arby’s restaurants.

“We’ve experienced great success with the combination of offline and online marketing and experimenting with Plink is another innovative way to tie the two together and continue to drive loyalty with our valued customers,” said Bob Kraut, Senior Vice President Advertising and Brand Communications at Arby’s.

National restaurant chains are the initial focus of Plink as they represent nearly one-third of the total restaurants in the U.S. and spend significant dollars on marketing and advertising.

Plink was designed to be simple and easy for restaurants and offline retailers, among others, to implement. The program requires no POS (Point-of-Sale) integration and no paper coupons. Restaurants and offline retailers simply pay Plink a percentage of the sales generated by Plink members.

Plink began acquiring members through advertising efforts on Facebook, targeting social gamers, an audience of 60 million players in the U.S.

26Mar/12

Game of the Week: Don’t Be Scared to Solve Hidden Haunts

By Sebastian Sujka

Hidden object games became largely popular on Facebook when Playdom entered the scene with Gardens of Time about a year ago. Meanwhile, Zynga has entered the game genre boosting their hidden object game Hidden Chronicles to almost 30 million monthly active users. But also other developers have discovered this genre successfully. One of them is Making Fun, a division of News Corporation, same as recently featured rising developer Bossa Studios.

Title: Hidden Haunts
Developer: Making Fun Games
Genre: Hidden Object 
Platform(s):
Facebook
Launch: January 2012
Language(s): English
Monthly active users: 200,000 MAU; 50,000 DAU
Monetization: Free-to-play with paid premium currency

How to play

Making Fun Games launched their hidden object game Hidden Haunts mid January this year. In this short period Hidden Haunts gained 200.000 MAU and 50.000 DAU.  The setting of Hidden Haunts, as the title indicates, is a mysterious haunted village in which the user has to solve paranormal cases by building a village and solving mysteries.

The village Lost Haven is haunted and Professor Graves sends the user to help solving the cases of twelve ghosts whose souls have to be saved.

In the game the user needs to gain insight about the happenings in the village and does increase his insight power bar by learning more about the village’s history and by helping to expand the village.

In different scenes the user can now look for hidden objects. Assistance is given by a reloading magnifying glass. If the icon is fully loaded clicking on it the magnifying glass will help finding an object. Special attention is giving to supernatural sense discovery where  a picture of a special item appears and reaping it quickly will result in a high intuition bonus. Solving the scene quickly will result in a high speed bonus and so on.

The scenes look very real with almost photo quality items. Around the searching and the village expansion an active conversation is formed where different characters discuss the role of the player or exchange knowledge between each other. These conversations make the player feel involved in the plot.

In a nutshell: Atmospherically hidden object game with good story telling

22Mar/12

Who is Who in Europe: GameDuell

By Sebastian Sujka

Developer Name: GameDuell

Describe what you do in a sentence: GameDuell’s passion for creating high-quality casual games and a thrilling user experience combined with a focus on superior customer experience and communication has made GameDuell one of the largest cross-platform social games communities in the world.

Where founded, where are the offices: GameDuell was founded in December 2003 in Berlin, Germany. We are having offices in Berlin and San Francisco.

Founded by: Michael Kalkowski, Boris Wasmuth and Kai Bolik

Founded in: December 2003

Funding: Total: $17.5 million – Series A, Jan. 2003: Burda Digital Ventures, HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Acton Capital Partners; Series B, July 2008: Wellington Partners

Acquisitions: none

Number of employees: 180+ team members from more than 15 countries

Number of Games published: 70+

Games published on: Many of our games are being published cross-platform: on iOS, Android, Social Networks and our own platforms

Publisher: we are a publisher and working together with over 1,000 partners

Publishing games in which languages: Our product is available in 7 languages (German, English, French, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, Dutch)

Game genre: Casual and social games

User demographics: 70% are female

Best-selling virtual item: Magic Egg for Fluffy Birds (“Joker” in color matching game, matches with every color)

What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry:

One word: cross-platform! When your friends tell you about their new favorite game which “you’ve just gotta try”, you no longer have to spend much time worrying about platform compatibility. Many of today’s new games, such as Fluffy Birds, are cross-platform and will run on almost any device you have in your pocket or at home on your PC.

GameDuell, which offers more than 70 games on different platforms, have plunged into the cross-platform arena after realizing it was the right way to match player interests.

The way players interact with their games and with their friends has completely changed; people have never been more engaged with games than today and it became possible to play 24/7/365, anywhere, anytime and with anyone, whether they are a friend or a complete stranger.

