Tag: mobile applications (Page 1 of 10)

Mobile Gaming today: about whales, self-publishing and the like…

Didn’t the world change and quickly? Only a few years ago, mobile games worked like a supermarket: if you have shelf-space, you rule. The early kings of mobile gaming 1.0 (which many users today won’t even know about) were the ones that “owned” the relationships with mobile operators (or carriers if you prefer that word), OEM and the like. Those relationships guaranteed that you would be in front of consumers. Those of your competitors who didn’t? Well, tough luck. Today, the picture is very different. There were a few waves since those early days: the Wild West days of iOS and Android (which didn’t happen simultaneously but with similar patterns), the rise and fall of the Zynga empire (and folks who thought that that approach would cure all [business] evils of gaming and, in its latest pattern, the rise of Supercell, Kabam and King and the scratching of heads (and lay-offs of people) in a lot of other gaming outfits.

So what’s this all about then? Now, I won’t be able to offer you the full Monty in just one small blog post (it’s bloody late already) but there are a few pointers that show both the opportunities but also the pitfalls of the whole thing.

Fun Matters

Ilkka Paananen is the CEO of Supercell who are, arguably, the undisputed money-spinners these days. $2.4m/day is their benchmark, and that was a while back. In Q1/2013, they made $179m in revenues and $109m in operating profits (or so says the FT). Their two (!) games ride comfortably in the top-5 of the top-grossing charts of Apple all around the world, sometimes #1 and #2, sometimes #2 and #4 but never far off… When asked, Ilkka (who is as nice a person as you’ll ever meet) will always tell you that fun is what matters first and foremost (and I reckon this is what young master Pinkus wishes he had known earlier…). Ilkka managed to combine a dream of the free-wheeling nature of the likes of Valve, Inc. with the experience he gained in running as tight a ship as Digital Chocolate who, from the olden days of mobile gaming, were amongst the ones who had perfected the tightly-strung mastery of processes and engines. The result were – now famously – a number of canned projects plus two of the most profitable games (on an ROI basis) produced ever.

Alas, Ilkka will tell you that fun matters. If your game is rubbish and no fun, no one will like it, at least not longer term. Some earlier appstore succresses might have wanted to take note… It is an important bit to remember though: games are part of the entertainment side of things. And entertainment is about fun. No fun = no (long-term) success. There is only so much conning you can do…

Marketing is Part of Design

In the olden days, you had developers and suits. The former had grand ideas and the latter were a pain in the rearside. The success of a game always was due to the former and the success was always claimed by the latter. Now though, even the geekiest of developers has realized that you need to market efficiently if you want to be successful (which also means that your company has a chance of survival). Here’s a post you should read in this respect (it is a bit patronizing but there is a lot of good – if harsh – insight there nonetheless).

Building Brands is Cool (and Hard)

So, let’s go and build a brand, right? Because then we can replicate things, right? I mean, Rovio did this with Angry Birds, right? Yes, they did. How many others do you know who did? Not very many, right? Because, you know, it is not easy. Many tried (and are trying). Many see some traction. None I know of have had counterfeited bobble hats sold in San Francisco so far (yes, there are hand-knitted Angry Birds beanies on sale every weekend at the farmers market at the Ferry Terminal in SF! No, I haven’t seen beanies of the Cut-the-Rope frog yet…).

If you can get it right (and there is some magic (and hard work required), building an entertainment brand is insanely rewarding (just ask Walt Disney, George Lucas, Stan Lee, etc.). However, it is also very hard to do. And it is not for the faint of heart. So think twice… Oh, and hire the right people (two of Rovio’s rockstars just started his own thing in this realm. Go, Andrew!).

Those Bloody Whales

There was a time when only one-legged near-pirates hunted whales. Nowadays every game developer and their dogs (or cats or rats or pet hedgehogs do). According to Forbes, here’s (well, below) is why. Those are the folks who bring in the money. By my reckoning, the numbers Forbes calls out are not actually the industry benchmark but – perhaps – an averaged out number. This means that, if you’re good at what you do, you should be pulling in a lot more than what their article has you believe you should. And that is something that can be a little daunting. So, kids, there goes your easy career in game development…

Before I link to this Forbes thing then: it is not easy, mind the fun, get some kudos to them suits and be in for the ride… 😉

Here’s the Forbes article (from which I copied the infographic below and where you can get the fully scalable version).

