Socialgamesobserver

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

31Oct/12

Who is Who in Europe: Mandala Games

By Huel Fuchsberger

Mandala Games is a French developer  located in Natntes. Their currently biggets game on Facebook is the slot machine game  La Riviera with 330,000.  Here are more information about the company:

  • Name: Mandala Games
  • Founded: Nantes (France)
  • Founded by: Nadya Jahan
  • Founded in: August 2010
  • Funding: No
  • Acquisitions: No
  • Number of employees: 6
  • Number of Games published: 2
  • List of Games published:
    Divinitiz
    La Riviera

    La Riviera Minigame on Facebook

  • Describe what you do in a sentence:
    Social Casino Games on Facebook and mobile
  • Games published on: Facebook and iOS
  • Working with publisher: Yes

    La Riviera on Facebook

  • Acting as a Publisher: No
  • Publishing games in with languages: English, French
  • Game genre/s: Social Casino Games
  • User demographics (gender) : Mostly Female
  • User demographics: location : Mainly in the US
  • Best-selling virtual item (also indicate price and game):
    Extra Bonus Power-up – $4.90 (La Riviera)
  • Most expensive virtual item (also indicate price and game):
    1.2M Coins Pack – $200 (La Riviera)
  • What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry:
    Social Gaming & Gambling Convergence
30Oct/12

Real-money gambling – the new hope for Zynga, …?

By Guest Post

Zynga and other social gaming operators are preparing to enter the real-money online gambling market. What at first glance seems like natural step for Zynga and Co. to make easy money in a billion-dollar industry is in reality much more complex undertaking. Here, one of the most renowned researchers of the online gambling industry (see also MECN) offers an in-depth analysis of the plans of Zynga and other social gaming operators.

Since the success of Zynga’s Texas Hold’Em poker, the social versions of traditional gambling games (e.g., poker, bingo, slots, …) have become an integral part of Facebook’s game offers. But now both the social gaming and the online gambling industry are beginning to discover social gam(bl)ing as a future key revenue source.

Social gaming industry eager to offer real-money gambling

The recent activities of Zynsoundga and Facebook and the launch of Betable are clear signs that the social gaming industry has high hopes for its move into real-money gambling:

  • Zynga announced that the company wants to move into real-money online gambling. This is an understandable move in line with the company’s strategy to find new revenue sources in addition to selling virtual chips and goods, …
  • Facebook and Gamesys just started the first real-money gambling offer in the U.K., and many others will surely follow.
  • Betable just recently launched its product which supports social gaming operators to offer real-money gambling without many hassles; one of its first customers is Big Fish.

But online gambling operators are also eager to offer social gam(bl)ing

Social gaming operators may find it interesting that the online gambling industry is thinking exactly the other way around. As the online gambling industry is experiencing tougher times, many operators believe that social gaming and gambling will be their new big revenue source:

  • Market leader BwinParty enters social gaming market BwinParty, a market leader in the online gambling sphere, has also entered the social gaming market with a big bang and is willing to invest up to USD 50 million over the next 24 months. Its primary business model will be the “sale of virtual credits to purchase entries as well as virtual gifts, decorations, and consumables”, and slots and poker will be launched first.
  • Social gam(bl)ing everywhere – In the online gambling industry social gaming is everywhere. No conference (e.g., key conference EiG) is without a social media evangelists, no industry magazine without social gaming specials, … and Silicon Valley seems to hold the future of gambling in its hands.
  • Hefty investments by traditional gambling giants in social gaming – In the past month, traditional gambling heavyweights have become very active in the social gaming market. For example, the U.S. gambling service/technology provider IGT bought the social gaming operator DoubleDown for ca. USD 500 million, and Caesars acquired Playtika.

Social gambling – it’s going to be tough

Readers of presentations explaining the attractiveness of the real-money gambling sector cannot help wonder why companies ever invested in social gaming in the first place rather than putting their money into (social) online gambling right away: much higher ARPUs, much bigger market, hardly any legal challenges, … However, the reality presents a much more complex picture without any sure-fire successes.

