American McGee’s The Gate is like ‘Pokemon in hell’

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A free-to-play action game where players collect demons while battling in hell, and it’s created by legendary designer American McGee?

Count us in (even if it makes our virtual feet burn).

“Our studio has a background making console and larger-scale PC games, so we’ve been trying to bring a bit of the quality and style and the 3D assets to the mobile and multi-player space,” says McGee. “This is actually our fourth title in the mobile/online space, and it’s taking everything we’ve learned, combined with the knowledge that DeNA has brought to the table, specifically with games within this genre, and we’ve wrapped it inside a story where the player is going into hell. I’ve been jokingly describing it as Pokemon in hell because you’re fighting against demons, then collecting these same demons and then doing the usual card collecting and upgrading of and skill-expansion of those units.

“We’ve also presented the fight mechanic in a pretty interesting way, as it’s much closer to a traditional RTS or RPG-style interface, so the player can engage with, in real time, the battles between the units as those things play out.”

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CocoaChina, Gameloft partner for Chinese localization of Asphalt 8, Dragon Hunter 4

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Image courtesy Gameloft

Gameloft continues to expand upon its partnership with Chinese game developer and platform creator CocoaChina, announcing the localization of two upcoming titles to the Chinese market.

Gameloft’s Asphalt 8: Airborne (pictured) and Dungeon Hunter 4 are next in line to be brought to Chinese players, using CocoChina’s localized strategies in monetization, piracy-prevention and more.

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Yodo1 raises $5M in Series A funding, CEO Henry Fong on the company’s partner selection process

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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.

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PapayaMobile launches SDK aimed at monetizing in China

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Social game distribution and monetization company PapayaMobile announced the launch of a new SDK to help independent Android developers access the Chinese mobile market.

The first free game with in-app purchases to launch in China using the new SDK will be Scottish developer Cobra Mobile’s WW2 shooter iBomber for Android.

The PapayaMobile SDK helps Android app and game developers monetize by plugging into the company’s cross-promotion and ad network AppFlood, where they can buy, sell or exchange ads and traffic with advertisers and other publishers.

More importantly, the SDK also plugs into China Mobile, China’s biggest mobile operator with more than 700 million subscribers, to allow for in-app purchasing via carrier billing.

Carrier billing is tremendously important if not absolutely necessary in order to monetize in the Chinese market. In November 2012, CocoaChina’s US GM Lei Zhang Zhang told us that carrier billing accounted for 90 percent of Fishing Joy 2’s total revenue of $1.6 million per month. At the 2013 Game Developers Conference Yodo1’s CEO Henry Fong told us that there may be other companies that are able to push games and apps to the many Android app stores in China, but that only those with standing deals with the mobile carriers and access to carrier billing will be able to monetize.

The official release from PapayaMobile claims that the company is taking the lead in opening up the Chinese market to Western developers, but in reality they are already in competition with big and established players such as the aforementioned Yodo1 (which also offers important localization services), InMobi’s App Publish distribution platform which can push an app or game to more than 130 Android app stores in a few clicks, and others.

CocoaChina’s Fishing Joy generating more than $6M a month worldwide

CocoaChina logoChinese mobile game developer and platform maker CocoaChina today revealed that its flagship franchise Fishing Joy is now generating $6.28 million per month in revenue worldwide, with more than 10 million daily active users (DAU), doubling its monthly revenue in two months.

CocoaChina attributes the game’s success to continued optimization and the rapid growth of the Chinese smartphone user base. The company also increased the game’s reach by reducing the game’s package size, making it more attractive to users with limited bandwidth and data plans.

Last month, the company’s U.S. general manager Lei Zhang told Inside Mobile Apps that Fishing Joy 2 (responsible for the vast majority of the revenue) was generating $4 million in gross revenue as of February.

Inside Mobile Apps also talked to CocoaChina in Nov. 2012 about the company’s strategy for the Chinese market. Zhang attributed Fishing Joy 2’s success to his company’s broad distribution strategy, a stringent anti-piracy policy, and most importantly, access to carrier billing. Back then Fishing Joy 2 was pulling in $1.6 million a month from the Chinese Android market.

