Watercooler Changes Its Name to Kabam, Focuses in on Deeper Social Games

What’s in a name, anyway? For a gamer expecting a particular kind of experience, perhaps a lot. That’s why Watercooler, long known as a publisher of applications for sport fans, is changing its name to Kabam today.

Kabam’s foray into game development began last November, with Kingdoms of Camelot, a relatively complex strategy game on Facebook. It seemed like an unusual bet during the heyday of farming and fishing games, with a geeky fantasy theme and lots of traditional gaming concepts like taxing a population and invading other player’s kingdoms.

Nine months later, Kingdoms is still an unusual title for Facebook — but it has also grown steadily to just over four million monthly active users. That’s proof enough for Kabam that there’s a market for Facebook games that aren’t light or simple experiences.

“We think there’s space in our market to challenge the existing games out there,” says Chris Carvalho, the chief operating officer at Kabam. “When we look out, we really see two trends on Facebook. One is the segment of users that’s really engaged and want more on Facebook, and there are also core gamers who are migrating in. We’re capturing both.”

Kabam is a better name because it’s “impactful”, says Carvalho, but the really meaningful change is to Kabam’s business model, which will be focused almost entirely on games from now on.

The distinction that they must be engaging games sounds a bit tricky at first. It’s clear what might be called non-engaging; a farming game that is little more than a proxy for users to send invitations and share gifts would be a good example. However, most popular Facebook games have now progressed beyond that point, if not always by much.

Carvalho points to some of the features that have made Kingdoms of Camelot successful. “For us, the engagement comes from all the features we’ve put in the the game, like the quest system, the global chat, the high level of competition, and the back-end nature of how we’ve set up the game to level the playing field.”

More features, of course, also add up to more time actually spent in the game, with the average player spending over 30 minutes per session and some staying for an hour or more. “What really distinguishes Camelot is the amount of things to do, and the way it’s set up, like a traditional MMO [massively multiplayer online game]. You can set up alliances, there’s a lot of strategy … we have the same kind of feature set as a traditional MMO.”

Not all players will find that MMO style attractive, of course, but Carvalho thinks players searching for a deeper experience are underserved. “I feel that we can be competitive with the top five industry players. We won’t ever have the reach that they have — we’re not focusing on the mass market titles … But right now we feel there’s a big opportunity with deeper games, and we don’t feel anyone else is filling that.”

In the future, Kabam won’t limit its oeuvre to fantasy games; this year, in fact, it also released the soccer game Epic Goal. That game’s live-action sports theme has only picked up 350,762 MAU so far, but Carvalho says the company will keep working on the game; Kingdoms, also, took a long time to grow.

For its forthcoming titles, Kabam is looking at branded opportunities. Epic Goal itself was launched with Fox Soccer, but the company won’t necessarily stay in sports. Carvalho, who spent a decade doing business development at Star Wars creator Lucasfilm, thinks brands will take on a greater role. “We think they’ll be very important in general for the social gaming industry, and for us,” he says.

We’ve written about other companies betting on deeper gameplay. Earlier this month we noted that strategy games are breaking out on Facebook (led by Kingdoms of Camelot), and we also recently covered Dawn of Dragons, a professionally-written RPG.

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12 Responses to “Watercooler Changes Its Name to Kabam, Focuses in on Deeper Social Games”

  1. Jeff says:

    Good strategy and good move on their part. Zynga-style games feel old already. I don’t want to farm, fish, search for treasure or start a frontier town. It seems that Zynga can only focus on this one silly style of gaming, and that’s getting old fast. I was recently struck by the ads from Watercooler (now Kabam!) that described Kingdoms as “The 1st Real Game.” That stood out. Kudos to them. Interesting story guys.

  2. Josh says:

    I agree. I think we are witnessing a transformation in Facebook gaming. It makes sense that more casual games were the ones to lead the way, but now that Facebook has become a major platform for gaming in general, it makes sense that more engaging games will find their way to success as well. After all, true gamers love games, regardless of what platform.

  3. Josh says:

    By the way, we share a similar vision with Kabam. Our first title (launched only days ago), Clash : Rise of Heroes is THE premier collectible card strategy game on Facebook. So far, even though we have only been live for a few days, we have received fantastic response from our beta testers.

  4. Blogglenecked Again? | The Mark Phillip Takedown says:

    [...] Blogglnecked again? Jeez, how has it been three months since I’ve posted? The world was robbed of my wonderfully profane reaction to this little nugget of Fail.. [...]

  5. Kabam and Sports Illustrated Launch SI Fantasy Football on Facebook says:

    [...] while back, the folks over at Watercooler ( now Kabam) and Sport Illustrated pre-announced a Facebook version of fantasy football. With the 2010 NFL [...]

  6. Larry says:

    Why hasn’t Watercooler updated the sports applications? They are also ignoring all emails from the moderators. We can’t even quit the application without a community manager to release us. Basically, we are forced to moderate dead sites. Why is Watercooler ignoring the people who moderate their sites. Very very very unprofessional!

  7. fitch says:

    watercooler kabam alias is a mafia organization. it charges for games on facebook, but at the same time something intentionally leaving its game players cheat to spend more money to other players who abandon the coup. Whatever else for kabam as “idiots player” will fatten them!
    Several complaints have been filed with facebook and various countries to stop this scam.

  8. regina says:

    I can not believe you are going to close down apps like green spot because its not what you are interested in. You bought a company that you knew had apps that were not what you focus on. That does not mean that the great people that are working on these apps should not continue to do what they are doing. I want the money back I have invested in green spot. I gave money to WH on good faith and now i will have nothing to show for that money.

  9. Quora says:

    I’ve heard Kabam is the one small company in social gaming that is killing it right now. Is that true? If so, why?…

    The reason they’re so obsessed with “hard core” games on Facebook (http://www.insidesocialgames.com/2010/08/03/watercooler-changes-name-kabam-deeper-social-games/) is because they’re keen on replicating the monetization success that KoC provides fo…

  10. Kabam Considers a Big New Funding Round, Following Success of Facebook Strategy Games says:

    [...] shows, Kabam transitioned in 2009 to focus on social games for serious gamers. Its initial foray into this type of application, Kingdoms of Camelot, has according to industry sources generated significant revenue for the [...]

  11. It’s Official: Kabam Announces $85M Fourth Round of Funding says:

    [...] company has transitioned over the years from making lightweight apps for sports and television shows to building hardcore games. Although [...]

  12. Candy Faye says:

    There was a world of our own, man many mqny friends, people who were stay at home, social, it was really exciting, fun, inspring and there will never, qas I never have seen anything like the wonderful game GREEN SPOT. You could do so much, I just cannot believe that it has not returned, it was A #1 THE BEST, why doi you not listen to the people, i know tons of people that played that game, became friends. I looked forward to it. Please explain.

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