When Electronic Arts purchased Playfish in late 2009 for $400 million, the social game startup was riding high with millions of monthly active users across Facebook games like Restaurant City, Pet Society, and Country Story. Just three and a half years later, the company is all but nonexistent, as its final original game, Pet Society, will be shut down on June 14.
Facebook game closures are nothing new, but typically, developers release new games as they shutter underperforming titles. With Playfish, and in fact most of EA’s social division, it seems as though the Facebook platform is being abandoned entirely (The Sims Social and SimCity Social are also being closed this month, as we reported earlier). What does this mean for Playfish’s future? (more…)
Mobile advertising and publishing platform Tapjoy today announced a partnership with South Korea’s largest social mobile platform Kakao, which will allow developers on the Kakao Games platform to monetize with Tapjoy’s advertising and monetization tools.
The Kakao Games platform allows users to play with KakaoTalk users, share game scores, and compete on leaderboards in real-time. Games on the platform now gross more than $40 million per month, the company revealed in a statment.
In March, Tapjoy revealed that approximately 100 million unique viewers who come through its network per month are international, which equates to about 75 percent of its overall unique viewers per month coming from outside the U.S.
The partnership provides Tapjoy the opportunity to deliver premium content within titles on the Kakao Games platform.
KakaoTalk currently has more than 90 million users around the globe, more than 30 million users visiting the platform every day and is South Korea’s practically ubiquitous mobile messaging app. SundayToz was the first developer to get its match-3 puzzler Anipang on KakaoTalk’s game platform. At GDC 2013, SundayToz founder and CEO Kevin Lee told us he spoke with the founder of Kakao, and proposed the idea to turn the messenger app into a game platform, which led to the launch of Anipang for Kakao. Today, Anipang is generating around $500,000 in revenue a day.
Recently, KakaoTalk also demonstrated growth outside of its native South Korea by surpassing the 10 million download mark in Japan on March 24.
Smartphone and tablet revenues increased by 71 percent year-over-year, representing 60 percent of total group sales compared with 43 percent in Q1 2012.
Gameloft attributes its fast growth to the success of the free-to-play model. The company adds that more than 67 percent of its smartphone sales came from in-app purchases and ad revenues in Q1. In terms of which games performed well in the quarter, Gameloft says older titles from as far back as 2011 and 2012 like Dungeon Hunter 4: Zero Hour, World at Arms, My Little Pony, Ice Age Village, Order & Chaos Online, Gangstar Rio: City of Saints and Asphalt 7: Heat, have largely contributed to the company’s strong performance in the first quarter.
Gameloft hopes three recently released titles in the past few weeks including Dungeon Hunter 4, Iron Man 3 and Order & Chaos Duels, help grow sales in future quarters. Gameloft claims Iron Man 3 was the most downloaded game worldwide on the iOS after it was launched. Future releases include Gangstar Vegas, Despicable Me and Uno & Friends.
Gameloft didn’t provide an earnings forecast for Q2 2013. Gameloft’s share price closed today at €5.29 ($6.84), up 0.95 percent.
Full-service Chinese mobile games publisher Yodo1 announced it has secured $5 million in Series A Funding. The round was led by SingTel Group with additional funding from original investor Chang You Fund.
Yodo1 CEO Henry Fong said in a statement that the main challenge for the company now is keeping up with Western developers eager to join its roster of partners. For this reason, the new funding will be used to expand Yodo1′s production capacity to work with more Western game companies and build the company’s platform and production team.
Yodo1, which came out of stealth in June 2012 with $2 million in seed funding, helps its publishing partners crack the Chinese market by focusing on app store distribution, social distribution, payments and advertising. Yodo1 also does a deep dive into the localization process with a fully-staffed studio of artists and developers who work with Western partners to adapt their games to Chinese tastes.
Zynga today announced the departure of Zynga’s New York office general manager Dan Porter, the former CEO and founder of OMGPOP.
Just over a year ago, Zynga acquired New York-based gaming studio OMGPOP for $180 million (with another $30 million earnout), the studio behind hit Pictionary-like mobile title Draw Something.
“Developing and launching games is a team effort, and we’re proud of the great work the Zynga New York team has done with Draw Something 2,,” said Zynga COO David Ko, in a statement. “Our follow up to the original hit is even more social and engaging, and we’re excited to get it into the hands of our players globally. We thank Dan Porter for his efforts in making the Draw Something franchise a success and wish him well in his future endeavors. We’re proud to see talent like Sean Kelly take a bigger leadership role as the Head of our New York studio and lead the team to the global launch of Draw Something 2.”