Fishing Joy’s 10 million DAU is nothing to sneeze at as well. Monthly active users (MAU) and DAU figures are generally kept close to the vest by mobile game developers. For comparison, Electronic Arts’ hit resource management game The Simpsons: Tapped Out was said to have reached 2.8 million DAU after the title was ranked No. 1 on the iOS top grossing apps charts in October 2012.

Inside Mobile App also recently reported on CocoaChina’s high profile hire of Kai Zhao as its U.S. VP of Engineering and its plans to launch a social gaming platform in 2013.

Animoca releases data on the top Android handsets and OS versions in the U.S.

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Android-focused Mobile game developer and publisher Animoca released data showing the Samsung Galaxy S3 as the top Android handset in the U.S. and Ice Cream Sandwich as the top version of the Android platform.

Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S3, grabbed an 8.8 share among the top Android smartphones in the U.S. The Galaxy S2 landed at the No. 2 spot, with a 6.1 percent share. In total, five of the top 10 Android phones in the U.S. were manufactured by Samsung. It should come as no surprise that the South Korean conglomerate is the top Android smartphone manufacturer in the U.S., with data from both mobile ad network Millennial Media and analytics firm ComScore showing the same result. Korean manufacturers, in general, dominated the top three spots, with the Galaxy S3, Galaxy S2 and the LG Motion 4G MS770 accounting for 19.7 percent of U.S. Android phones.Animoca top Android smartphones

What’s interesting about Animoca’s data is how much different its Android platform data varies when compared to Google’s developer dashboard, which breaks down the Android platform usage on devices by version. Animoca showed Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0.4) as the top Android version, with a 33.5 percent share of devices running Android. Comparatively, Google showed Ice Cream Sandwich taking a 29.0 percent share (version 4.0.3 and 4.0.4 combined). According to Animoca’s data, Gingerbread (both version 2.3.4 and 2.3.6) only grabbed a 22.9 percent share at the No. 2 and No. 5 spots, while Google’s data showed Gingerbread (versions 2.3 to 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 to 2.3.7) leading all versions with a 45.6 percent share.Animoca top Android platforms

Animoca released a similar report that showed its findings on the top U.S. Android handsets and platforms back in Nov. 2012. Android devices running Jelly Bean or higher accounted for a 46.1 percent of the overall share back in Nov. 2012, but it’s now up to 61.5 percent in its most recent report.

The Hong Kong-based game company collected data for this report between Jan. 15 and Feb. 15 from users of Animoca’s Android smartphone games downloaded through Google Play — tablets excluded — in the U.S.

UPDATE: Shortly after publishing, Google updated its developer dashboard. Below are Google’s updated market share figures of the Android platform usage on devices for Ice Cream Sandwich, Gingerbread and Jelly Bean:

  • Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0.3 and 4.0.4 combined): 28.6 percent
  • Gingerbread (versions 2.3 to 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 to 2.3.7): 44.2 percent
  • Jelly Bean (Both versions 4.1 and 4.2): 16.5

This story originally appearing on our sister site Inside Mobile Apps.

Tencent’s social networking revenues increase to $345.7M in Q2 2012

Chinese internet giant Tencent has reported second quarter revenues of 10.5 billion RMB ($1.6 billion), up 9.1 percent quarter-over-quarter and 56.2 percent year-over-year.   Net profit for Q2 2012 was 3.1 billion RMB ($490.1 million), up 5.1 percent quarter-over-quarter and 32 percent year-over-year.

One again, Tencent was the most popular social network in China, reporting 597.6 million monthly active user (MAU) accounts  for its Qzone virtual identity social network, up 3.6 percent quarter-over-quarter and 11.5 percent year-over-year. The company’s real-name social network Pengyou showed more rapid growth, with 247.7 million MAU accounts, up 15.5 percent from last quarter’s figure of 214.5 MAU accounts.

Revenues from Tencent’s community and open platforms (which include Qzone and Pengyou) increased 7.8 percent quarter-over-quarter to 2.2 billion RMB ($345.7 million) riding on growth of item-based sales within applications. Tencent’s online game revenues increased 4.6 percent quarter-over-quarter to 5.5 billion RMB ($864.4 million). Although game revenues were down in China due to seasonal fluctuations like school exams, international revenues continued to climb and made up for the difference.