Complex legal and regulatory challenges

Legal and regulatory issues are among the most relevant issues for the online gambling industry. In general, in most jurisdictions online gambling is illegal unless you have a local license. Most states offer such licenses only to monopolistic state/public operators (e.g., state lotteries), and when such licenses are given out to private operators, the latter often have to pay hefty taxes (e.g., France) and comply with strict regulations (e.g., customer identification, responsible gambling, …).

There are only very few jurisdictions where you can get such online gambling licenses more “easily”, among them Malta, Gibraltar, Costa Rica, … and, last but not least, the U.K. Many operators holding licenses issued in such jurisdictions are trying to use their licenses also in other states – this in turn leads to endless legal disputes with the respective local authorities. The final outcome of these disputes ranges from “continue and build up a billion-dollar business” to “welcome in jail”. Because of these complex issues the current focus of social gambling is on entering the market in the U.K.

Another question is whether social gam(bl)ing might soon be regulated separately. In our opinion, this is unlikely because all relevant sectors are already regulated. If it’s a matter of real-money gambling (social or not), you have to consider the pertinent gambling laws. Most laws define an activity as gambling only if it offers the chance to win “real” money (or a similar non-cash benefit). If the “only” prize is the chance to continue playing the game (by winning more chips/credits), the activity is likely not considered gambling and is subject to the same laws as all other online games (e.g., Farmville).

Increased competition

As described above, the (social) online gambling market is experiencing a wave of new market competitors, and at the same time many online gambling segments (especially online poker) are experiencing increasing market saturation. As our recent report Online Gambling Benchmarking shows, the online poker business of many key gambling operators decreased on average by 7% in 2011 (2010 = -15%).

If you want to be 100% legally safe, your profits will likely suffer

Most social gambling operators, especially if headquartered in the U.S., will be interested in being 100% safe when it comes to compliance issues. The only way to achieve this is to obtain a local license where available (e.g., France, Italy, Germany, U.K., …), but these licenses usually go hand in hand with hefty taxes and strict regulatory requirements.

However, in contrast to traditional online gambling offers, social gambling has one important advantage. In the social world, Facebook ensures (at least for the time being) that unlicensed grey market operators keep out of the social communities. Therefore, social gambling is the only market where licensed operators do not have to compete with unlicensed operators who can offer more attractive products because they do not have to comply with any regulations or pay taxes

The opening of the U.S. online poker market, a never-ending story

Many social gaming operators also count on the real-money online poker market in the U.S., worth billions of dollars, being liberalised very soon. We do not have a crystal ball, but the online gambling industry has been expecting the imminent liberalisation of the U.S. online poker market for many years and has often believed the market to be “on the verge” of being liberalised. If this hoped-for liberalisation becomes reality in the near future, it will probably involve solutions on the state level, which are burdensome for all operators.

Not all gambling is social

Zynga poker is still the industry standard when it comes to social gaming because poker is perfectly suited for the social world. But what about the other big segments: betting, slots/casino, lottery, and bingo? With the exception of bingo, these other games do not have an immediately obvious social component. In most social casinos/slot machine halls (apparently they are the key focus of the industry) the “social” aspect seems (so far) to be an afterthought. In addition, social betting seems to be a hard row to hoe as the recent insolvency of social betting operator Crowdpark shows, and social lotteries seem to be relegated to a niche of their own.

It seems that gambling-style social gaming more and more neglects the social component. But if operators of social games want to win over customers from traditional online gambling offers, they should put their focus on the social component of the games. This might take some effort, but even traditional lotteries were able to add a social component (and were successful), as the example of El Gordo and Postcode Lottery shows.

Get your industry insights first

As described above, the real-money online gambling market is a financial and legal minefield that is probably already past its prime. Play-money social games that are successful in restrictive markets, such as the U.S., are probably not easily turned into real-money offers in liberalised markets with more than 100 competing offers/sites.