Momentum, a Mobile Accelerator in the Valley

Here’s something cool, a mobile accelerator run by people who actually know mobile, namely the good folks from Mobile Monday (disclosure: I am a co-founder of Mobile Monday Manchester). For those who don’t know (and I don’t expect many of the readers of this blog to being that ignorant… 😉 ): Mobile Monday has a global presence in over 140 cities across 50 different countries. As part of Mobile Monday, participants will get greater global exposure with leading brands to help foster business relationships and potentially commercial deals. It works, believe me!

This is a 12-week program (from 23 September – 6 December), run at RocketSpace in Silicon Valley with the aim to help accelerate mobile startups. They will select 8-10 startups from around the globe to participate in each class. If you are not based in the Bay Area, you’d have to cover your own housing and living though (which they say should amount to $2,500/month; also: you need to sort out your own visa should you need one though they’ll help you).

The program is designed for startup founders. It consists of weekly workshops and dinners lead by leaders of “global brands” who will help mentor and work closely with participating companies. You will have the opportunity to pitch their “dedicated” team of VCs and angels. The program will end with a Demo Day attended by industry leaders, VCs, and the press. So it’s pretty much the usual stuff. However, it being run by the MoMo folks, you can probably expect a rather good pick from the mobile world!

Here are the minimum criteria (and you will see from this that you actually have to have something already; this is an accelerator, not an incubator):

  • At least 2 people in the startup (two’s company…);
  • Shipping live product;
  • Angel funding or Participation of a startup program or Experience as a founder in a prior startup;
  • Pre-series A funding.

Each application will be scored on five criteria:

  • Team
  • Product
  • Market viability
  • Traction (clients, users, customers)
  • Fit for mobile industry

All Mobile Monday Accelerator events will be held in the San Francisco bay area. Office space at the RocketSpace Innovation Campus (San Francisco downtown) is provided free to all accelerator class participants. RocketSpace is home to Fortune 500s like, T-Mobile, GM, DoCoMo, Microsoft, ABInBev, LEGO and to 150+ startups including Spotify, Supercell and HasOffers (yup, that is straight from their sales pitch).

The program currently provides 50+ of the best in mobile mentors; Samsung, Sony, Twitter, Facebook, AOL, ESPN, Polariod, PayPal, Intuit, The Weather Channel, Hotel Tonight, Millenial Media and more… (yup, again from their pitch)

Each week, they’ll host a workshop in the San Francisco bay area at our offices or a partner’s office on the usual topics like:

  • Marketing
  • Negotiation
  • Monetization
  • Legal
  • Analytics and Tracking (if you still haven’t got this)
  • UI/UX Best Practices
  • Scaling (under the heading “luxury problems” but immensely important)
  • Selling to the Enterprise
  • M&A How to sell your startup (my guess is they won’t give guarantees though…)
  • Effective Pitching

If you want to get into this (and, hey, it is just about the time when the weather in certain areas get somewhat yucky), you can apply here. Good luck!

The (Big) Business of Mobile Games [Infographic]


OK, this suffering a little from the usual simplification inherent to this seemingly favourite pastime of many, namely of creating infographics, but I thought there were a few interesting bits in there nonetheless, so enjoy… :)


Facebook’s IPO with no mobile revenues

So here’s the mother of all IPOs then, and it was coming a long way. The web was buzzing, today analysts of any couleur are commenting and reading through the fine print of Facebook’s registration statement (known as the S-1) in order to find valuable nuggets of information that they had not had before and myriads of bloggers and journalists drool over the new wave of young wealthy people in the Valley.

No mobile revenue

Whilst I’d love to join into this frenzy, I want to focus on one point in the S-1 that caught my eye, and which might pose some interesting challenges for the social networking giant going forward, namely the large abyss between mobile use of the site and revenues derived from it. You will likely have read about the huge amount of Facebook users regularly using the site from mobile devices. According to the company itself, 425m active users (out of a user base of 845m) accessed the site using mobile devices; that’s more than 50%. And yet, Facebook does not derive “any meaningful revenue” (quote from their S-1) from it.

Why (these) ads don’t work as well

This is, of course, because it – thus far – did not find a good way to display ads in their various guises to mobile users. The screen real estate is scarce and it would be easy to destroy the user experience by doing so. However, with that growth in usage, they may have to review this approach. The challenge is then to successfully marry user experience on a small(er) screen with revenue-generating activities. And, alas, the latter are so far mainly display ads of various sorts. How successful will those be? My guess is not very much. It is likely one reason why Facebook so far has shied away from using them: it might just destroy the user experience to an extent that its users would be seriously upset.

