Socialgamesobserver

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

30Jul/12

The Ville Leads Last Week’s Fastest Growing Facebook Games by DAU

By Sebastian Sujka

Zynga’s The Ville is, without surprise, last week’s strongest gaining game on Facebook. The game gained 637,691 daily active users (DAU) in the past seven days and counts 7,200,000 DAU today. The second biggest gainer last week is EA’s SimCity Social growing by almost half a million DAU. The strongest growing European game is Dragon City by Social Point that gained 428,761 DAU.  Also remarkable: Chinese RGG game “Hero Rush” by Happy Elements more than doubled its DAU numbers, growing from 130,000 DAU to 430,000 DAU in just a week.

26Jul/12

King.com Brings Bubble Witch Saga on Mobile and Incentivizes Users to Switch Platforms

By Sebastian Sujka

Europe’s largest social games company King.com today announced the launch of the mobile version of its hit game Bubble Witch Saga for all iOS devices – iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The game Bubble Witch Saga becomes the first Facebook game with progress to fully sync to mobile and tablet devices, keeping player’s leaderboards, scores, progress and virtual goods seamless across both platforms. In Contrast to Wooga’s Diamond Dash which is also available on iOS for quite some time now Bubble Witch Saga is actually exactly the same game for Facebook or iOS. To illustrate, Diamond Dash translates its 9×10 grid in Facebook into a 7×9 grind on iOS, resulting in a slightly different gameplay.  In Bubble Witch Saga also not only leaderboards are synchronized but also game progress, including virtual goods possession.

According to King.com CMO Alex Dale King.com will continue to bring their titles on iOS. Bubble Witch Saga was developed in the Bucharest Studio, Dale expects the next iOS versions to be rolled out quicker than the first one. For Bubble Witch Saga a lot of code was used from the online game version. King.com’s casual social games are well suited to perform well on iOS as they allow the same gaming experience due to a lack of complexity.

An interesting feature is King.com’s solution to accustom users to switch platforms: users can continue their game if they switch the platform as they receive additional lives.

With over 4 million daily active users on Facebook (AppStats), Bubble Witch Saga is one of the top casual social games and the largest non-Zynga game on the platform. The game invites players to become the fourth witch in the circle by bursting the bubbles to spawn enough spiders to keep the cauldron bubbling. Players can rise up the leaderboards and challenge friends’ high scores in hundreds of levels, with new ones added each week. And with the new, fully synchronized mobile version, players will be able to play anytime, anywhere – picking up right where they left off.

“As consumers and the industry focus more on games for mobile devices, launching a truly cross-platform Facebook game has been a top priority for King.com,” King.com CEO Riccardo Zacconi, commented.

The Android version is expected to launch later this year along with additional mobile versions from the company’s popular Saga series.

24Jul/12

After HTML5 and Google+ Withdrawal: Wooga Goes Android

By Sebastian Sujka

Berlin’s biggest social gaming developer Wooga has announced two new mobile titles, including its first title on Android. Wooga’s mobile strategy will see Wooga bring its most successful Facebook games to mobile and develop new IPs designed especially for mobile. 12 months ago Wooga announced its first mobile game with Diamond Dash and successfully launched the title on iOS. In the last year Wooga performed some experiments with HTML5 and Google Plus. Both approached failed, ending with the withdrawal from the technology as well as from Google’s social networking platform#mce_temp_url#. Now, half of Wooga’s over 200 employees is working on mobile titles and the other half on native flash titles for Facebook.

Mobile players who connect with friends via Facebook eight times more likely to spend money

The idea of the mobile strategy is to connect players across platforms. According to Wooga, Diamond Dash mobile players who choose to connect with friends via Facebook are eight times more likely to spend money and significantly more engaged than users who play without logging in – highlighting the importance of Facebook and the Social Graph in Wooga’s mobile strategy.

Diamond Dash first game on Android platform

Diamond Dash for Android and Monster World for iPhone and iPad will lead the strategy, with Diamond Dash being the first game on Google’s Android platform. Over 70 million people have played Diamond Dash since it was first released on Facebook in March 2011, with 20 million of those players downloading the game on the iPhone and iPad.

