Jun

17

Want to Know What’s Next in Mobile & Social Gaming? Look East!

Mark Stephens

Being able to predict what’s coming in gaming is not easy. It’s such a rapidly-changing environment that it’s like driving through a town you’ve never been to before and predicting what’s around the next corner; you don’t even know where the next corner is! Increasingly eyes are turning towards Asia for upcoming trends in mobile and social gaming. It’s not that surprising considering over 60 percent of the world’s population live there and five of the seven most populous countries are there – how much more social can you get? Technology-wise it’s also unsurprising considering the phone you’re holding in your hand was probably made there.

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We are so used to looking towards the west for our trends that it almost hurts our necks to change direction and start looking east – but that’s what one of the biggest social and mobile gaming companies has done for years; and business is booming.

Who is SGN?

Remember MySpace? It’s a name that was swept away when Facebook took over, but co-founder Chris DeWolfe didn’t vanish from the scene. In fact he moved quickly onto the next venture.

In 2010 he founded Social gaming Network (SGN) in Los Angeles and went about building it up through strategic acquisitions of three companies. The idea was to buy audiences, so they snapped up one company that was a leader on Facebook, another that was big in the mobile sector and a third that was successful on the web.

This way they acquired an audience of 250 million players across a broad sector of gaming.

The Mobile and Social Links

The company is growing and has just acquired another games studio and independent developer.

The social and mobile connection was made early on in the game, if you will forgive the pun. This is exactly what Zynga is having problems coming to terms with now; true visionary companies saw it a long time ago.

Part of the reason SGN has been successful is because DeWolfe was looking east to stay ahead of the game, even back in the days of MySpace.
DeWolfe says:

In Japan in 2006, a company called Mixi — which is a top social network there — was seeing over half of their members log in through mobile devices and they were all playing games. So, to me, that was a clear signal that, in the future, mobile gaming was going to be much bigger than everyone thought.

Consequently, when he started SGN he ensured that games could be invented once and then activated across not only the web in HTML5, but also on iOS and Android platforms as well as Facebook. It wasn’t so much a case of “social first” or “mobile first” but more “everything first”.

Mr Pincus – are you taking notes?

Monetising Games

In the same interview DeWolfe goes on to say:

Around that same time, we were doing our joint venture in China, and all the farm games started getting really big there, before Farmville was even born. The whole notion of buying virtual goods was definitely much further ahead in Asia in general, and we saw it specifically scale in China.

Subsequently SGN adopted this strategy and in-game purchases of virtual goods account for 70 percent of its revenue.

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This means that two of the biggest trends in gaming in the last six or seven years have both originated in Asia: the movement of gaming to mobile devices and the important question of how to monetise these games.

Of course, we consider these trends part and parcel of modern social gaming now, so most people do not even ask the question of where the driving force for the ideas originated.

Gangnam was Just the Beginning

You’ve seen Asian culture hit mainstream Europe and the US with Pokemon and Gangnam Style, but there is more to eastern influence than a funny Korean man dressed in a tight black suit and inspiring a new bow-legged dance.

If you’ve spent any time in Asia recently, you would have seen what a huge role smartphones, tablets, gaming, chat and social networks play in everyday life.

Social media is taking to the extreme in Thailand, where I live. So much so that I have seen a group of seven or eight teenagers sitting round a table in a restaurant so silent that you could hear a penny drop. They were all working their touchscreens like mad, presumably chatting to someone else, playing games or updating facebook profiles. How social!

Anyway we’ll leave the last words with the President of SGN, Joshua Yguado:

Generally, what has happened in Asia has been a precursor to what happens in the U.S.