Interview

Why Solitaire dev MobilityWare is looking to buy studios and bet big on social casino

Why Solitaire dev MobilityWare is looking to buy studios and bet big on social casino

Best known for its Solitaire mobile games, US developer MobilityWare is now looking to branch out and get a lot more social.

A lot more social casino, in fact.

"It's a competitive market, but we have a very strong brand and a very loyal audience," says CEO Jeff Erle, by way of introduction.

Long time player

A great example of a company that understands the value of time, MobilityWare has been around for a long time as well as demonstrating it can be in the right place at the time.

It started out developing software for mainframe computers and enterprise customers, then dipping its toe into the world of 'mobile games' with the Palm Pilot.

That proved interesting enough that when Apple launched the App Store, MobilityWare was there one day one with its version of Solitaire.

And it's been there ever since, generating 150 million downloads in the process. 

"We were on the App Store when it launched. Same for iPad. Same for Apple Watch," comments Erle.

"It's first mover advantage. It's our most powerful competitive advantage."

Confidence and caution

Of course, success in one part of the mobile games is never a guarantee of success in another, even another similar genre.

Moving into social casino will require what Erle calls "bigger games with more personality that appeal to a younger audience".

VP of Product Development Robert Jackson says the company will proceed with both confidence and caution.

"We're mindful of growing too fast. We seen it happen before," he says.

Yet, as bootstrapped company without debt and generating good cashflow, Erle says now is the time to make this move.

"The big players are getting bigger. CPIs continue to rise. Indies can't acquire an audience," he points out.

It's a good time to buy a studio in terms of the opportunity and pricing.
Jeff Erle

"Whereas we can cross promote games for free. We sit at the nexus of the industry."

And that's the reason that as well as getting into social casino, MobilityWare is looking to get more 'social' when it comes to company structure too.

"It's a good time to buy a studio in terms of the opportunity and pricing," Erle argues.

"We'd be looking to keep any acquired studios autonomous, and help them with publishing."

Plans for 2016

Still, aside from any M&A activity, MobilityWare has big enough plans to keep it busy.

It's got three games planned for 2016, and will be focusing more seriously on building its business on Google Play. To-date, it's been an iOS-first company.

Another balancing act will be to generate more revenue from IAPs.

MobilityWare is there day 1 on new Apple hardware, including Apple Watch

At present, MobilityWare is advertising-led; something it also hopes will become more lucrative as brand advertising enters the market.

Erle has high hopes for this, particularly given the demographic breakdown of its audience - 30 to 60 year-old women who are underserved by mobile games but who control much household spending.

"We're in a really good place in terms of App Store, sector, brand and demographic," he says.

"The goal now is to become more balanced in our business."

MobilityWare is hiring. You can check out its vacancies here

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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Alex Tarrand
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