Tapjoy will offer its advertising platform on Kakao

Tapjoy logo

Mobile advertising and publishing platform Tapjoy today announced a partnership with South Korea’s largest social mobile platform Kakao, which will allow developers on the Kakao Games platform to monetize with Tapjoy’s advertising and monetization tools.

The Kakao Games platform allows users to play with KakaoTalk users, share game scores, and compete on leaderboards in real-time. Games on the platform now gross more than $40 million per month, the company revealed in a statment.

In March, Tapjoy revealed that approximately 100 million unique viewers who come through its network per month are international, which equates to about 75 percent of its overall unique viewers per month coming from outside the U.S.

The partnership provides Tapjoy the opportunity to deliver premium content within titles on the Kakao Games platform.

KakaoTalk currently has more than 90 million users around the globe, more than 30 million users visiting the platform every day and is South Korea’s practically ubiquitous mobile messaging app. SundayToz was the first developer to get its match-3 puzzler Anipang on KakaoTalk’s game platform. At GDC 2013, SundayToz founder and CEO Kevin Lee told us he spoke with the founder of Kakao, and proposed the idea to turn the messenger app into a game platform, which led to the launch of Anipang for Kakao. Today, Anipang is generating around $500,000 in revenue a day.

Recently, KakaoTalk also demonstrated growth outside of its native South Korea by surpassing the 10 million download mark in Japan on March 24.

Google Translate Review

google translate

Google Translate is an Android and iOS app from Google. It was recently updated to version 2.0 on most Android devices, while the iOS and older versions of Android continue to run a previous version. It is available for free on Google Play and the iTunes App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Google’s ability to translate words, phrases, and webpages has become a useful tool for users of all interests and professions. The Google Translate app presents all the same functionality of Google’s web translator on a mobile device, allowing users to translate text and voice in over 70 languages on the go. Android users get the added bonus of camera functionality, which allows the user to take a picture of text, and have it translated on the spot.

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PapayaMobile launches SDK aimed at monetizing in China

papaya

Social game distribution and monetization company PapayaMobile announced the launch of a new SDK to help independent Android developers access the Chinese mobile market.

The first free game with in-app purchases to launch in China using the new SDK will be Scottish developer Cobra Mobile’s WW2 shooter iBomber for Android.

The PapayaMobile SDK helps Android app and game developers monetize by plugging into the company’s cross-promotion and ad network AppFlood, where they can buy, sell or exchange ads and traffic with advertisers and other publishers.

More importantly, the SDK also plugs into China Mobile, China’s biggest mobile operator with more than 700 million subscribers, to allow for in-app purchasing via carrier billing.

Carrier billing is tremendously important if not absolutely necessary in order to monetize in the Chinese market. In November 2012, CocoaChina’s US GM Lei Zhang Zhang told us that carrier billing accounted for 90 percent of Fishing Joy 2’s total revenue of $1.6 million per month. At the 2013 Game Developers Conference Yodo1’s CEO Henry Fong told us that there may be other companies that are able to push games and apps to the many Android app stores in China, but that only those with standing deals with the mobile carriers and access to carrier billing will be able to monetize.

The official release from PapayaMobile claims that the company is taking the lead in opening up the Chinese market to Western developers, but in reality they are already in competition with big and established players such as the aforementioned Yodo1 (which also offers important localization services), InMobi’s App Publish distribution platform which can push an app or game to more than 130 Android app stores in a few clicks, and others.

Tapjoy announces ‘Australia Fund’

tapjoy-logo

Mobile advertising and publishing platform Tapjoy announced the launch of its Tapjoy Australia Fund, a program which aims to foster and grow mobile app developers in Australia.

Tapjoy’s consultation teams will offer select iOS and Android developers marketing, distribution support, funds and optimization support.

Defiant Development, which have released titles like Heroes Call and Ski Safari for both Android and iOS, is the first developer accepted into the program. “There’s an incredible depth of indie talent in Australia, and Tapjoy offers an ideal way to monetize their applications and take advantage of the free-to-play opportunities in the mobile market,” co-founder of Defiant Development Morgan Jaffit said. “It’s very forward thinking to focus on enabling Australian developers to reach further with their games, and it helps to take the [user acquisition]  and monetization questions that all developers are tackling at the moment.”

