Interview

We're very enthusiastic about Diner Dash 10, says Glu CEO de Masi

We're very enthusiastic about Diner Dash 10, says Glu CEO de Masi

It's a measure of how quickly things can change that the headlines from Glu Mobile's Q1 2014 financials weren't about it generating $3.8 million in operational cash flow or year-on-year sales growth of 81 percent.

For this is the second quarter that the troubled publisher, which operates under the GLUU ticker on the NASDAQ exchange, has posted numbers that suggest after many loss-making years, it will could be posting full-year GAAP profits in the not too distant future.

Instead, the main news was that Glu had bought fellow San Francisco outfit PlayFirst in an all-share deal, that including debt concerns, was valued at $16.5 million.

"I've had my eye on Diner Dash since 2008," says Glu's CEO Niccolo de Masi, when asked why Glu had taken a chance buying a company, which despite absorbing plenty of VC cash over the years, hasn't recently proven it can operate in a world of free-to-play mobile games.

Dash for cash

"It's a massive franchise, with over 750 million installs, and one that Glu previously licensed for feature phones," de Masi continues.

"At Glu, we believe content generates longterm value and you can count the number of franchises with this many installs on the fingers of one hand."

By way of example, he points to the Deer Hunter brand, which Glu licensed from Atari, and ending up buying from the troubled publisher in 2012.

In the shape of Deer Hunter 2014, the franchise has gone on to give Glu its biggest financial hit to-date. Indeed, the success of the game, particularly in the all-important US market, has been the key driver behind Glu's recent financial makeover.

"We've proved we can reinvigorate Deer Hunter, and we're very enthusiastic about Diner Dash 10," says de Masi, referring to next release in the series, which has been in development at PlayFirst and is due to be released later in 2014.

When asked about how the game manages to combine the game's hectic time-based mechanics with free-to-play monetisation techniques, de Masi agrees the conversion hasn't been "trivial", but that the game will be "true to the franchise and its fanbase".

"And we think Glu can make a substantial difference to its success," he adds.

Crafting a rope

Aside from the release of one game, de Masi reckons the acquisition is an important enabler in ensuring Glu's future success.

"It doubles our ability in terms of making casual games, so we have room to grow across the action and casual genres," he says.

"We now have six key franchises and that makes us more diversified than companies like King.

"We also see that the industry is dominated by a handful of +$500 million games and a large and growing number of $100 million franchises," he states.

"But while adding a $100 million franchise doesn't make much difference to companies like King or Zynga, for Glu [which had a turnover of $106 million in 2013], the situation is very different."

Stirred, not shaken

In this context, while the success (or otherwise) of Diner Dash 10 will be a pointer to Glu's future, it's not a crucial release.

The next Deer Hunter game and the first in the company's partnership with MGM Interactive and EON Productions for the James Bond character licence (not films) are both due in 2015.

In the meantime, however, de Masi is keen to talk up some lower profile activity as providing the company with a solid foundation.

"We've seen good growth from sequels," he says. "Eternity Warriors 3 has doubled sales compared from Eternity Warrior 2, and while it's early, we're seeing a similar situation with Frontline Commando 2."

This is backed by the Q1 financials, which record $17 million of non-GAAP revenue from Deer Hunter 2014 and $10 million from Eternity Warriors 3.

And it's this content mix and growth that sees de Masi comment he feels good about Glu's opportunities compared to its current size and revenue.

"When I joined as CEO in 2010, this is where I wanted to get the company," he reveals.

And let's not forget, at that time, most industry insiders didn't give Glu much chance of survival: one even labelling the CEO position 'a poisoned chalice".


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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