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Now that Zynga has finally made the step and gone public, opinions are divided as to whether Facebook as a games platform has peaked and is now on the downslope. Industry expert Tami Baribeau has repeatedly argued that Facebook games are not sustainable as a business model and iOS should be the platform of choice if a developer was to start today. Unlike in the App Store, in the top lists of Facebook games, there are hardly any small bootstrapped companies, Baribeau points out.
She also points to the greater creativity and variety of genres on iOS whereas Facebook games often rely on the same set of mechanics (e.g. energy, gifting, neighboring). The top 20 list is crowded with a lot of ‘Villes’ because city building simulation games have proven most successful, alongside casual point-and-click action titles. In the App Store, games can be discovered through categories and editorial recommendations, whereas Facebook doesn’t offer a game directory.
Distribution – Facebook’s biggest asset or liability?
Naturally, Facebook’s Head of Platform Partnerships Julien Codorniou begs to differ. He argues that social discovery and distribution is Facebook’s great asset and on iOS developers outside the top 20 list have a hard time acquiring new users.
Wooga’s Jens Begemann even goes so far to say that on Facebook everything is free – including the platform itself and distribution, until a developer is successful enough to sell virtual goods, from which then Facebook takes a 30% share. Also, he notes that unlike on other platforms, everybody can start a Facebook app tomorrow, without asking for approval or paying a fee. It sounds like a nice concept indeed, but in the crowded market and with limited viral channels, distribution is not exactly free. In some cases it might be possible to grow organically, like Wooga repeatedly states to, but the majority of developers are facing a rising costs for user acquisition on Facebook. Also, the most successful one, Zynga, spends more than 40M in Q1 of 2011 on advertising. Many industry experts are expecting more layoffs at social games companies in 2012, because the market is too crowded and costs for user acquisition and production of games are rising.
Philip Reisburger of Bigpoint believes that being outside Facebook is an advantage for his company because Zynga’s audience represents 30-40 percent of the active Facebook population whereas Bigpoint with a similarly large audience doesn’t represent 30-40 percent of internet users. “We’re in a bigger market, we’re not relying on a new guy registering on Facebook – we have over a thousand media partners who drive traffic, so whenever they venture into new ground, it’s beneficial for us,” Reisburger told Gamesindustry.biz.
Facebook’s own Social Graph allows games to move out
Even outside the Facebook canvas, Facebook remains omnipresent. Almost all browser-based games use Facebook Connect to have their application on the open web for full control over their product and revenues without having to pay 30% Facebook tax, while at the same time still being able to benefit from Facebook’s social ecosystem. UK-based casino game developer Yazino moved away from the Facebook canvas in November but the company still leverages the Facebook Social Graph. So is the future of the Facebook game outside the Facebook platform?
A counter example would be King.com. The Swedish casual games developer (founded in 2003) was already a big player on the web before entering Facebook. Their move to publish games on the Facebook canvas came as late as February 2011 and brought them surges in new traffic – currently over 23 million monthly active users. According to Riccardo Zacconi, King.com’s CEO, the company had 300 million games played on its platform per month in December 2010. Now, after the company became a highly successful Facebook publisher 1.4 billion King.com games are played per month.
A dark horse has entered the race
In the platform race, Google+ Games is a dark horse because so far its unclear whether Google+ will be able to attract and retain a mass audience and if that audience is keen on gaming at all. Google is ramping up its games platform and following a different approach than Facebook’s ‘everybody can publish anything’.
Google+ offers a choice of now 33 games that can be browsed in categories such as New games or Top games and also editorial staff picks – something that Facebook deliberately avoids. There appears to be an effort of maintaining a healthy mix in games and genres from Angry Birds to CityVille and Kabam’s story driven Godfather franchise. This might be a reaction to Facebook’s ‘Ville-dominated’ monoculture as well Google’s own Android Market which is often criticized as cluttered and disorganized in comparison to Apples App Store.