“With the help of Tapjoy’s marketing strength and free-to-play consulting experience, as well as Australia’s $20 million Interactive Games Fund, Australia’s indie developers will find the road to success a little less bumpy,” CEO of the Game Developer Association of Australia Antony Reed said in a statement.

Developers in Australia that have released at least one iOS and Android app can find out more about the program here.

Animoca’s David Kim on his company’s 7-Eleven business approach, South Korea as trendsetters and Silicon Valley’s myopia

Hong Kong-based mobile game developer and publisher Animoca is known for its Android-focused development approach, with notable games in its “app supermarket“-sized portfolio including Star Girl, Aqua City and Pretty Pet Salon.

The company, which was founded in January 2011, has reached the 115 million downloads mark and now serves 100 million game sessions a month.

We sat down with Animoca CEO David Kim who filled us in on his company’s 7-Eleven business approach, South Korea as trendsetters, Silicon Valley’s myopia and the mobile game industry tsunami in 2013.

Inside Mobile Apps: Since it’s the beginning of 2013, what did Animoca learn in 2012 that it will bring into this year?Animoca CEO David Kim headshot

David Kim, Animoca CEO (pictured right): I don’t know if this is a lesson unique to us, but our biggest surprise to us that we quickly adjusted to was the meteoric growth of Android. Everybody kind of talks about it. Everybody kind of knows it. For all of us that are more Bay Area, Silicon Valley-focused, you forget how ubiquitous Android is everywhere. Right now, the number overseas have surpassed iOS a long time ago. The pace of change on Android, and the newer versions, and what that’s abled us to do, in terms of developing games that are slightly cooler. It really is small adjustments that make all the difference in what takes an average game to a cool game. That’s the biggest pleasant surprise and what we adjusted to very quickly in 2012.

IMA: Can you compare Animoca’s long-tail game development approach to the velocity, hit-driven approach?

Kim: Animoca, being based in Hong Kong, we’re easily overlooked because we’re not in your face all the time in the Valley. I don’t come knocking at your door every other week. Looking back at how Yat [Siu] and I built the business, understand that we’re actually from Internet 1.0 and we’ve seen the blowup and we’ve seen cycles. As individuals, we have built games on PC, Wii, DS and various other platforms over the years. While the mobile industry itself is new, we’re actually very familiar with games. We’re not that old, but in the industry, we’re very much old timers in terms of games as well as Internet slash new media. If you’re going back to the mid-90′s, that’s as far as you go, and we were there. Not to disparage the younger folks who are in the industry now, you need that vivacious energy. You need that raw, aggressive energy, but we’re not jumpy. If you look at our approach, we’ve got 250-plus games, and we’ll be somewhere in between doubling that into 2013. The reason why we have this broad portfolio approach, and not the hub-and-spokes model, is the hit-driven business. Quite frankly, we’re not Miramax of old. We’re not [The Weinstein Company] where we can throw out a movie and we know it’s going to be a hit because we’re going to make it so. We’re a little bit more humble than that.

We’re taking a broader, portfolio approach what we’ll call the Safeway approach where you’ll find our products in each aisle. We might not take the biggest space on the shelf, but you’ll certainly see it, and with enough time, if the users are actually looking around, you’ll be familiar with our games, if not necessarily Animoca. We’re not as dogmatic as having our brand out there as a company. We want our products, our games, to do its own talking. What’s been happening in our board approach is, if we do what we do well, which are simulation games that are a little bit more female skewed and younger skewed, we know this segment extremely well now.  We’ve thrown a lot of different IP at it, and we’ve done a lot of different formats of the simulation strategy game. We know what’s going to work. We now have enough of these games that are small cash cow calves that we as a business can run this indefinitely. We have a 7-Eleven, which is never going to be a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s with this meteoric rise and take over the world. But your 7-Elevens, they are everywhere because each one of them make money. We have a collection of these 7-Elevens, if you will. That’s our steady base. Once in a while we have our super hits like Pretty Pet Salon and Star Girl, with huge numbers. I won’t say that those aren’t pleasant surprises, because we’ve been working at it, but sometimes things just work extremely well. That’s how we get our gravy on top. This is how we actually run our business. We can run this any which way. As a business, I would prefer that over super hits, super driven and here today, gone tomorrow.

