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


Digital Chocolate Launches SLOTS! Pocket UK with Real-Money Play Powered by Betable

By Camilla Noon

Digital Chocolate, a leader in social games across growing platforms, today announced the launch of SLOTS! Pocket UK for iPhone and iPad, exclusively in the United Kingdom, with real-money play powered by Betable. The game gives players based in the UK the option to wager either real-money or virtual currency and chips on pulls of the slot machine, a combination that will leverage both broad and highly monetizing audiences.

SLOTS! Pocket UK’s real-money gameplay is powered by UK-licensed Betable, with whom Digital Chocolate entered into an exclusive partnership at the end of 2012. Betable handles all the real-money aspects of the game, including compliance, fraud prevention, identity checks, wagering and gambling results. Players need to authenticate with Betable – signing up, depositing money, etc. – before they can participate in real-money play.

“Real-money play is a major growth opportunity in mobile gaming and we believe by combining social game design with RMG, we will help pioneer a whole new class of mobile gaming,” said Jason Loia, Chief Operating Officer of Digital Chocolate. “We are excited to have partnered with Betable to enable RMG in SLOTS! Pocket UK and we look forward to growing our lineup of social real-money games.”

SLOTS! Pocket UK

The variety of ways to play SLOTS! will keep players entertained on end, with seven uniquely-themed slot machines and more launching soon. These machines range from safari to underwater adventure to Wild West, all with their own thrilling sound, characters and storyline. Additionally, players can unlock mini-games based upon spins of the wheel. By completing mini games, players earn the chance to level up and win more. The more friends a player has, the more the combination of potential winning spins increases.

“It’s exciting to see what our partners are doing to innovate casino games like slots,” said Christopher Griffin, CEO & Founder of Betable. “While the incumbents churn out the same games differentiated only by their partners’ branding, companies like Digital Chocolate are building original games that will delight and entertain players whether they choose to play for real-money or not.”


Discussing Mobile Social Gaming – Millionaire City

By Huel Fuchsberger

Being a millionaire is a dream that millions share. This helped “Millionaire City” to peak at 13 million MAU in the end of 2010. Today, it only has about 1,600,000 MAU. For Digital Chocolate it still is the second biggest game on Facebook, according to AppStats. It is also a good example to investigate how an alteration of a classic resource managing game translates onto mobile devices and to discus differences of both platforms and their meaning for social games.

Developer: Digital Chocolate
Genre:  Resource Management
Languages: English
Platforms: Facebook, iOS , Android
Active users (Facebook): 1.600.000 MAU 250.000 DAU

How to play
In this early resource managing game the goal is to accumulate resources, build more and more advanced buildings and decorate the city with new shiny items. For “Millionaire City” that means getting money through renting property. The user levels up and unlocks more profitable properties to build his own digital real estate empire. Although the goals of both versions are the same, the appeal is not.  It’s the details that make the difference between the Facebook and mobile version of the game.

iPod-Screenshot-Millionaire City

Game play – touching is not clicking

The touch screen doesn’t change the possibilities for the player in the game but changes his interaction with the game. The mouse has several advantages here. The mouse always feels fast and precise. The player only needs a few seconds to select a building and build it where he wants, more information is shown via simply letting the mouse hover over the property of interest. Zooming in and out is easy and smooth with the mouse wheel. On touch devices all those interactions are bit notchier.

Buildings have to be dragged and dropped into position and then confirmed to be build. For more information the player has to open a new screen by taping on buildings. Zooming in and out is intuitive with the pitching motion but doesn’t feel as responsive compared to a mouse wheel. Right now, Facebook versions of most social games feel smoother when played than via touch screen on mobile devices. Taping on a screen and clicking a mouse may do the same, but it doesn’t feel the same.

Facebook screen shot Millionaire City

Presentation – mobile ghost town

On Facebook Millionaire City has very bright and colorful graphics with appealing animations. Due to the more limited resources of mobile devices the game doesn’t look as good as on Facebook. Again the details are the difference. On Facebook the player can examine his whole empire at once, not so on mobile devices. Also no vehicles are driving on the streets of the city on portable devices, giving the city an intensified feeling of emptiness. With less bright colors compared to the Facebook version and buildings that look muddier in comparison – cities build by the player have more similarities with a ghost town. Also missing on the iOS and Android versions are some small animations when collecting money, building and other interaction. In summary this results in a superior look and feel of the Facebook version. It seems like mobile social games don’t play as well as their social counterpart.