21Mar/12

Interview: Chinese Developer and Publisher ELEX on Social Networks, Asian Users and Mobile

By Regina Leuwer

Beijing-based ELEX is a very successful provider of non-English social games. Their Chinese language farming game Happy Harvest has 2.5 million monthly active and almost 1 million daily active users. Apart from Facebook, ELEX publishes games on all major local platforms and -most recently- iOS and Android. We sat down with Tiffany Lu, ELEX’s vice president oversea business development to discuss the social networking landscape, Chinese users and ELEX’ new mobile games.

Social Games Observer: ELEX is the number one publisher on German social network VZnet, but these alternative social networks are constantly losing users to Facebook. How do you see the future of the social network landscape in Europe?

Tiffany Lu: ELEX and VZ have already built a very trustful and successful cooperation for the long term. For the future we want to deepen our relationship. Since December of last year VZ has carried out some measures to increase the active user number and retention – we think it works pretty well so far.

One the other hand, Facebook has already occupied the European market and it keeps growing. Not only in Europe, also in South America, Middle-East and even Asia.

SGO: Is the situation in Asia comparable to Europe?

Tiffany:
Facebook has already occupied a very big part of the Asian market, especially in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan where we are also active. For example, our most popular social game Happy Harvest has 3 million monthly active users on Facebook in Taiwan.
While in the Chinese mainland market leaders are still the local SNS Qzone and Renren where ELEX also is among the top publishers.

SGO: You’re active around the globe – which country has the most avid social gamers?

Tiffany:
The most hardcore social game players are in USA. But our 20 million users in non-English speaking countries in Latin America, Europe and Asian and Pacific regions are very active and qualitative users, too.

SGO: Can you tell us more about Chinese  players and their preferences in games?

Tiffany:
In comparison to American and European players Chinese players (including Taiwanese) like to purchase expendable luxury goods and strengthening items to help them win the competitions, while the European players purchase more collaborative items.

SGO: Recently you expanded into mobile games – what titles do you have out there so far?

Tiffany:
Our first game Fishing Life is a wonderful fishing game designed for mobile devices ELEX. Players can click anywhere on the screen to launch a net for catching the fish, and different fish have their corresponding amounts of gold coin. Launch nets will consume gold, so how to balance the gold consumption and capture the fish becomes the difficult part of this game. We also launched Age of Empire an epic real-time strategy mobile game. Players will play the role of lord to manage a city’s territory, from infrastructure to trade, from production to processing, and use foreign affairs to make allies, develop strategies and tactics, command armies to conquer new territories. Our third game Viva Town is the most social simulation game in android market. You are the mayor here to plan and grown your own dreaming town.
Mobile is definitely the future for ELEX, we will invest more into this sector and keep developing more mobile games.

15Mar/12

Who is Who in Europe: Supercell

By Sebastian Sujka

European developers are gaining momentum on Facebook and other platforms. In this series we aim to highlight the most important social gaming companies from Europe. This week we take a look at the well funded Finnish developer Supercell.

  • Name: Supercell
  • Base: Founded in Helsinki, offices also in Kajaani and San Francisco
  • Describe what you do in a sentence: Supercell creates high-quality games handcrafted for tablets.
  • Games published on: Facebook, Web, iOS and Android
  • Founded by: Mikko Kodisoja, Niko Derome, Visa Forsten, Lassi Leppinen and Petri Styrman
  • Founded in: 2010
  • Funding: $15 million, investors: Accel Partners, Klaas Kersting, London Venture Partners, Initial Capital, Cerval Investments, Lifeline Ventures
  • Acquisitions: No
  • Number of employees: 50
  • Number of Games published: 2
  • Hit Game: Gunshine.net
  • Working with publisher: No
  • Acting as a Publisher: No
  • Publishing games in: English (FIGSJ coming soon)
  • Game genre: Social Games
  • User demographics: gender: male/female 60/40
  • User location: Global
  • Best-selling virtual item: Android Mercenaries in Zombies Online
  • Most expensive virtual item: Armageddon Blade in Zombies Online (€50)
  • What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry: Gaming on tablets, that’s where we are going to be. We believe it’s important to focus on the unique and special qualities of the platform. Tablets simply demand a different, customized approach if you want to extract the maximum value from it. So, what’s unique about the tablet platform? For starters, we believe you must combine several key ingredients: design for touch, premium quality, new social experiences, and most importantly, great gameplay.
14Mar/12

After two Years in Development Idle Worship is Keeping the Faith in Sophisticated Social Games

By Regina Leuwer

Every now and then developers claim that their latest game marks a ‘new era’ for social games – in the case of Idle Games this isn’t just trash talk. The company was founded by Jeffrey Hyman and ex-Playdom exec Rick Thompson; the latter also invested a total $15 million in the San Francisco-based studio.
After two years, Idle Games finally reveals its debut title Idle Worship to the public today – an incredibly ambitious social game that connects real-world friends with strangers and combines asynchronous with synchronous gameplay, handmade art and animations.