Wooga to double game portfolio of Facebook and mobile games by early-2013

One of Wooga’s first games and a social gaming classic, Monster World garnered over 45 million players in two years. Now Wooga is bringing the game to mobile. Wooga also shared it will double its current game portfolio of Facebook and mobile games by early-2013. Diamond Dash for Android and Monster World for iOS will arrive this Autumn.

23Jul/12

Pick Them up Before They Leave – Interview with Appnext

By Sebastian Sujka

Ad bars haven been around ever since social games reached a first stage of maturity. Until recently the bars would only display ads for other games – with the obvious downside of advertising competing games while the user is actively playing one’s game. As the industry is increasingly maturing more sophisticated models of cross promotion come up.  We talked to Tal Perry, VP of Business Development at Appnext about their new model and platform opportunities.

Social Games Observer: Can you describe your service in one sentence?

Tal Perry: Appnext is a cross-promotion product that allows game developers to benefit from their games exit traffic.

SGO: How Does Appnext differ conventional cross-promotion gaming bars?

Tal: Unlike cross-promotion bars, Appnext is only visible to users that have finished their game session as opposed to the bars that sit on top of the game the entire time.  Game developers spend a lot of money and time to bring users to the games and then the first thing that they show them is a bar with ads for the competition.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  With Appnext the user will, at a minimum, finish a full game session and determine whether or not to spend money on the game before seeing our ads.

SGO: Did you do the research yourself to find out users are likely to end their session after closing their currency top-up window?

Tal: Yes, we’ve done some research with game developers and also users.  It is quite clear that a user who runs out of coins/lives/energy and closes the offer to purchase credits is going to leave the game.  The user simply has nothing else to do on the game at that point and will probably only return once the timed bonus is available that gives him more coins, etc.  However, many times these users are still hungry for more games and the recommendation from Appnext can satisfy that hunger.  There are of course other common exit points to games from different genres and we can provide the solution in those cases as well.

SGO: What do you have in the pipeline for mobile and what are the biggest challenges here?

Tal: We plan on releasing Appnext for both iOS and Android by the end of this year. The mobile gamer is a little different from the Facebook gamer and his time is more limited so going from game to game might not be as appealing to them and as a result generate lower CTRs.


SGO: How big is the potential market in the open web compared to Facebook?

Tal: The potential is there and it is quite large.  However, since player values differ from platform to platform on the open web, a cross-promotion model is not likely to work and we’ll need to focus on the other aspect of Appnext which is game monetization.  Meaning, instead of a click-for-click model it will be a CPC model where the developers can earn revenue for every click.

SGO: To what type of games do you refer the user to? Do they stay in the same category or switch genres?

Tal: Ideally the user would stay in the same category since the CTR would be much higher.  We see now that ads for slots games that appear on another slot game generate CTR of 25-30% while ads for another type of game on the same slots game only generate 10-15% CTR.

SGO: How does the targeting work?

Tal: The advertiser is able to target by country and game category. Which game genres are profiting most from your service? At the moment our focus is on casino games such as slots, bingo, poker, etc. so they are benefiting the most. But we also work with games from other genres and can offer the same benefits to games of all genres.  Users eventually leave every game, the key is to know when that happens and what to offer them in order to generate return traffic.

SGO: Can you use Appnext to forward leaving users within your own game portfolio?

Tal: Yes, that’s possible but the business model would be different and based on a cost per click in return for utilizing the Appnext platform.

20Jul/12

HitFox Launches Incubator for Game Distribution Business Models

By Sebastian Sujka

Berlin-based start-up HitFox leaps into their next. Serial entrepreneurs Jan Beckers, Tim Koschella, Ruben Haas and Hanno Fichtner founded HitFox Game Ventures, the world’s first vertical incubator for game  distribution  business models. HitFox Game Ventures has its sights on start-ups and acquisitions in the field of sales and marketing of games.

To date the market is still dominated by generalized incubators, HitFox Game Ventures will focus on one segment only. In future, vertical incubator HitFox is set to more broadly employ its core competencies in sales and marketing as well as pass on its experience and own network to additional co-founders within the framework of joint start-ups.