IMA: Talking about more international, emerging markets, you guys are Hong Kong-based, what do you think is the key to success in emerging markets such as China?

Kim: China is its own animal. Whenever you talk about the international market, or the emerging markets, you have to caveat China because [China is] its own thing. Few companies, even American-Chinese companies, have a difficult time penetrating China. It’s a tough market to crack. [Animoca is] in a great geographic, and figurative, location. We’re seeing everything. Although we’re Hong Kong-based, our view is global. We’re almost evenly distributed, slightly skewed more toward the U.S., then Asia about a third, and then the rest of the world. Of the companies that are public and have their numbers out in the open, I don’t know of companies that are as evenly distributed. Rovio is everywhere. But other than those exceptions, companies like ours, that produce, develop and publish games, to have even distribution of revenue is unique.

We’re able to do that because we’re not in [Silicon Valley]. When you’re in the Valley, enough people have myopia, they think the world starts in the Valley and ends in New York. While that is the single largest market, it certainly isn’t the only market, and certainly not the majority of the global market. We refer to [certain countries] as emerging markets economically, but in Korea, Hong Kong, the penetration rate is higher than it is in the U.S. You can actually get a lot of trends if you pay close attention to a market like Korea. There are a lot of things that happen there where you can see that’s where the rest of the world is going to go. Korea showed that they were ahead in search before Google. Before Facebook, there was a company in Korea called Cyworld that took over the market. Korea exports Samsung, Hyundai and games. Somewhere between Samsung being there, mobile taking off as it is, and having games in their DNA, they are the trendsetters. You can see the viral social growth of games on the Kakao platform in Korea. That’s probably a foreshadowing of a lot of things that are going to happen elsewhere. Being in Hong Kong, not so much the geography, but being outside the U.S., and being able to see a more broader view of what’s happening globally, you’re actually able to see that pattern a lot more clearly. And not so much the blinders, California and New York view. Great states by the way. (more…)

CocoaChina hires Kai Zhao as its U.S. VP of Engineering, plans to launch social gaming platform in 2013

Chinese mobile game company CocoaChina today announced it hired of Kai Zhao as vice president of engineering as well as revealing some of the company’s plans in 2013.CocoaChina logo

Zhao is tasked with leading the technical direction for infrastructure supporting mobile games published in the U.S. Before joining CocoaChina, he was most recently the co-founder and chief technology officer for photo sharing startup Keepsy. He also co-founded Chinese translation website Yeeyan and worked for more than 15 years with major tech companies including AOL, Netscape and Motorola.

In 2013, CocoaChina has big plans for the U.S. and for the rest of the world. The company’s most important plan for this year will be the launch of its own social game platform around Q2 2013, which will be similar to GREE’s platform, DeNA’s Mobage platform as well as communication platforms with gaming platform elements like KakaoTalk and Line. It’s other plans include publishing third-party games in the U.S. from top Chinese developers, as well as its own titles, and launch a beta version of its development toolset for cocos2d-x, an open-source, cross-platform 2D game engine, by the end of Q2 2013.

Zhao’s experience building and maintaing large scale infrastructures for AOL products such as AOL web mail and AOL photo will translate to doing the same for CocoaChina’s upcoming social gaming platform, says Lei Zhang, CocoaChina’s U.S. general manager.

“We are looking to build an infrastructure that supports that scale, so Kai’s experience both hands-on and management experience in that scale, for the U.S., is tremendously valuable,” he says.

In late November 2012, we reported that CocoaChina’s FIshing Joy 2 was raking in $1.6 million in gross revenue a month on Android in China, with a conversion rate of more than 30 percent and saw average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) of $0.40. Fishing Joy 2′s gross revenue figure has since increased, according to Zhang, by more than doubling to $4 million in gross revenue as of February 2013. Zhang notes that seasonality from the Chinese New Year may have attributed to the recent increase in monthly gross revenue.

CocoaChina as a company, which was founded in 2008, started as a developer community for iOS developers, sort of like a Facebook or MySpace but for mobile developers only. The company also develops and publishes first-party and third-party mobile games mainly in Greater China as well as for the rest of the world. CocoaChina has partnerships with companies such as Disney Mobile, U.S. mobile developer Z2Live, South Korean gaming giant Nexon, and more, where CocoaChina publishes its partners’ games in the Chinese market. Lastly, the company is the sole financial backer of cocos2d-x.