Millionaire City on mobile devices isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t a good one either. It shares the problem of many mobile social games that try to sell the same game mechanics of their desktop analogues. Facebook and mobile are two different platforms that have their own set of rules.


Trip Hawkins Interview Pt.1: Discovery, the Browser and Why Non-Apple Tablets Could be the Future

By Regina Leuwer

Trip Hawkins is one of the game industry’s most prolific and influential people. He worked for Apple before he founded Electronic Arts, and later 3DO. Currently he is CEO of his latest venture, mobile and social gaming firm Digital Chocolate. We got the chance to sit down with Trip and discuss why he advocates the browser as the platform of choice for developers, as well as some other topics around gaming, discovery and disruption.

SocialGamesObserver: Trip, you said in the era of convenience the browser is going to win – but isn’t a closed ecosystem, e.g. a console or App Stores so successful precisely because they are most convenient to use?

Trip Hawkins: The thing about private clubs is that not everybody can get in, and not everybody wants to join the same club, so they end up being elitist institutions. It’s OK if you’re one of the members but if you’re a game developer you want to reach a larger audience than that. And pretty much from this moment forward every human being that’s going to be born is going to know how to use the browser by the time they’re five years old. It’s a very solid, very capable platform, and when people are using the browser they’re also using all the social channels.

I think this is a big change in how we’re going to decide what to try because we come from this history of going to a shop and somebody else has decided what we see in the front of this shop – but they don’t really know me or care about me that much. They’re responding more to brand power and financial leverage and whoever has got a chokehold over controlling that shelf space.

When you look at the discovery model on the internet, the storefront is created by the consumer. One way the consumer is looking is ‘What are my friends doing?’ Anything that comes with a recommendation like that has more meaning to me because it’s from a trusted source that knows me. The second category is search – clearly that’s me designing my own store that has sponsored sections where somebody paid to respond to that search, and it has an organic section where the search engine has decided who deserves to be there purely on their own merit. That’s a relevant source to me because I’m looking for something specific and here are the people that really want my attention.

SGO: But what about people who aren’t searching for games. Doesn’t a more closed environment like Facebook or the App Store turn a lot of people into gamers because it brings games to the attention on regular users?

Trip: I don’t think the point is the fact that it’s closed. What Apple did, in a very inspiring way is that they reinvented a user experience on a mobile device that was really fresh and appealing. It immediately caused a lot of people to think ‘Oh I didn’t realize I needed a mobile content platform but now that I can do it that way, I want it’. They didn’t want it in a Java feature phone but when they saw an iPhone they went ‘That looks like fun’. Android is an example where there is a more open platform because there are different manufacturers, different handsets and fragmentation. If an Android device has as much graphic processing power and capacitive touch display, it’s going to have a lot of the same appeal and positive characteristics of an iPhone – and it’s about that and not the fact that it’s a closed system.

SGO: Do you think that the browser can replace native apps?

Trip: The game industry has a huge bias towards game performance, graphics and animation. It’s always overrated, and the industry continues to overrate it. When you look at every other medium you see that it’s been disrupted in this fashion already. It’s a little slower to happen in games because they’re more complex data type. But inevitably it’s going to happen – and Japan is an example where it’s already happened. In Japan the big high-growing game markets are in the browser on feature phones. The console market has declined and the smartphones are just beginning to arrive in Japan, but they had already decided that the browser is the better way to go and they were doing it even on the feature phone.

Maybe it’s harder to believe that the browser on a smartphone, maybe the Android smartphone, will blow the App Store out of the water. But what about tablets? A tablet has a bigger screen, it’s much easier to access World Wide Web content on it and be able to use it. A lot of people would like to use them as mobile devices but something like battery life I think is more mission-critical for a phone than it is for a tablet. If my phone goes dead, I go dead. If my child’s tablet goes dead in the car – it’s not the end of the world. The tablets are going to improve in performance, screens will get better, they’ll be able to run better browsers.

SGO: So tablets will be the future of browser-based games?

Trip: When the iPhone was introduced, Google didn’t already have Android. It took three years for them to make it and convince people to adopt it. With the iPad, Apple didn’t have a lead because Android was already in the market and manufacturers were building Android products. Whatever happened in smartphones, it’s going to be more extreme in tablets.