Bigpoint has concluded several months of development on its game portal at Bigpoint.com which, offers one central hub with access to numerous online games for the site’s 225 million registered users.
One significant change at Bigpoint.com is the account management system: Registered gamers can now link their access data for various games to their Bigpoint portal login, meaning only one login is now needed to play games.
Facebook members can also log in directly to Bigpoint.com using the Facebook account and then start playing immediately.
The new five main game categories are action, casual, strategy, MMORPG and sports. Within these new categores Bigpoint offers over 60 games.
Among the biggest hits are games developed in-house at Bigpoint as well as casual game Farmerama, the action MMORPG Drakensang Online and the deep space classic DarkOrbit, as well as highly regarded titles from partner publishers EA and mail.ru.
The new Bigpoint.com will be launched in several phases: After the initial start phase, a number of new functions will be introduced to the site in the coming weeks and months, including additional social content.
SponsorPay has partnered with Bigpoint, a top browser games publisher, to make BrandEngage the exclusive in-game advertising platform for the latter’s games in Europe. Over the past few months, advertisers have been flocking to casual gaming’s global audience of over one billion players. These users exhibit both higher engagement rates than traditional media as well as stronger inclination to interact with ad campaigns. According to a recent report by Saatchi & Saatchi and Ipsos OTX MediaCT, two in five consumers prefer to receive new product information through messaging in online games versus 3% who opt for TV/radio advertising. Bigpoint, the leading global browser-based game provider, counts more than 220 million international users who speak over 30 languages. The company’s highly successful games portfolio includes ZooMumba, Skyrama, RamaCity and, most prominently, Farmerama, a popular virtual farming game with more than 30 million registered users. The demographics of the players of these games are very different from the average gamer – they’re typically women aged 35 to 45 who are eager to consume online content.
Bigpoint, an international leader in online games, is immediately taking over the entire production team of the development studio 49Games. More than 40 full-time employees will now become part of Bigpoint’s international team and will be developing online games instead of console titles. The current projects under development in 49Games will be completed by the production team. Aside from the production team, all rights to their multiplatform technology, assets, licenses etc. remain the property of 49Games. Bigpoint will concentrate solely on the development of online and mobile games in the future. The recently taken-over developers will be focusing on upcoming Unity 3D projects. After the takeover and merger of Radon Labs and Elofd in Berlin last year and the purchase of Planet Moon Studios at the start of 2011, this is the fourth takeover for the world’s largest browser-based online game provider Bigpoint.
“We plan on expanding,” states so Heiko Hubertz, “and so we’re still on the lookout for other excellent studios like 49 Games. In the future, we’re definitely going to make more international acquisitions.” The Hamburg-based game development studio, 49Games, was an independent development studio of console-sports games in Europe. The company spun off from the VCC entertainment company in 2004 and has developed 18 multi-platform sports titles since. These titles were published for the XBox 360, Wii, PS3, PS2 and PC. The studio’s team is composed of 45 full-time developers who have developed games like Winter Stars, Winter Sports 2011 – Go for Gold, Summer Challenge 2010, RTL Wintersports 2010 and other titles.
Bigpoint yesterday announced that it has surpassed 200 million registered users worldwide, doubling from 100 million users in less than 18 months. The rapid growth rate sets a new record for the company, which ranks among the top gaming networks in the world.“This is another major milestone that our company has achieved in a short period of time,” explains Heiko Hubertz, founder and Co-CEO of Bigpoint.com.
Bigpoint has built and a global distribution network that includes over 1000 media partners who promote the company’s games. To account for such widespread distribution, which requires its titles to be localized into 25 languages, Bigpoint has integrated over 180 payment solutions. The company processes over one billion transactions every day.Bigpoint’s browser-based game portfolio includes titles for every segment in the market, including hardcore, core, and casual games. Popular titles like Seafight, Farmerama, and Battlestar Galactica Online alone garnered more than two million registrations in the last three months.