Therefore, before entering this minefield, you should thoroughly investigate it by getting as much industry expertise as you can. In addition to extensive number crunching of key financial figures and KPIs (see also MECN’s Online Gambling Benchmarking), hiring former online gambling executives is highly recommended. Zynga has now taken the first step and hired online gambling veteran Maytal Ginsburg Olsha away from 888.com.

29Oct/12

Game of the Week: Howzat Cricket

By Huel Fuchsberger

Cricket is a popular sport in the Commonwealth countries. In Jamaica or Barbados the team sport actually is the national sport. With Howzat Cricket the developer and publisher Game Ventures found a niche on Facebook. The game of the in Singapore located company has currently 864,000 MAU and 120,000 DAU according to AppStats.

Developer/Publisher:  Game Ventures
Genre:  Sport
Languages:  English
Platforms:   Facebook
Active users (Facebook): 864,000MAU 120,000DAU

How to play

Cricket in its essence is the duel between the bowler (pitcher) and the batsman (batter) and marks the core game play of Howzat Cricket. Players control the batsman and react to the bowler controlled by the computer. With the left, right, down and up arrow the player decides how he wants to strike the ball. If timed right the player hits the ball and his batsman has than time to cross the pitch (sandy center of the field) to make single runs. He does that by pressing the spacebar.

In cricket the batsman scores 6 runs if he strikes the ball high over the field boundary. If the ball touches the ground before, he only scores 4 runs. Should the ball land within the boundary, field players will try to hit the wicket. The wicket is a wooden construct that the batsman tries to protect. The player can choose to play it safe or go all in. If he plays aggressive the chance for a field player catching the ball is higher if he doesn’t hit it right, resulting in a point for the enemy.

By repeating this pattern the player tries to score a predetermined score in his Inning to win the game. It is possible to plays different leagues. In winning them the player leads his own personal team to the top in standings. It is also possible to manage the team and improve it by buying new players, gear an extra exercise. Better items are only available with a premium currency.  The regular currency can be earned by playing single player or winning multiplayer matches.

Multiplayer matches use the same game mechanic and only compare the results of the 4 competing players with each other. There are 2 modes available – Hot Chase and Knockout.
In Knockout the player with the lowest score is kicked out at the end of every round. Hot chase is a game for the highest score. The players play a couple of rounds and the players with the highest sum wins.

Cricket in a Nutshell

Howzat Cricket is fun to play and doesn’t rely on the social games paradigm “mouse control only”. The mixture of reaction game and the possibility to choose between a riskier or saver play pattern makes the game interesting.
Sure there is room for improvements. For example the player doesn’t get a visual feedback when his batsmen have finished a run. Also the Team customization could be a bit more fleshed out and playing the bowler in multiplayer could bring more excitement into the matches. In sum Howzat Cricket is a fun and entertaining cricket social game.

24Oct/12

Who is Who in Europe: Plumbee

By Huel Fuchsberger

Plumbee is a start-up loctated in London. With their first game Mirrorball Slots the company manages to reach 880,000 users a month. Here are more details about the company:

  • Name: Plumbee
  • Where founded, where are the offices:
    Founded in London. Offices in London (Shoreditch).
    Plumbee is moving in about a month to a new, larger office (5600 sqft) in the same area to accommodate growth of the team.
  • Founded by:
    Raf Keustermans
    Gerald Tan
    Jodi Moran
  • Founded in : July 2011

    Mirrorball Slots on Facebook

  • Funding:
    Yes, $2.8M from Idinvest Partners.
    They also invested in Kobojo, Pretty Simple, Social Point, Grand Cru
  • Acquisitions: No
  • Number of employees:
    35 today + 9 open positions
  • Game published: 1
    Mirrorball Slots
  • Describe what you do in a sentence:
    We make AAA free-to-play casino games