Meanwhile revenue from Tencent’s mobile and telecommunications value added services (MVAS) — the category the company’s mobile games, apps and services fall into — was 929 million RMB ($146.9 million), up 1.7 percent from Q1’s 913 million RMB.

Tencent’s shares are currently trading at 230 Hong Kong dollars ($29.64), giving the company a market capitalization of 419.3 billion Hong Kong dollars ($54.05 billion).

What the U.S. Can Learn from China in Mobile Social Gaming

Editor’s Note: Chris Shen (pictured) is VP of Chinese online game developer and operator The9. He is also the general manager of the company’s mobile business unit. In this guest post, Shen outlines the convergence of social and mobile gaming in the West and how it compares to China’s experience. The9 recently updated Inside Mobile Apps on the growth of Game Zone, its mobile-social games platform.

With billion-dollar purchases of mobile companies like Instagram by Facebook, it’s very clear social companies are taking mobile seriously. Gaming is no exception, as evidenced by U.S. social powerhouse, Zynga. The online social games company has been creating more mobile titles in addition to buying OMGPOP, maker of sensational mobile game Draw Something, at the height of its popularity — only to see user numbers plummet shortly thereafter. Other social gaming companies, like CrowdStar, have declared they’re moving away from online to focus entirely on mobile games.

In order to understand how social gaming can effectively jump to mobile, U.S. companies need only to look east.

As social gaming struggles to find itself in the U.S., China’s mobile social landscape is flourishing. Why? China has already been there. Social gaming made the jump from online to mobile a few years ago in China, and now foreign developers are looking to tap into this profitable market. Just as popular PC game franchises like Warcraft have moved from the single-computer downloadable model to online networks, mobile games will become more profitable as they become more social.

While Chinese-developed games are showing impressive monetization numbers, foreign developers are realizing the need for an insider’s knowledge — to tap into China’s existing social gaming frameworks and understand its virtual purchasing habits.

The primary hurdle for mobile game monetization in China is piracy — a resistance to pay for downloads of even the most popular games. The Chinese app market is a confusing and fragmented one, with numerous third-party channels rather than the reigning Apple App Store that exists in the U.S. market. With nearly unlimited access to free pirated copies of games, mobile users are disinclined to pay for downloads. In moving to free-to-play gaming models, Chinese developers have taken a stand against piracy, a rampant problem in the country. If games are free, with other methods of monetization, they can’t be stolen.

And at the same time, this model encourages profits — Analysys International predicts a 75 percent increase in revenue from mobile social games in China over the next year. China’s mobile gaming revenue spike can be attributed to an effective social layer, coupled with high-quality gameplay. For monetization on mobile, Facebook has been concentrating on bolstered advertising, but maybe it needs to focus more on its Payments platform — and on promoting games that have high user-retention and promote virtual goods sales.

As Facebook’s relationship with its gaming partners becomes rockier, more developers will be looking to China — the biggest growing mobile market with one billion users. According to research firm Ovum, global virtual sales in games — including PC, mobile and console games — will jump to $53 billion by 2016. That’s more than a 100 percent increase from last year. In China, the games showing this kind of profit are largely those linked to social networks. The two most profitable games in China last year were distributed by Tencent, China’s largest Internet service portal with 700 million users.

Other Chinese companies — The9, NetDragon and PapayaMobile, to name a few — have also seen success localizing and distributing games, both Chinese and foreign, to the Chinese market through social means. But things get tricky when non-Chinese developers attempt to distribute their own games in China and aren’t familiar with this different app marketplace. According to Analysys, 43 percent of Chinese gamers who have paid for mobile games did so in free-to-play games by purchasing virtual goods. By contrast, only 27 percent paid to download a game in the first place.

For example, Australian games studio Halfbrick teamed up with Chinese Android developer iDreamSky to distribute its hit game Fruit Ninja in China. A key aspect of this partnership was integrating Fruit Ninja with an in-game transactions platform and with China’s social networks — bringing in $6 million of revenue for Halfbrick in 2011.

