Interview

Kongregate on its $10 million bet to bring core mobile games to its core audience and beyond

Kongregate on its $10 million bet to bring core mobile games to its core audience and beyond
If you're going to start a mobile developer fund, it seems $10 million is the going rate.

That's the sum companies such as Gamevil and GREE have ear-marked for their indie publishing pushes, and it's the amount online games platform Kongregate has in its warchest too.

But as its new VP of mobile Pany Haritatos (pictured) - who's just joined from Zynga - explains the Kongregate Mobile Developers program isn't about spreading a lot of money around to seed a lot of games.

"This is our commitment to high quality games," he explains.

"We're looking to work closely with a small number of developers to curate games that will appeal to Kongregate's core audience."

In that context, it hopes to start releasing games for iOS and Android devices during summer, but doesn't plan to do more than one title per month.

Firm foundations

Given its strong history in free-to-play web gaming, Kongregate knows it has a highly engaged audience that's already moving to mobile and tablet gaming.

And given its years of data on their activity in the hundreds of games available on its platform, it also knows plenty about how gamers spend.

Putting this experience into play in terms of games it publishes under its own name for iOS and Android is the main selling point for the mobile games program, even above its commitment to fund, cross-promote and marketing those titles.

For, in a world where indie mobile developers without $100,000 for a burst install advertising campaign find it almost impossible to find an audience, Kongregate is offering the opportunity to get their games in front of millions of core games - the most highly engaged and monetised segment of the market.

What's not to like?

Better second time around

Yet, this isn't the first time Kongregate has been involved with mobile gaming.

In 2011, it launched Kongregate Arcade, a free Flash-based app on Android. Mainly a community-building tool, it included challenges, achievements, messaging and interoperability with Kongregate's web accounts.

"Some parts worked and some didn't, but we're learned a lot from it," says CEO Jim Greer.

"It was a great community experience, but because of the limitation of Flash and HTML5, we could only offer browser-based games.

"Now we're looking to combine all our expertise for native mobile game publishing."

Deep pockets

And backed by its parent GameStop, it's clear that Kongregate's mobile push is a strategic one for both companies.

"$10 million is big for Kongregate, but it's small for GameStop," Greer says. "I'm confidence in our approach, but we're not afraid to take risks."

Of course, it's now placed itself in a market with some other big beasts, such as billion-dollar companies like DeNA, GREE and Zynga, who are keen to attract high quality mobile games too.

"Over the past seven years, we've established our good name in the market," Greer counters.

"We're talking to developers who have worked with us in the past, and given our expertise in virtual good economics, I think we can show we're more than just a cross-promotion network."

New horizons

It's also interesting to note that Kongregate's audience is mainly North American-Northern European. It only releases games in English, so it won't initially be competing directly with DeNA and GREE in their Japanese heartland.

That will have to change at some stage if Kongregate's push is to be truly successful, though. Mobile is nothing if not a global marketplace.

"If it makes sense for the game, we will localise," Haritatos says. "I think our games have the potential to work well for the core gaming audience in Asia.

"We're really committed to making this a success."

You can find out about the Kongregate Mobile Developers program here.
editor-at-large

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

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