CEO Jan Beckers says: “In the past 12 months we have built up a highly productive and entrepreneurial team of 55 gaming, marketing and IT specialists. In addition, we have acquired over 100 game  publishers as clients and have seen an eightfold increase in our turnover within the last six months. Taking on the role of incubator, we are now using this momentum and rapport with customers to support other game distribution founders.” Aside from access to the market, HitFox start-ups can benefit from an initial investment in at least the mid-six-figure range.

HitFox Game Ventures aims at acquiring or establishing at least two businesses per year. Last summer Beckers, Koschella, Haas and Fichtner took the leap into the $ 70 billion gaming market when they founded the game distribution start-up HitFox. Their concept of offering deals to gamers addressed an existing demand.

Profiting from a broad range of entrepreneurial experience, as well as investments by well-known partners (HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, the Tengelmann Group, Hasso Plattner Ventures, Kite Ventures and Digital Pioneers), the young business saw rapid growth. HitFox expects to reach a seven-figure monthly turnover and hit the break-even point in the course of this year. In February 2012 HitFox acquired Ad2Games (Chili Entertainment GmbH), Germany’s largest advertising network for online games.

19Jul/12

Interview: Fishlabs About Risks and Opportunities in the Mobile Market

By Huel Fuchsberger

Smartphone’s have become a common accessory for many people. Their growing number and advancing computing power has made them a liable platform for games and now also social games that started on Facebook are ported to mobile platforms. Developers have to face new difficulties and ask themselves –Is it worth it?
We asked Kai Hitzer, Marketing Director of Fishlabs Entertainment what the common mistakes are that should be avoided when planning to enter the mobile gaming market.

Social Games Observer: Fishlabs has several years of experience in developing mobile games. What would you summarize as the most common mistakes one can make when trying to set a foot into the mobile market?

Kai: Competition is extremely tough on the mobile market and hence every step should be well planned if you’re about to set foot on that platform. No matter whether you enter the business as a developer or publisher, your ventures on the App Store or Google Play will most likely end up as a rather unpleasant surprise unless you display a certain modesty and keep your expectations within reasonable limits. A lot of people are blinded by the extraordinary success stories of huge best sellers like “Angry Birds” or “Temple Run” and fail to see that these games are one-of-a-kind exceptions, in whose cases every single aspect of the production and distribution just fitted together perfectly. Such an enormous success can neither be planned nor forced, but rather does it have to come naturally by releasing the perfect game on the perfect platform at the perfect moment. And even then it is still not certain that you are really going to sell millions of copies at ease. For every “Angry Birds” or “Temple Run” out there, there are hundreds of other ambitious titles that will most likely not even make their production costs back for one reason or another.

SGO: Since not every company starts from scratch and  might already have some Intellectual Property, what are the dangers and opportunities these IPs to be introduced to the mobile market?

Kai: The mobile market is huge… and so is the games market. Out of the 650,000+ apps on the App Store, more than 120,000 are games! And every day, almost a hundred new games are released for iPhone and iPad alone. As you can imagine, it won’t exactly be easy to stick out of this vast mass of releases and come up with something that the users will not just recognize upon first sight but also remember after they’ve given it a first try. One way of getting noticed is to buy the license for an already established IP (e.g. a TV show, blockbuster or comic) and tailor your game to the respective target audience, i.e. the fan base of the franchise you’ve acquired.

If you don’t have the necessary financial back-up for such a move or if you’re afraid that it might backfire on you because the product you’ve come up with wouldn’t meet the expectations of the target audience, there is also always the possibility of racking your brains and coming up with an original IP of your own. However, if you decide to go down that road, you could hardly invest too much time and care in the conception and elaboration of said IP.

The backstory, the characters, the art style and just about every other aspect of the IP need to be absolutely spot-on because otherwise the fans will most likely not be able to relate to your game and build up some kind of a connection to the happenings on the display of their smartphone or tablet. In that case, you’d end up with a bunch of fugacious users but not with a group of dedicated fans. And it’s the latter that you want to call your own in the long run, because they are the ones that advocate your title and spread the word for your game. Hence it is absolutely mandatory that you offer the fans something that really moves them and that they can identify with.