Online game providers Bigpoint and Mail.Ru Group have agreed to a long-term partnership. Bigpoint and Mail.Ru Group will soon offer selected partner games on their portals. Russian-speaking players who log in via Mail.Ru will be able to find Bigpoint games including Farmerama, DarkOrbit, Seafight or Battlestar Galactica Online. On the other hand, Bigpoint users will also be able to access MMORPGs such as Legend Legacy of the Dragons, Juggernaut, Empire Craft, GodsWar Online via bigpoint.com. Bigpoint games will also be integrated into the Mail.Ru Group’s social networks, Odnoklassniki and My World, which are popular in Russian-speaking countries. Both platforms hope to gain access to new target groups.
Browser game giant Bigpoint today announced that Summit Partners and TA Associates have signed definitive documentation to invest $350 million to recapitalize the company and position it for continued strong global growth.“The investment by TA Associates and Summit Partners is a validation of Bigpoint’s leadership position within the gaming industry, and will give us a huge boost toward becoming one of the most successful gaming companies worldwide,” said Heiko Hubertz, CEO and Founder of Bigpoint. “Summit Partners and TA Associates are supporting Bigpoint’s international expansion — a course we set out upon in recent months with the opening of new offices in the United States and Brazil. I’m looking forward to a future partnership of mutual trust and cooperation.”
TA Associates and Summit Partners jointly will own a controlling share of Bigpoint. Previous shareholder Comcast Interactive Capital’s Peacock Equity Fund will sell their holdings in this transaction. GMT Communications Partners and GE will sell a majority of their stakes. Hubertz will retain his existing ownership stake.“Regarding myself, I kept my share,” said Hubertz.“I see the potential in Bigpoint to exceed a value of one billion dollars and become the top online gaming company in the world.” Added Hubertz,“Our thanks go to GMT Communications Partners and Peacock Equity Fund for three very exciting years. Their support has seen the company rapidly grow during this period.”
Bigpoint is one of the leading companies in online games that can be played directly in the browser. With more than 185 million registered users, the company has a varied portfolio of internationally successful and recognized games and brands, including Battlestar Galactica Online,FarmeramaandDarkOrbit. The company’s over 700 employees are currently working on the next generation of gaming with upcoming blockbusters such as The Mummy Online, RamaCity and Drakensang Online. Summit Partners and TA Associates will join the Bigpoint Board of Directors, which consists of Founder Hubertz and Board Chairman Simon Guild. Completion is subject to regulatory approval and other standard conditions.
Bigpoint continues its international expansion by opening a new office in Sao Paolo, Brazil’s largest city. The new office is Bigpoint’s fifth, after Hamburg, Berlin, Malta, and San Francisco. As of January 2011, the new location is expected to serve as the workplace for approximately ten employees, who will be responsible for Business Development, Marketing, and PR for Latin-American countries. There are currently no plans for in-house game development in Brazil.
“The Latin-American Internet market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world,” said Heiko Hubertz, CEO and founder of Bigpoint. “This new location will become a new strategic focus point for our international expansion.” Bigpoint is starting out with strong media partners in their new Brazilian location, and has already signed up Orkut, the biggest social network in Brazil who will integrate Bigpoint browser games such as Seafight, DarkOrbit and Farmerama on their website. More Brazilian partners will be announced shortly.
The situation on Nasza Klasa is fairly similar to last week. All games continue to grow and only Pet Party and Swiat Danio register two digit growth. In the case of Pet Party the growth is due to heavy promotion: Pet Party and Happy Harvest are the only games advertised with significantly larger icons on the games section. This week we can additionally report new entries. German browser game giant Bigpoint integrated their top browser games Dark Orbit and Seafight. Both have not made it into the Top 10 yet but count about 80.000 installs each after just a few days. We wait in vain for game adaptations or social features of any kind. Same as the Bigpoint games on MySpace, Dark Orbit and Seafight can just be accessed over Nasza Klasa while the game does not differ in any kind from the browser game version.
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