The volume in non-Apple tablets is going to get so big so fast it’s going to make your head spin. The other thing is that when Apple introduced the App Store, they caught the fancy of the world because it was very clever. The first year of tablets coming to market every review talked about screen size, battery life and App Store. Nobody talked about the browser. I guarantee you within a year a lot of the reviews of tablets will talk about the browser and the public is going to figure out that the World Wide Web will always have more content than any app store. And thankfully there are no corporate profit interests that can prevent the browser from existing.

Read the second part of the interview


Digital Chocolate Announces Launch of Five Games for Intel AppUpSM Center

By Gary Merrett

Digital Chocolate, a leader in cross-platform social games and an Intel Capital portfolio company, announced today the launch of five premium games for Intel AppUp center, the applications marketplace for users of millions of Intel Atom  processor-based devices, such as netbooks and tablets. With its broad expertise of cross-platform development, Digital Chocolate now brings its award-winning hit franchises, such as Tower Bloxx and Rollercoaster Rush, to the screens of netbook and laptop users globally.

Among the games that Digital Chocolate will make available on the Intel AppUp center are Rollercoaster Rush: New York, 3D Tower Bloxx Deluxe Crazy Penguin Catapult, Chocolate Shop Frenzy and Pyramid Bloxx. The new releases demonstrate Digital Chocolate’s increasing cross-platform reach. The company’s proprietary in-house technology tools allow the company to efficiently convert and optimize games from platform to platform, making its titles available to new players around the world.


Digital Chocolate Launches Zombie Lane on Facebook

By Thorsten Bleich

Digital Chocolate, a leader in social games across growing platforms, has announced the launch of Zombie Lane on Facebook. The game is currently recruiting players in the quest to defend and take back control of their neighborhood from the endless waves of zombies. “Zombies continue to be an incredibly popular theme in games and movies,” said Marc Metis, President of Digital Chocolate. “We’ve set out to create the first great Zombie game on Facebook.” Customize everything about your character from its gender, appearance, to choice of weapons. You can either purchase your weapon from the market or gather materials around your homestead to assemble super weapons such as the powerful flamethrower that provides unique firepower.

Robert, the friendly Rent-a-Cop, will help direct players through the missions where they’ll encounter a humorous collection of zombies from all walks of life with different strengths – from waitress and plumber zombies to the always present zombie salesmen. Challenging horde quests will put you and your fellow neighbors in survival mode. Players will be able to meet other fun and vibrant characters in the game including Farmer Frank, helping him to harvest his crops. Created to take advantage of the social features on the platform, players can gift items and share coins with friends, and visit friends’ neighborhoods to help in the fight. Digital Chocolate will be implementing a steady wave of enhancements and new content to Zombie Lane in the coming weeks.


Digital Chocolate Secures $12 Million Investment

By Sebastian Sujka

Social games developer Digital Chocolate announced today it has closed $12 million in Series D financing. This round was led by Intel Capital and includes participation from prior investors Sutter Hill Ventures and Bridgescale Partners. The new funding comes on the heels of Digital Chocolate’s successful 2010 during which it became one of the top five global games publishers on Facebook. The company has also achieved more than 100 million mobile downloads, and has brought its social games to the smartphone and tablet platforms. With this additional growth capital, the company plans to further expand its scale, cross-platform capabilities, and geographic reach.

The announcement represents a commitment to the continued expansion of Digital Chocolate’s strategy. “The investment from Intel Capital supports our vision of publishing leading social games across different devices and platforms,” said Trip Hawkins, founder and CEO of Digital Chocolate. “The strength of our team, combined with the strategic insight and support from Intel Capital and existing investors, will help extend our leadership in the evolving social gaming market.”


Digital Chocolate Launches Hollywood City on Facebook

By Gary Merrett

Social game developer Digital Chocolate has announced the launch of Hollywood City on Facebook. Hollywood City gives players the chance to create their own entertainment empire on the leading social networking site. “Hollywood City lets players step into the shoes of a movie mogul building their empire from the ground up.”

“Movies fascinate and entertain all of us,” said Marc Metis, President of Digital Chocolate. “Hollywood City lets players step into the shoes of a movie mogul building their empire from the ground up.” Hollywood City allows players to create a movie paradise with studios for horror, drama, comedy and more as they build out their lot and surrounding city. Players can ‘greenlight’ productions for feature films, make TV commercials, music videos and more to make big money while they live the Hollywood dream. Created specifically to take full advantage of the social features on the platform, players can trade and compete with friends on Facebook. Digital Chocolate will be implementing