Com2uS revenues dip quarter-over-quarter to $19.5M in Q4

Mobile game developer and publisher Com2uS reported revenues of 21.2 billion KRW ($19.5 million) and profits of 3 billion KRW ($2.8 million) in Q4 2012. Both revenues and profits quarter-over-quarter for the South Korean company were down by five percent and 60 percent, respectively. Last quarter, Com2uS saw 22.4 billion KRW ($20.5 million) in revenue and 7.5 billion KRW ($6.8 million) in profit. However, both revenues and profits were up year-over-year, with an 89 percent increase in revenues and 145 percent increase in profits.Com2uS logo

Com2uS’ smartphone revenues for Q4 were 19.8 billion KRW ($18.2 million), up from 138 percent in Q4 2011 at 8.3 billion KRW ($7.6 million), but down 6.2 percent quarter-over-quarter. Smartphone sales attributed to 93 percent of the company’s total revenue, slightly down from 94 percent in Q3 2012. The company saw stable revenue from existing games like Tiny Farm and from titles within the Kakao Talk Game Center like Com2uS Homerun King, Derby Days and Tiny Pang.

Sales in South Korea accounted for 64 percent of total sales in 2012 at 49.1 billion KRW ($45.1 million), up 163 percent from 2011 domestic sales of 18.6 billion KRW ($17.1 million). Overseas sales for Com2uS in Q4 were down 17 percent quarter-over-quarter at 6.7 billion KRW ($6.1 million), although up 18 percent year-over-year. The company said launch delays of new games led to the quarter-over-quarter smartphone and international revenue decreases.

Com2uS also revealed its earning estimates for 2013, expecting 101.7 billion KRW ($93.3 million) in revenue, which would be a 32 percent increase from 76.9 billion KRW ($70.6 million) in 2012. The company also estimated 24.1 billion KRW ($22.1 million) in profit, up 18 percent from 20.5 billion KRW ($18.8 million). Other plans for the company in 2013 include launching approximately 50 new games (33 in-house, 17 third-party), an app to compete with messenger apps KakaoTalk and Line and expanding to core — the U.S., Japan and China — markets through local platforms.Com2uS Q4 2012 financial resultsCom2uS 2013 earnings estimates

Mobile app news roundup: GREE, Red Bull, iTunes gift cards and more

GREE expands platform partnerships with Vostu, Brainz and more — GREE has signed partnership deals with five more international studios. The company announced this week it has signed up Vostu, Brainz, Sun Dried Games, Pangalore and Vast Studios. Our readers may remember in October GREE announced it had signed deals with Enders Fund, Fathom Interactive, Fifth Column and FreezeTag.

Variable rate iTunes gift cards now available — Apple customers can now decide exactly how much their friends and family are worth to them. The company has introduced new gift cards that can come in denominations ranging from $15 to $500 reports 9to5 Mac. The new cards are already rolling out at major U.S. retailers.

SGN teams with Betable — Social and mobile game developer SGN is the latest company to sign a deal with London-headquartered Betable to bring real-money gambling elements to its mobile titles. The features will only be available in markets where mobile gambling is legal, such as the U.K. SGN expects to roll out the features in the first half of 2013.

iPhone 5, iPad Mini finally headed to China — The latest generation of Apple devices will soon be in the hands of Chinese consumers. The company announced today the iPad Mini and the fourth generation iPad will be available in China on Dec. 7. The iPhone 5 will be available on Dec. 14.

LINE integrates with Facebook — NAVER’s ultra-popular Japanese chat app LINE has started integrating with Facebook. Facebook users can now create LINE accounts using their Facebook credentials according to Dr. Serkan Toto. Users can also invite their Facebook friends to the service.

PlayPhone picks up Red Herring Global 100 award — San Francisco based PlayPhone has won the Red Herring Global Top 100 award in the mobile category. The awards are decided by Red Herring editorial team and honor promising private technology ventures.