Even though the game itself will of course be the most crucial factor in the building-up of the IP, it is also recommended to support the IP through as many other channels as possible, e.g. social media, merchandise, x-promotion, etc. The more lively and tangible your IP is, the more it’ll be able enthrall and fascinate the fans!

SGO: “Being social”, which can be interpreted in many ways, has become important for many products to be successful. How does this trend influence your games?

Kai: Not long ago, social gaming was still hyped and heralded as the golden future of video gaming and the way to go for every company that wants to turn in a nice amount of profit. In recent time, however, it became more and more obvious that the social gaming bubble – at least in its current form – might be bursting anytime from now. More and more gamers seem to be pretty much fed up with the SPAM-like gaming features that require you to post a dozen messages on the walls of your friend’s social media profiles or drown them in a flood of e-mails day after day. Here at Fishlabs we believe that the mechanisms which have been so enormously successful on Facebook & Co. in the last couple of years will not be around for much longer. There’s no denying that cooperative gameplay and shared gaming experiences will still be highly popular for many years to come, but the social aspect of gaming will undergo some serious changes in the future and shift from SPAM and viral marketing to actual gaming.

Appropriately enough, we’re currently working on our first multiplayer title for mobile devices and we believe that it is a wise decision to keep all the cooperative and communicative aspects within the game itself and among those who actually want to take part in the shared gaming experience offered by the title in question. So, to answer your question, we will definitely add more social features and multiplayer aspects to our games in the future, but we will do so in an organic and truly game-promoting way that actually adds to the overall player experience.

Fishlabs is an established mobile developer located in Hamburg, Germany. The company is known for their high quality 3D mobile games. The company’s games are based on their own ABYSS® Engine which enables Fishlabs to create mobile games with AAA appeal.

17Jul/12

Kiip Raises $11M for Expansion and Mobile Rewards Wallet

By Gary Merrett

Kiip today announced that it has successfully raised an $11 million Series B funding round led by Relay Ventures, with participation from existing Series A investors Hummer Winblad and True Ventures, and others. The investment will be used to help the company expand the Kiip rewards network beyond gaming and launch new consumer-facing products to engage millions of consumers that receive Kiip rewards every month. Kiip is the world’s first mobile rewards network that delivers tangible rewards for virtual achievements. The company’s category-creating rewards platform enables brands to reach consumers in the moments when they are most engaged and receptive, while driving revenues and greater user allegiance for Kiip-enabled games and apps.

“It is an honor to receive this infusion from such a renowned group of investors, with the insight and influence to help the Kiip team lead the charge to bring rewards into everyday life,” said Brian Wong, CEO and co-founder of Kiip. “It has been a tremendously rewarding team effort to build an entirely new industry category that created the coveted win-win-win. Developers monetize and ‘kiip’ their users longer, brands reach potential consumers while building affinity, and mobile users benefit from rewards that augment their existing experiences. The capital and guidance of our new and existing funding partners will help us create a new, exciting chapter for our company.”

According to Kiip, the company is tracking more than 100 million “moments of happiness” (the user’s achievement of performance and progress milestones in the games or apps) every month in the United States alone on more than 400 apps, giving out an average of five rewards every second. With an initial engagement rate of 18 to 22 percent, the platform’s rate balloons to 50 percent for users who have previously redeemed a Kiip reward.

The new investment round will also be used to support the launch of the company’s new Kiip app, a mobile rewards wallet that consumers can use to store their Kiip rewards while exploring new apps and games that are Kiip-enabled. The Kiip app, also called “Kiipsake,” will be released in late July 2012, and is primarily designed to bring convenience to users that redeem Kiip rewards

The Kiip rewards network redefined mobile advertising and rewards by aligning the interests of users, major brands and game/app developers by linking moments of achievement with rewards from major brands. Kiip now works with more than 40 brands including American Apparel, Best Buy, Disney, Dr Pepper, PepsiCo, Popchips, Sony Music, 1-800-Flowers.com, Wrigley and many others. More than 400 games and apps employ the Kiip network including multiple games from leading developers such as Kira Games (Unblock Me), Playforge (Zombie Farm) and Get Set Games (Mega Jump and Mega Run).