    Mirrorball Slots on Facebook

  • Games published on:
    Right now just on Facebook. Mirrorball Slots will launch in the coming weeks for iOS
  • Working with publisher: No
  • Acting as a Publisher: No
  • Publishing games in with languages:
    English only for now, localization planned later this year.
  • Game genre: Social casino
  • User demographics (gender):
    Predominantly Female
  • User demographics (location):
    North America, Australia, Europe

    Mirrorball Slots

  • Best-selling virtual item:
    $10 coins package
  • Most expensive virtual item:
    $200 coins (or cash) package
  • What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry:
    Convergence between real-money & free-to-play casino.
22Oct/12

Game of the Week: Bubble Paradise

By Huel Fuchsberger

Bubble Paradise is a bubble shooter from the in Barcelona located developer Social Point.
It’s an older game that managed to rise up to last week’s #6 top gainer in MAU on AppStats.eu.  At the currently it is Social Point’s 4th biggest game after the popular Dragon City, Social Empires and Social Wars.

Developer/Publisher:  Social Point
Genre:  Puzzle
Languages:  English
Platforms:   Facebook
Active users (Facebook): 610,000 MAU 40,000 DAU

How to play

Bubble Paradise is a straight forward bubble shooter. The player proceeds from level to level by solving the bubble puzzles. By matching three bubbles of the same color they disappear. In fixed time intervals the bubble field moves towards the player, resulting in a game over if the bubbles reach him.

The game is fairly simple when it comes to its mechanics. No special bubbles, items or power ups. By inviting friends it’s possible to increase the amount of tries for a level. Also a tournament mode is available, which doesn’t play any different than the regular mode. To make up for the lack in game play depth, a story element has been added. But it falls short and is no incentive to play this game for a longer time period.

Nothing Special

Social Point’s bubble shooter doesn’t add anything to the proved bubble shooter mechanics. Even the things that are there such as the tournament modes, awards and story don’t feel fleshed out. Also the aggressive social implementation with several pop–up screens in a row do not help  the experience. In sum, it leaves this social game in mini-game-prototype state, which won’t hold its current user number for long

19Oct/12

SponsorPay Expands Ad Platform With Nexon America, Alawar and Tetris Online

By Sebastian Sujka

SponsorPay, a value-exchange advertising platform, announced today that it has secured partnerships with top publishers Nexon America, Tetris Online and Alawar Entertainment. The company also reported strong Q3 growth from mobile as well as BrandEngageTM, its proprietary video and engagement ad solution.

The company’s mobile business has made tremendous progress since the start of this year, and recently announced additions to its product portfolio – Unlock and the tablet offer wall – have quickly gained remarkable traction in the past few months. “The number of monthly transactions across our mobile network more than doubled last quarter and we expect Q4 to be even stronger,” observed Janis Zech, CRO and co-founder at SponsorPay.

Simultaneously, SponsorPay’s online monetization platform has continued to expand significantly, riding on its direct response offerings as well as BrandEngageTM. The latter, in particular, has become a growth engine for the company since its launch last year. “The market’s response to BrandEngage has certainly been inspiring. Current user activity on the platform is threefold of May’s numbers,” added Zech.

The company’s global team strength is now at more than 140 and recruiting efforts show no signs of abating. “Attracting the industry’s top talent continues to be at the forefront of our priorities,” remarked Projjol Banerjea, VP Marketing & Talent.