Gameloft teams with Red Bull — Gameloft has signed a deal with Red Bull that will see the energy drink maker’s branded cars coming to Gameloft’s racing game GT Racing: Motor Academy. The F1 RB8 (driven by F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel) and the Red Bull editions of the Camaro SS and Hyundai Genesis Coupe will all be available in the next update of the game.

GREE picks up Best Social Games Service Provider award — GREE has picked up a Mobile Entertainment award for Best Social Games Service Provider, beating out the likes of DeNA, PapayaMobile and PlayPhone for the honor. Based on London, the Mobile Entertainment Awards honor excellence in publishing, services and operations.

Blackboard Mobile Apps hit 4.5 million downloads — Blackboard Inc’s line of educational and campus life apps have been downloaded more than 4.5 million times on iOS and Android.

App Annie: Google Play surging in Asia, global revenues up by over 300% in 2012

Apple’s iTunes App Store may be the most lucrative app market in the world, but Google Play is catching up fast thanks to its growing popularity in lucrative Asian markets like Japan and South Korea reports App Annie.

According to the company’s App Annie Index, the amount of global revenues generated through Google Play has increased by 311 percent between January and October 2012, while iOS has seen its revenue increase by just 12.9 percent in the same period. During October 2012, Google Play saw revenues grow by 17.9 percent month-over-month. iOS revenues actually contracted, falling by 0.7 percent month-over-month.

Although iOS still sees more downloads than Google Play, the official Android market is also closing the gap there as well. Over the past five months, iOS has seen the global volume of free downloads increase by 3.3 percent. Worldwide levels of free Google Play downloads are up 48 percent in the same time period.

According to App Annie, Google Play’s growing strength in markets like Japan and South Korea is a key factor in the official Android market’s growing downloads and revenues. In October Japan became the most lucrative Google Play market, generating 29 percent of the store’s total global revenues, surpassing the U.S. for the first time. The three most lucrative countries for Google Play developers are now Japan, the U.S. and South Korea. On iOS the three biggest markets the U.S., Japan and the U.K. Overall, Japanese Google Play revenues have increased by 10x since the beginning of the calendar year.

Its not just Asian consumers, but Asian companies as well — according to App Annie, Asian companies accounted for eight of the top 10 Google Play publishers by revenue during October 2012. DeNA leads the pack based on its massive hit Rage of Bahamut, followed closely by other Japanese companies like COLOPL, GungHo Online, GREE and NAVER. On iOS Japan accounts for four of the top 10 publishers by revenue.

On the level of individual apps and games, Asian companies are also in firm command of the Google Play charts. The most lucrative Google Play game in the world during October 2012 was GungHo Online’s breakout hit Puzzles & Dragons, with other Japanese or South Korean offerings filling the other nine spots. On iOS only two of the top 10 games by revenue were from Japanese companies — GungHo Online’s Puzzles & Dragons and Square Enix’s card battle game 拡散性ミリオンアーサー (King Arthur of 1 Million People.) For non-game apps NAVER’s social network LINE was the most lucrative Google Play app by revenue and the No. 2 iOS app.

Editors Note: We have made a small update to the text of this story to better clarify how App Annie arrived at its revenue numbers. Changes are indicated with italics. Credit to John Koetsier at VentureBeat for the new information.

DeNA and Square Enix to release Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade in US, Canada

Mobage network operator DeNA and renowned games developer and publisher Square Enix today announced that the companies will release the hit Japanese game Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade on iOS and Android in the U.S. and Canada. This will mark the first Final Fantasy free-to-play social game to be released in English.

Each player in the game pilots an airship and can form “airborne brigades” with friends to take down powerful bosses, gain experience and acquire skills, all in the signiture style of a Final Fantasy role-playing game.

As. Dr. Serkan Toto recently reported, Final Fantasy Brigade has hit the 3 million user mark in Japan since it launched on Mobage in January, no doubt contributing to DeNA’s record revenues for its Q2 2012.

It’s interesting to note that Square Enix also partnered with DeNA’s primary competitor GREE to publish The Worlds Ends With You and Final Fantasy X GREE in Japan.

DeNA and Square Enix didn’t announce a specific release date but said that the game was coming “soon.” Players who pre-register for the game will be alerted as soon as its released and will also receive a free three-month exclusive in-game card featuring Final Fantasy VII character Cloud.

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