Aug

5

Picking Up the Chat About Social Gaming

Mark Stephens

Monkeybin posts earlier this year covered how chat networks and social gaming have been joining forces under the same roof and how Asian platforms are leading the way in the spread of gaming trends. In the past month we have seen more indications of this with news about prominent Japanese Korean and Chinese chat networks moving higher on the radar of the social gaming world; and one of their American cousins is following suit.

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Lots of Chatter

Dedicated chat networks have taken off since the explosion of social media and smartphone usage. Who hasn’t used WhatsApp, Tango or a similar app to message friends?

Many of us were already very used to these types of networks, having used Skype, MSN/Windows Live or Yahoo Chat on PCs for many years; but these were run by the big western players (all American since the Microsoft takeover of Skype in 2011).

When the abundance of chat network choices arrived with smartphones a few years back the Asian influence started to spread – with Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat growing quickly out of Japan, Korea and China respectively.

Popular grew in the west for WhatsApp, formed by two ex-Yahoo stalwarts, and Tango, a 2009 start up from California.

People, it seemed, wherever they were, just couldn’t get enough chat. Or games. The two had to meet.

Whatever Kakao, Line and WeChat Can Do….

Kakao recently announced its figures for the first half of 2013. The importance of social gaming to the future of the Korean chat giant is clear already.

KakaoTalk, its messaging app, has over 100 million users; in June 2012 the company launched its game service which focused on multiplayer mobile games similar to the types played traditionally on Facebook and other social networks.

Twelve months later and 30 million users play _Kakao_’s 180 game titles, generating around $300 million, which is almost triple the revenue in the second half of 2012.

The good news for independent developers is that the majority of the most popular games were developed by small to medium-sized companies. The two most popular games are Anipang for Kakao and Dragon Flight for Kakao; they have not only attracted over 20 million users, but they have converted them into revenue too. We shouldn’t be surprised at this because the Asian mobile messaging platforms have been monetising their messaging services for a while now – they know what works with their users and how to generate virtual good sales.

At present the revenue is generated mainly within Korea but the company has plans to expand its global reach (much like DeNA and Gree, the Japanese firms).

The news from Kakao comes hot on the heels of Japanese messaging platform Line, which entered the world of gaming just before Kakao and, by March 2013, was able to boast 100 million game downloads from their 150 million plus users; Line too is looking to expand into Europe and the US, and recently added new European languages to their game offerings.

To add to this, Chinese messaging platform WeChat announced this month that it was going into testing phase for its social games.

With all this activity in the east, and the serious amount of users and downloads as chat and mobile gaming merges, it is sure to have been noticed by the gaming giants in the west and the question is how they will react. Also, are the American and European messaging platforms going to venture into games?

….Tango Can Do Too

Californian chat, call and video service provider Tango recently became the first outside Asia to enter social gaming, with two titles launched this month.

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It is already a leading communications app provider with a social gamer following, and hosts around 20 million games sessions per month just from people using their text or voice services and playing along on a social game at the same time.

It is well positioned to provide its video and chat services to game makers, and plans to build its own gaming network; not developing games itself but powering the social communications side of the industry. All mobile games these days need the social communication side to succeed; it’s expected.

The company is working with a number of large and small developers and publishers, including Gameloft who will soon launch a title using the Tango communication platform as the social element of the game.

As the chat services from Asia have become social gaming networks from a communications background, Tango in the US is following suit with a similar focus; it is the reverse of the Facebook story, which has become more of a communications hub after starting out as a social network.

Leaving the last word to Tango Co-founder Eric Setton:

“In my opinion this is going to the business model for the entire mobile industry.”