17Oct/12

Who is Who in America: Streamrec LLC

By Huel Fuchsberger
    Founded a year ago and Streamrec released their first Facebook game a few weeks ago.  With JetPot Travel Slots the company delivers a casino slot maschine game in which the player travels aroud the world. Here are more details on Streamrec:

  • Name: Streamrec LLC
  • Located:
    Operating out of Seattle, WA and Buenos Aires Argentina
  • Founded by:
    Co-founded by Rodrigo Caamano and Rodrigo Quesada
  • Founded in: November 2011
  • Funding: $125,000
  • Acquisitions : No

    JetPot Travel Slots on Facebook

  • Number of employees:
    The founders are the only members of the company to date.
  • Number of Games published:
    1 published, with a second application currently under development
  • Game published:
    JetPot Travel Slots
  • Also Available on:
    www.jetpot.com
  • Describe what you do in a sentence:
    JetPot Travel Slots is the premiere game from Streamrec, LLC, and is the first to combine worldwide travel and online slots, allowing players to discover destinations around the world.
  • Games published on: Facebook
  • Working with publisher : No
  • Acting as a Publisher : No
  • Publishing games in with languages: English
  • Game genre: Online slots/travel
  • User demographics (gender): Primarily female ages 30+
  • User demographics (locatio): North America
  • JetPot Travel Slots Banner

    Best-selling virtual item :
    Las Vegas Dancer Souvenir

  • Most expensive virtual item:
    Miniature King Crown Souvenir (JetPot’s Monaco Slot)
  • What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry:
    There has been real gap in the online slots genre, with games lacking an engaging storyline that creates loyalty among players. The intersection of social media, gaming, travel and the growth of slot machine games struck a perfect chord with Streamrec’s founders, and JetPot Travel Slots was the result.
15Oct/12

Game of the Week – Puzzel Adventures

By Huel Fuchsberger

The classic jigsaw puzzle isn’t just kid’s entertainment. Also adults enjoy the challenge that lies in solving jigsaw puzzles. With “Puzzle Adventures” the  German company Ravensbuger Digital created the social game that should please puzzlers desires. The mother company Ravensburger has a 125 year long tradition in making puzzles and kid’s games and evolves the trademark with Ravensburger Digital beyond the classical cardboard puzzle. Their digital version was released in December 2011 and has currently 620,000MAU and 12,000 according to AppStats.eu. And it seems that the classic puzzle can transport its charm into the digital era.

Developer/Publisher:  Ravensburger Digital GmbH
Genre:  Puzzle
Languages:  English
Best-selling Item: 200 Puzzle Cash ($ 1.10)
Platforms:  Facebook
Active users (Facebook): 620,000MAU 120,00DAU

How to play

The basic game structure is simple. Players solve puzzles by rotating and dragging the parts in the right position, if the intersections fit they merge. The controls are very intuitive which makes the game easy to pick up. Different than in other puzzle games, parts can be merged everywhere on the field. This leaves the player the freedom to choose how to tackle the problem. Players may first sort the parts by colors, search for corners and edges or start by linking the first key parts of the image. A strategic approach is needed, since the puzzle has to be solved in a limited amount of time. To mix things up the games asks players to solve chosen parts in a certain time. If successful they are rewarded and in some occasions punished if they fail.

Should the player need help, bonus items are available in the in-game store. They can be purchased with a premium currency called “Puzzle Cash”. Puzzle Cash can’t be earned by playing, but it is possible to earn items directly by playing. Players can collect a series of bonus items to complete a collection. These collections can be gathered by playing certain levels.

Around the core game Ravensburger also build a competitive “Tournament Mode”. Players can compete with each other in weekly tournaments. Those consist one puzzle challenge per day which has to be solved as quickly as possible. The player with highest overall score of the week wins. For less competitive player progressive features are available.

In the “Adventure Mode” players solve levels and progress through several stages with increasingly difficult puzzles to solve. Players can compare their scores with their friends and gain levels.