Idle Worship draws on the tradition of god games like Populous by giving control over a population of cute little creatures named Mudlings that live on an island. Players interact in real-time – battle or collaborate with other gods, but also play asynchronously while they customize their world and their avatar, a little altar.
They also get to choose whether to be kind or cruel gods. Idle Games’ CEO Jeffrey Hyman tells us that the company had to go to great lengths to establish a balance between the two modes because most people didn’t want to play bad, even if it was beneficial for game progress.

Playing god and stirring up social games

Idle Worship gameplay - click to enlarge

The game’s theme is designed to meets gamers’ desire to be in control and to be adored. The aim is to amass as many ‘followers’ as possible for the player’s religion. Though Hyman points out that aren’t any actual religious symbols whatsoever – and so far no-one has been offended by the cheerful religious approach. “The game is only making fun of atheists, because they are portrayed as little sad and depressed creatures,” Hyman says.

The development of Idle Worship took so long partly because the game basically aims to reinvent the genre and pays a painstaking attention to detail. Mudlings and other creatures are hand-drawn and animated and before they are integrated into the game creating unique visuals while also proving that Flash is still very powerful for Facebook games.

No to the friends bar – yes to interaction with strangers

Idle Games deliberately decided against some of social games standards such as the friends bar, which Hyman calls ‘silly and stupid’. Instead the players’ island is automatically surrounded by other islands of his first degree friends (if they play Idle Worship) and strangers which are selected by an algorithm. When players interact less, their islands move further apart and the space is filled with fresh users. In-game the interaction between strangers is not only possible but encouraged and even enforced as players are affected by actions of random others.

“When we founded Idle Games, we asked why limit your gameplay experience to your immediate friends, why not have the option to play synchronously, why not make a game that’s fun, full of humor, and as elegant as your imagination allows,” said Idle Games co-founder Rick Thompson in a press statement.

To list all of the game’s features would go beyond the scope of this article and there is no end in sight – recently Idle Games hired Michael McCormick, lead designer of Zynga’s CityVille, who is mostly involved in Idle Worship’s upcoming features.
Hyman says that a roll-out to other platforms such as Google+ is also very possible – a mobile app to play god on the go is already in the works.
The question that remains to be answered though is if social gamers are willing to let themselves in for Idle Worship’s universe which -while being very casual and accessible- can become increasingly complex if players follow just a few of the many rabbit holes the game offers.

13Mar/12

Berlin-Based Basilbox gets the Party Started with First Game Clubbox

By Regina Leuwer

Berlin is world-famous for its club and music scene. Today, Spotify launches in Germany, obviously choosing Berlin for its Germany HQ. With the music agglomeration cluster in place it is no surprise that gaming startup Basilbox, who aim to recreate club atmosphere in a social game, is also located in Germany’s vibrant capital.

Basilbox was founded by Philipp Budiman, Andreas Erker and Anton Kahr who studied together in Graz, Austria. When two of the three friends moved abroad, they discovered that Facebook and social games became their main communications tool. Back in Austria they teamed up and decided to build social games themselves.

Turntable.fm meets social gaming

“We started to find investors in Austria but realized that the best place to grow our business would be Berlin. We settled with two German investors and moved to Berlin three months later,” Basilbox‘ Managing Director Philipp Budiman tells us. The company‘s first game Clubbox is a mix of services like turntable.fm combined with elements of virtual worlds and gaming.

The game’s goal is to build a successful club in outer space: Players customize their own club in every detail, play their favorite music and present it to their friends – other guest may include non-friends and computer-animated aliens. Similar to music platforms such as Grooveshark and Soundcloud, users can create their own playlist, visit other clubs to find new tracks, share music with friends and suggest songs to others. A search function helps to find people with similar taste.