Sean Kelly, who’s been with the company since 2009, is stepping in for Porter as the head of Zynga’s New York studio. Kelly’s official title is the vice president of mobile and general manager of Zynga New York, reporting to Zynga’s senior vice president of mobile Travis Boatman. Kelly led the launch of CityVille in 2009, which grabbed 100 million players worldwide in less than 30 days, as well as the launch of Running with Friends FarmVille, Dream Zoo, Dream PetHouse, CityVille Hometown and Zynga Poker.
Zynga recently revealed Draw Something 2, the sequel to Draw Something, in a tweet from TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest. The game has soft-launched in Sweden, but no official worldwide release date has been announced yet.
Bee Cave Games today revealed that it has closed an initial seed investment round of over $1.4 million from from employees, select private investors and a strategic investment from Glu Mobile.
The Company’s first title, Blackjack Casino, is now in private beta on Facebook, with mobile and tablet versions in development as well.
Bee Cave Games is a social and mobile games developer founded in late 2012 by former Zynga employees Erik Bethke, Nimai Malle, and Jeremy Strauser, all former employees at Zynga’s Austin office, which was significantly downsized last year. Members of the development team have worked on both social and AAA console and PC titles including Zynga’s Texas Hold’em Poker, EA’s NFL games, and Blizzard’s Diablo series.
27M users bought virtual goods using Facebook Payments in 2012; Zynga’s influence on revenue further diminishes
Approximately 27 million users bought virtual goods using Facebook Payments in 2012, up from 15 million in 2011, according to a document the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today.
Facebook generated $810 million in payments revenue in 2012. CFO David Ebersman said only $5 million of that came from sources outside of games, such as Gifts and user promoted posts. Overall, payments and other fees revenue in 2012 increased $253 million, or 45 percent, compared to 2011, despite close to doubling the number of users buying virtual goods.
That could be because of Facebook’s promotions to get more users spending money in games. Although the volume of paying users increased, it the amount new payers spend could be much less than other players. Another factor could be growth in international markets. Facebook says 51 percent of its revenue from marketers and developers based in the United States, compared to 56 percent in 2011. This figure includes advertising revenue as well, but international developers are increasingly finding success on the social network and the overall number of international users is growing much faster than in the U.S.
2012 was another profitable year for core game developer Kabam. The company today announced the year’s gross revenue exceeded $180 million, up 70 percent year-over-year from 2011.
Although the developer didn’t reveal the exact details of its earnings, it did say that it was profitable for the year. In a statement, Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Chou said the company had initially expected 2012 revenue to grow only by 30 to 40 percent; meanwhile, the company is entering 2013 with an annualized run rate of more than $200 million. The company also revealed that seven of its games were grossing more than $1 million a month in 2012.
Unsurprisingly, mobile proved to be the platform with the most growth for the company, based on the success of titles like Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North and the recent high-profile launch of a tie-in game for Warner Bros. blockbuster Holiday film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, took the No. 1 spot on Apple’s Highest Grossing Apps list for the year of 2012. In 2011, the company’s revenue was coming solely from Facebook, but with the company moving onto open web and mobile platforms, Facebook only accounts for about 30 percent of its present income.
One interesting point to note in this morning’s earnings release was that “Kabam’s average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) is eight- to nine-times higher than the industry’s largest company.” Based on what we’ve heard from Zynga much earlier in 2012, that means Kabam is presumably bringing in at least $0.50 in ARPDAU.
As we recently noted, Kabam isn’t slowing down. The company started the year off by acquiring Vancouver-based Exploding Barrel Games, bringing its worldwide headcount to over 500 people.
Monetization and insights provider W3i is stepping up its game with Pocket Gems and other mobile game developers on Android going into 2013. This could be the year that Google’s platform finally catches up in revenues to Apple’s iOS.
Through its expanded partnership with Pocket Gems, W3i now provides monetization solutions to Tap Paradise Cove and Campus Life. Far from being mere banner ads, the monetization service focuses instead on providing a native experience in these Android apps — tailoring ads, offers and video campaigns to the user experience.
Erik Lundberg, General Manager at W3i’s San Francisco office (pictured), explains that the shift toward native experiences comes from mobile advertising finally moving away from online advertising models. With 15 years in online ads before joining W3i just eight months ago, he’s had time to study the changing trends.
“In the early days of ads and mobile apps, people took online models and slapped them on a smartphone like small banner ads that are only 100 pixels wide,” says Lundberg. “Users have tuned those out. More native ads like a full screen interstitial or offer-based ads, we see a much higher CPM, like 10 times higher. We think that trend will continue toward native ads that are a part of the application instead of just throwing up a banner.”
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