16Jul/12

Focus on Poland: Newzoo Infographic

By Sebastian Sujka

12Jul/12

The Evolution of Virtual Branded Goods in Social Games

By Guest Post

About 12 billion dollars – that’s not a state’s gross national product but the size of the worldwide virtual goods market. The sale of virtual goods is rapidly becoming the most important business model in the games industry and is expected to account for more than half of all revenue in the coming years. Virtual branded goods are becoming increasingly popular in a great number of social, online and mobile games. So, how did this market develop?

There is a very simple explanation:  You could say that reality has made its way into the virtual world. We buy clothes and food from our favourite brands, we support our favourite sports teams and buy their merchandise – now, this is also happening in the virtual world. People spend an increasing amount of currency (both virtual and real) on branded virtual items. Why? Because they have an emotional connection with the brand and the value that it provides can often be translated into a virtual item.

More and more games companies are looking at ways to integrate premium virtual items into their games. Following are a few key factors to keep in mind if you are considering introducing brands or licensed IP into your game.

Barcelona C.F. Themed Talking Tom

The most important aspect is to provide the player with a benefit. Each branded item needs to have a purpose and a value within the game. For example, we introduced a famous stadium as an optional replacement for the generic stadium in an online football management game. The branded stadium had a higher capacity which earned the user more gate takings and experience points in the game compared to the default option. Players recognized that this gave them a competitive advantage so they were willing to make the extra investment to purchase the item.

The second-most important condition a brand has to fulfill is to suit the game; it needs to fit into the game experience and enhance it. Adding a brand that has no relation to the game simply will not work. Consider the target audience of both game and brand and the relevancy for the audience based on demographics. A good example is Shaun the Sheep in the casual browser game Farmerama. Introducing a popular sheep character into a farming simulation was a perfect match because the brand integrated into the game seamlessly and at the same time, added extra value for players to enhance the game experience.

"Shaun the Sheep" in Farmerama

We like to collect stuff. In many games players have the ability to collect items. When introducing branded virtual merchandise we ensure players can collect multiple items from brands they like. A player who buys one item is far more likely to buy other items from the same range than a player who did not make an initial purchase. Differentiating the price point for items of different levels of perceived value also increases monetization and encourages players to complete their ‘set’.

Summing up, branded virtual items offer three key values to IP holders and game developers.
These are:

  • Increased monetization, because (as in the real world) people pay more for a branded goods than non-branded
  • Increased engagement, because users spend more time in a game with brands they recognise and feel attached to
  • Enhanced marketing value: including brands in your marketing can increase customer acquisition by 30 to70 percent and provide access to significant new markets

About the Author
Ze’ev Rozov is CEO at Iconicfuture. The Company facilitates the creation of branded virtual items in social games, virtual worlds and mobile applications

11Jul/12

Spanish Social Game Developer Heavyweight Social Point Raises $7.4M

By Gary Merrett

Spanish based Social Point, one of the biggest European social games developer just announced it has closed a Series-B of $7.4 million led by Idinvest Partners, with participation from other funds including BBVA and existing investor Nauta Capital. The funds will fast track Social Point’s plans to bring new social games to the market and to expand into mobile games. The teams of developers, game designers, IT engineers and support functions will be significantly strengthened in the coming months. The funds will also enable the company to increase the capacity of its platform to better manage its exponential growth.

Founded in 2008 by Andrés Bou and Horacio Martos, co-CEOs of Social Point, and Marc Canaleta, CTO, the Company is a top 10 global developer of social games on Facebook. In the last 18 months it has launched a number of leading social games, such as Social Empires, Social Wars and its latest hit Dragon City. The Company is launching this July the mobile version of Social Empires, and has a strong pipeline of new facebook and mobile games for the next 6 months. With all games combined, the Company has over 15 million monthly active users as of June 2012.

Most Social Point games are targeted to the highly attractive mid-core segment of players. The Company has a strong pipeline of new games to launch on Facebook and on mobile in the coming months. New games will allow for seamless integration between different platforms.