“Since we wanted to combine social gaming with a music platform, it immediately became clear that unlike other social games, players need to have access to all users and not only their friends and neighbors,” says Budiman. So apart from being a place to stream music, Clubbox is a also a virtual world, where people get to know each other, send short messages, rate music, dance (and drink) in different clubs.

Like most contemporary social games, Clubbox has a variety of currencies and resources. The main currency Coins can be used to buy items, style the avatar and expand the dance floor or the club and restock the bar.

Golden drinks are collected to unlock new drinks for their bar. Oxygen is needed for clubbing in other space clubs. Dancing, drinking and interacting with other users require party oxygen, which the player can regain by sitting down. Energy is used to perform special effects, drink boosts – and to protect the club from the central government police force.

Tribute to heroes

“We tried to integrate action adventure game mechanics from games we admire,” explains Budiman. “One example: After Link defeats an end boss in Zelda, a treasure chest opens up and Link receives a cool new weapon he is able to use from this time on. When a player unlocks a new alien species in Clubbox, the new character also brings a cool new feature. These features enable the player to use new game mechanics that were locked before. The best example is at level 3: Players unlock Ravia aliens and the DJ learns the ability to perform special effects like stroboscope, or fireworks.”

Free spirit and SOPA/PIPA protest

The premise of the game is that clubs are forbidden on earth so clubbing must be taken to outer space. Any resemblance to commotion around the SOPA and PIPA bills in the US, or copyright representatives like GEMA in Germany, are no coincidence.

“We strongly believe that music should be out there for everyone, the same way as social games are free to play. Since the rise of the Internet information and music became available for everyone. Implementing an artificial border is against the course of time. The social gaming industry also found ways to monetize,” Budiman tells us. He thinks that the music industry has to come up with new monetization models instead of erecting barriers. Especially in Germany, streaming services have a hard time. That’s why Clubbox has integrated only YouTube and doesn’t allow users to stream their own files. “As long as people upload music to YouTube, Clubbox won’t shut down. We do not need to make contracts with record labels directly,” he says.

As a statement to the recent shut down of music streaming service Grooveshark in Germany, Basilbox implemented the central government police force into Clubbox about a week ago. “The police visit your club to stop the party and shut down the music. Fortunately you can destroy them with your bouncer and protect your space club using energy.”

12Mar/12

Game of the Week: Bet it all on Lucky Slots

By Sebastian Sujka

Gambling is rising in popularity on Facebook. Rumors are getting stronger that Facebook will allow real money gambling in several countries – possibly in the near future after their IPO. But even without betting real money gambling on Facebook continues to be a trend. Zynga, IGT, Crowdpark or Yazino have been in the news frequently whenever the discussion about gambling was heating up. Very silently, Blue Shell Games became a significant player when it comes to casino games today, counting 1.1 million monthly active users with their hit game Lucky Slots – Free Slot Machines.

Title: Lucky Slots – Free Slot Machines
Developer: Blue Shell Games
Genre: Gambling
Platform(s):
Facebook
Launch: August 2011
Language(s): English
Monthly active users: 1,100,000 MAU; 250,000 DAU
Monetization: Free-to-play with paid premium currency

How to Play

The game mechanics are pretty simply and the game begins immediately. There is no tutorial. The first spins are done by clicking on the only possible button. The first click is a win and the user continues from here and starts playing without having to have a clue how a slot machine game really works and what outcome of the reels are desirable.

The sophisticated player can set the number of lines he is betting on and the amount of currency he is betting on each line. Additionally, the last amount won is displayed. On the paytable the user can have a brief look at the rules which are explained in one picture but in the game every setting change made by the user is explained by graphic elements.

Lucky Slots - click to enlarge

With every spin the user earns experience points to advance to the next level. The experience points also depend on the amount of the total bet. With every level the user can unlock new slot machines or increase the maximum amount per bet. By keeping the maximum amount per bet low at the beginning it is very hard for new users to go bankrupt.

Next to the spin button the user also finds a “bet max” button for the maximal amount and the maximal number of lines. Hard currency can be paid for upgrades of the slot machines which, for example, increase the number of free spins.

A small amount of free currency is provided daily but if a user runs out of currency the only options to keep playing are to spend real money or to send free currency to friends and hope to expect some free currency in return. The developer’s attempts to make the user share, invite and buy are omnipresent but implemented in a way that is not annoying.

In a nutshell

Lucky Slots is a very casual easy entry casino slot machine game that creates a convincing atmosphere with the simple but right music, sounds and optics.  It is not aproblem, maybe even a plus, if the user did never use a real slot machine or does not understand the mechanics.