A game for puzzlers

With Puzzle Adventures Ravensburger Digital manages to transfer their brand into the digital realm. Puzzle Adventures is a good social game that meets the quality and professionalism associated with Ravensburger.  Even the small flaws as the leveling system which fells attached and doesn’t add much to the game, don’t disturb the overall experience

10Oct/12

Who is Who in Europe: Feerik

By Huel Fuchsberger

This week we introduce Feerik SAS. A developer located in Montpellier (France). Their biggest game on Facebook according to AppStats is Eredan iTCG an online trading card game. Here are more details on Feerik:

  • Developer Name: Feerik SAS
  • Where founded:
    Founded and based in Montpellier, France
  • Founded by:
    Feerik was founded by three passionate people: Thibaud Zamora, Claire Zamora and Pierre-Alain Laur
  • Describe what you do in a sentence:
    Feerik has always been faithful to its original goal:
    Offer simple, intuitive online games capable of pleasing everyone from the age of 7 up to 77 years old
  • Games published on:
    Internet, Facebook and iOS
  • Working with publisher: No
  • Acting as a Publisher: No
  • Publishing games in with languages:
    English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Traditional and Simple Chinese, Korean
  • Game genre/s:
    Casual Games, Free2play
  • User demographics (gender):
    Both Females and males aged 10 to 35 years old
  • User demographics (location):
    Mostly from France and Europe.
  • Best-selling virtual item (also indicate price and game):
    $$$ our currency, 30$$$ in-game represent about 2 euros.
  • Most expensive virtual item (also indicate price and game):
    Legendery pack on Eredan iTCG, approximately 100 euros
  • What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry:
    Licensing and in-game advertising.
3Oct/12

Who is Who in Europe: Royal Cactus

By Huel Fuchsberger

Founded in 2010 RoyalCactus is an aspiring developer from France that established royalcactus.com as site where players can duell each other for real money.  Now the company is entering the social market with several games as Star Pearl and Bubble Monsters. Here are more details about RoyalCactus:

  • Developer Name: RoyalCatus
  • Describe what you do:

    Music Quizz on Facebook

    RoyalCactus first developed an online gaming website. Since its creation, RoyalCactus.com stands out with its innovative and social features, way before the social networks met the success they have today. RoyalCactus has now moved its principal activity on the creation and publication of quality Casual & Social games on Facebook and will be also present on mobile devices soon (iOS, Android).

    Bubble Monsters on Facebook

  • Where founded, where are the offices:
    François Pacot created RoyalCactus in 2010, when he was still a student at the ENST Bretagne (National Superior Telecommunications School).
    Today, registered offices are in Paris, and operational offices are in Aix-en-Provence.
  • Founded by: François Pacot
  • Founded in : 2010
  • Funding :
    To accelerate its growth RoyalCactus raised €500.000 from XAnge Private Equity in September 2011
  • Acquisitions : No
  • Number of employees: 30
  • Number of Games published: +36
  • List of Games published on Facebook:
    Star Pearl

    Star Pearl on Facebook

    Bubble Monsters
    Music Party Quizz
    Les animaux du moral

    Coming Soon:

    Star Pearl : Pirate Edition
    Fruits Party More than 30 other game to discover on own website

  • Games published on:
    www.facebook.com
    www.royalcactus.com
  • Working with publisher : No
  • Acting as a Publisher : Yes. We published several games made by different independent developers on our page
  • Publishing games in with languages:
    English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
  • Game genre/s:
    Mostly casual games: puzzle, logic, quiz and bubble games
  • User demographics (gender):
    53% of female, aged between 25 and 45 years old
  • User demographics ( location):
    78% of the users located in France
  • Best-selling virtual item:
    Glue bonus (Star Pearl, 50 coins = 2.5 FBCredits)
  • Most expensive virtual item:
    Rainbow Bonus (Bubble Monsters, 120 FBCredits)
  • What do you see as currently most exciting trend in the industry:

    Star Pearl Logo

    The huge success of social games is a really fascinating trend. With Facebook or any other social network, users are now able to exchange objects or talk to each other, which make the game much more alive.
    Mobile devices are also an incredibly chance for developers. If the smartphone is a very strong platform today, we have many reasons to believe that tablets and iPads will be the n°1 gaming platform tomorrow. This is why RoyalCactus wants to enlarge its activities to mobile devices in a close future.