And yet, it is only the latest case of highlighting one of the common fallacies of migration from web to mobile (and I am not even saying they are wrong to move that way; their user growth and occuption of that space will likely counter-balance that; I think it was Accel’s Rich Wong who said that it is easier to find revenue streams once you have 100’s of millions of users than to find 100’s of millions of users with a (pre-)defined revenue stream). Nevertheless, none of us would watch a TV commercial showing you a static picture and someone reading something out from the off (this is exactly how TV advertising kicked off). We were not overly thrilled by early attempts of online advertising; they were merely an attempt to convert billboards and printed circulars to the digital realm. It was not until Google’s AdWords that online advertising really hit it off. So why would we now be content with a mere port from another form of media?

The Japanese way?

Japan has shown that there are other ways. Japan’s GREE reportedly records similar revenues from about 5% the user base than Facebook does. It does so mainly with virtual currencies and goods (and, yes,  it has moved to a slightly different target market); users can customize their experiences within that social network by buying “stuff” to embellish their avatars, play, use, customize content, etc. Japan has always been something of the Galapagos Islands when it comes to mobile usage: what worked there didn’t often work elsewhere (anyone remember i-mode?). However, we are seeing a similar effect on smartphone applications: 65% of the top-grossing apps these days use some sort of “freemium” feature. This approach might be too late for Facebook now though. Its users would be up in arms would they start charging for features that users have come to see as free.

I am fairly confident that the good folks of Facebook are here to stay but I am still thrilled to see if, when and how they will begin to adapt. With all the very smart people in the company, we may just see the next wave of mobile monetization, and I wonder what it might be…

MoMo Manchester @ the BBC

If you are in the North-West of England and have nothing to do or, rather, nothing really, really important to do, you may want to drop in for our latest Mobile Monday Manchester edition, which takes place tonight starting at 6pm at the BBC in the brand-spanking new MediaCityUK.

The topic of the night will be “Second Screen” and we will have people from all corners of that: speakers from the Beep itself, companies providing infrastructure and service as well as creative agencies that deliver on these screens.

More info here. To join us, please sign up here (there is only standing room left though…).

MLOVE 2011

Only two weeks or so, and we’ll be off. One of the most exciting (well, correct that: the most exciting) mobile events of the year will kick off, namely MLOVE. Hosted in a proper medieval German castle, it boasts an incredible line-up of holistic mobile thinkers and tinkerers and all the ingredients to “change your life” (quote some of the participants of previous iterations!).

So here’s the speaker line-up:

  • Grammy-winning musician and multi-platform entrepreneur Chamillionaire;
  • Yuri van Geest, the man behind Trend8;
  • Thomas Goetz, Executive Editor of Wired (!);
  • Russell Buckley, employee #1 at AdMob (and a ton of other things!);
  • Kei Shimada, one of Japan’s premier wireless ambassadors;
  • Jason Collins, Alcatel-Lucent’s VP of Emerging Technology and Innovation (and one of those awesome uber-smart people);
  • Daniel Graf of Google’s Mobile Apps Labs fame;
  • Jean Schmitt, one of France’s smartest investors (and with JolTech and powerhouse Sofinnova);
  • Rovio’s Mighty Eagle, Peter Vesterbacka (how angry can your bird get?);
  • Thorsten Dirks, CEO of E-Plus
  • Beverly Jackson, the Director Marketing & Social Media of the Grammy Awards;
  • plus leaders from Volkswagen, OgilvyOne, leaders in education, philosphers, bloggers, the CEO of Butterfly Corp, Dentsu (Japan’s #1 ad agency), Contagious and the indomitable Corvida Raven (of SheGeeks) and Jonathan MacDonald (of This Fluid World), composers, DJs, and, last but not least Adele Waugaman, the UN Foundation’s Sr. Director for their Technology Partnership.

We will also run a Teen Camp for the generation that really matters, which is run in conjunction with the Hasso Plattner (he of SAP fame) Institute, which I have the great honour to co-curate together with 16-year-old Tony Neidhardt (who – despite her tender age – is already a veteran in the scene!) and Jane Mason.

In one (well, few) word(s): it will be absolutely awesome!

If you feel inclined to join (and you really, really, really should!!!), check in here.

Making Money on Android (slides) – Droidcon London 2010

This week, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to speak to the Android developer community at the fabulous Droidcon London.

The following are the slides to my talk on “Making Money on Android” in which I focus on the necessity to tackle the challenge to engage users at a time and in a place that a developer can actually control, namely in the game or app itself. Scoreloop provides cool tools for this, and its virtual currency and virtual goods solutions allow developers then to capitalise on that.

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