GDC Online 11: Funzio, Pocket Gems, TinyCo and Storm8 talk user acquisition, Facebook and the race to a billion dollars

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GDC Online 11: Funzio, Pocket Gems, TinyCo and Storm8 talk user acquisition, Facebook and the race to a billion dollars
Kicking off a panel entitled 'Top Grossing: A discussion of recent trends in mobile social gaming', there was plenty of talent prepared to talk about (some of) their business.

Moderated by Kim-Mai Cutler of Inside Mobile Apps, the first question was about how companies acquire users now that the inventivised model isn't available for iOS.

"Tapjoy, W3i and Flurry still work, but they're not as powerful as they were previously," explained Funzio's Anil Dharni, referring to its Facebook game Crime Cities onto iOS.

"When you climb the charts, you can get good organic growth if you game is high quality and you have high reviews," he added.

Everyone agreed that cross promotion, both within the companies' own networks and with thirdparty networks was vital. Significantly, however, none of the companies - which are effectively rivals - cross promote with each other.

"You have to spend a significant amount of money and be aware of your ROI," Dharni said of using traditional marketing channels. "You have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get in the top 25 charts."

Sellers market

In this environment, the panel expected industry consolidation to continue.

"Companies which have IP and users are valuable," said TinyCo's Jennifer Lu pointing to deals such as EA purchase of Trade Nations developer Bight Games.

TinyCo also has a $5 million developer fund to gain access to thirdparty developers with expertise in social mobile genres that it doesn't possess internally. It's currently talking to three developers, although nothing has been formally announced yet.

Being focused on the mobile experience was key for future growth reckoned Pocket Gems' Ben Liu.

"Facebook was a winner takes most business, but there were still some other large companies," he added. "I think the platform fragmentation on mobile means that it's harder for one company to take a dominant position."

The panel was also keen to big up Facebook's move into mobile with its new platform, with Storm8 being a launch partner.

Funzio's Dharni said it would be investing heavily into advertising on the channel with respect to user acquisition.

In answer to another question about which companies they treated as rivals, he mentioned Backflip Studios as being a developer that had implemented its mobile strategy flawlessly. Neatly Backflip's CEO Julian Farrior was sitting in the audience.

Money, money, money

Asked about funding and exit strategies, Storm8 and Pocket Gems fell behind their official 'no comment' strategy, while Funzio has recently raised $20 million. Liu said TinyCo would potentially consider further funding.

"Looking at Zynga, you can see how new funding rounds increase the company valuation," she said. TinyCo raised $18 million in February 2011 lead by Andreessen Horowitz.

No company said it would consider being bought. "The race is on to be the first billion dollar company in this space," argued Dharni; this being the prize all the panelists' companies are engaged in.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at 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.