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25Jun/10

MegaZebra Goes into Publishing: Interview with CEO Henning Kosmack

By Sebastian Sujka

MegaZebra is one of the pioneers in the European social gaming industry with a wide portfolio of game genres across several social networks. Having reached a significant experience level and understanding the constantly changing mechanics on social networking platforms, MegaZebra recently decided to give others the opportunity to benefit from their expertise. We talked to Henning Kosmack, Founder and CEO of MegaZebra about the recent strategic move.

Social Games Observer: How did you come up with the idea to act as a games publisher?

Henning Kosmack, CEO of MegaZebra

Henning Kosmack: Basically, we wanted to bridge the gap between the great talent pool of game developers in Europe and Germany and the fantastic platform that Facebook is. This platform, however, is getting increasinglytricky and requires full dedication. We think that if you want to succeed on Facebook these days you need to give it much attention and that is what MegaZebra has done now for more than 1,5 years. We eat, drink, and sleep social games! Adding to this, the recent Facebook changes made it more difficult for new entrants, i.e. cutting down on some viral features. Hence, partnering creates a great win-win-win situation. Studios can focus on their games, MegaZebra will make them social and users get access to something new and fresh. The fact that we get great response among game developers for this approach is very encouraging. Increasingly, we also get calls from the US and Asia because they know that we have been around for a while, focus on quality, and, last but not least, have managed to get users primarily in tier 1 markets.

Social Games Observer: There are many companies that focus on publishing and offer different solutions. What does your publishing service include?

Henning Kosmack: That depends very much on the game, the genre and the mechanics. Overall, we want to make the games as good as possible, together with the partner. This normally includes optimising the social engagement and to make it fit for the target group. On top of that, it will of course get access to the general offerings by MegaZebra, e.g. our payment platform, localization, and cross-promotion through our network. It is important to stress out that this is not a “one-size-fits-all-approach”. Some parties offer publishing which to them means to simply put a cross-promo bar on top. This is not how we see a partnership. We are looking for a deep cooperation for the benefit of the users. We care very much about our users so we always want to offer them something great. If we do not see that potential in a game we won’t do it. But if we do we will work long hours to get it in front of existing and new MegaZebra games. This also means that the games get the same customer service as our own games so the users will not feel any difference.

Social Games Observer: Which features of games that you license usually need to be adapted?

Henning Kosmack: First of all, the game needs to appeal to the target group. This includes the entire user interface with sound effects. Users have to get into the game quickly and easily. We have to remember that most people on Facebook still don’t consider themselves as “playing games”, but rather interacting with friends via a game. Therefore, we have to ensure that the game offers this possibility. Often we also have to optimise the game for scalability. If someone has never developed a Facebook game before they will not know how to handle this kind of traffic. We have learnt this the hard way sometimes and our partners can benefit from it now. Additionally Facebook still offers viral features irrespective of what the general opinion in the market is. MegaZebra is still growing that way and we are proud of that.

Social Games Observer: What kind of game developers can benefit the most from your service?

Henning Kosmack: Almost every game developer that has any aspirations towards Facebook can benefit from this partnership. Obviously, casual and browser games developers are
the best fit but we have also been talking to people that do download games or social apps. It does not matter if the game is completely new or if somebody has an off-Facebook version of it already. Everybody with a great game can give us a call. We think that the best games in the world deserve a social version. In some case the result will look very much like the staring point, in others it looks very differently. That makes it so exciting, and that’s why we love it.

Social Games Observer: What are your most current projects?

Henning Kosmack: We are in the middle of launching a casual social game together with Tipp24games. On Facebook the game is called Jewels Rock and is a classic 3-in-a-row game. After that we have a rich pipeline of some more complex games which we will publish over the next couple of months. Paired with some own games there is quite a lot ahead of us. There will be some multiplayer games, deeper game play, familiar concepts and something with a twist. Overall, a lot to be excited about.

Social Games Observer: Do you only focus on Facebook or are other networks interesting for you as well?

Henning Kosmack: Most of the MegaZebra games can be played on Facebook, MySpace and SpickMich, which was actually the first German social network to open up to games. To be honest, however, our prime focus is on Facebook right now because it is the most powerful and comprehensive platform. All our games are optimised for Facebook and its functionality. There are plenty of other networks with plenty of users but one should not underestimate the effort it takes to bring games on a different platform if you want to do it right. Technically, we could probably have several other networks live in days/weeks but it would take much longer to get the user experience to the same level as we offer it on Facebook.  Even two networks that both have OpenSocial will behave differently because there are whistles and bells that differ and the user behaviour might not be the same. On one network users could perhaps be much younger or have weaker ties because the network is more geared towards linking people that did not know each other beforehand. This all affects their way of interacting and playing together.

Social Games Observer: Are you planning to further expand your portfolio of game genres or do you want to focus on certain genres?

Henning Kosmack: From the very beginning we have been very broad in our approach. If you look at our games portfolio you will see this. In some cases there were already some similar games on Facebook and we wanted to improve what was out there. On other cases we pioneered with new games. Take Mahjong and KickerBuddies: I think both were the first of their type on Facebook and now others are following. We would like to continue this approach, i.e. improve successful themes and bring something very new to Facebook as well to contribute to the development of social gaming on Facebook.

Social Games Observer: On the long run, do you see MegaZebra as a developer, a publisher or both?

Henning Kosmack: I see MegaZebra being both and I think that this makes sense for us and our partners. For others it will make sense just to be a developer or a publisher. I think there are many great studios out there that want to focus on thrilling game mechanisms, stories and artwork. Then there are people who simply have some users, and don’t really care if they push them into Game A or Dating App B. MegaZebra is a slightly different animal in-between. Because we continue to build games ourselves we are constantly on the forefront of this industry. We live with the platform everyday, we know how to run ads, we optimise cross-promotions, understand the users and keep optimising their experience worldwide. I think this is crucial in such a fast-moving market

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