China’s mobile gaming market is a burgeoning gold mine that Analysys anticipates will hit revenues of $4.5 billion by 2015, and it will be interesting to see how many U.S. developers try their luck in the Chinese mobile gaming market as the Facebook-Zynga relationship plays out.

This guest post originally appeared on our sister site, Inside Mobile Apps.

Tencent sees revenues from mobile, social increase as net profit rises 16% to $467.7 million in Q1 2012

Chinese internet services giant Tencent reported total revenues of 9.64 billion yuan ($1.53 billion) for the first quarter of 2012, up 21.8 percent quarter-over-quarter and 5.2 percent year-over-year.  Net profit for the quarter was 2.96 billion yuan ($467.7 million) up 16 percent from the company’s Q4 2011 net profit of 2.55 billion ($402.9 million).

The company was once again the No. 1 social network in China by monthly active users. Tencent reported 576.7 million active user accounts on its QZone virtual identity social network, up 9.7 percent year-on-year. Pengyou, the company’s real-name social network saw active user accounts increase to 214.5 million, up 30.2 percent year-on-year. The company did not break out detailed monthly active or daily active user accounts.

Revenues on Tencent’s community and open platforms (which includes QZone and Pengyou) increased 6.0 percent quarter-over-quarter to 2.06 billion yuan ($325.5 million). The company credited the increase to what it called “a significant increase” in item-based sales within applications on its open platforms.

Over the past year Tencent has been aggressively courting international developers to EA, Zynga and Crowdstar to bring hit Western titles to its platform, and appears to be emerging at the platform of choice for social game developers looking to set up in China. The company’s major rival in the space, Renren recently revealed only 19.3 percent of its registered users were active on a monthly basis.

Tencent’s revenues from mobile and telecommunications value-added services rose to 913.8 million yuan ($145.2 million), an increase of 7.0 percent quarter-over-quarter and 17.5 percent year-on-year. Over the past year Tencent has been trying to increase the importance of mobile games and apps in its business.

Tencent’s shares are currently trading at 224 Hong Kong dollars ($28.84), giving the company, which is one of the largest publicly traded technology firms in the world, a market capitalization of 412.83 billion Hong Kong dollars ($53.15 billion).

5th Planet Games acquires To Be Continued LLC

Collectible card game developer 5th Planet Games has acquired New York-based game design consulting company To Be Continued. The buy nets 5th Planet all of To Be Continued’s current and future projects — which include CCGs based on Twilight, The Walking Dead and two unnamed Hollywood properties.

5th Planet Games first partnered with To Be Continued on its 2011 hardcore Facebook CCG Clash of the Dragons. Based on that experience and To Be Continued’s history with the broader CCG community, 5th Planet Games decided to make the acquisition to bolster its position as the top hardcore CCG developer in the social games space.

“They are experts in their domain and they bring a ton of intellectual horsepower to the team,” 5th Planet Games Chief Business Officer Braden Moulton tells Inside Social Games. “[Co-founder] Brian David-Marshall is the official Magic: The Gathering historian and announcer of the Magic Pro Tour. [Co-founder] Matthew Wang has a depth of financial and entertainment industry experience. With that background comes networking and reaching new partnerships — we’ll be announcing a major new IP very soon that is a direct result of working with the TBC team.”

Aside from Clash of the Dragons and said unannounced new project, the To Be Continued team will also focus on growing its existing design and development business for core IPs. The developer’s experience also lends itself toward pushing 5th Planet Games into new markets. 5th Planet Games already hosts games on its own site and on hardcore gamer-focused network Kongregate. Beyond those platforms, 5th Planet hopes to launch games on Chinese networks later this year and is prepping Clash of the Dragons and Dawn of the Dragons for mobile launches in July.

“I know Facebook is working to improve the experience for mid and small size developers, but right now we’re experiencing exponential success outside of their ecosystem,” Moulton says. “We’re aggressively pivoting to other platforms and markets that are more favorable to our business. Acquiring TBC strengthens our push to these markets by increasing our product velocity and improving game design for our demographic of core players.”

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

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