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.

Glu Mobile teaming with U.K.’s Probability PLC for real money slots games

Free-to-play mobile gaming company Glu Mobile announced today it has partnered with the UK’s Probability PLC to create a line of slot games that will see players betting real money instead of virtual coins.

Under the terms of the deal, Glu branding and IP will be integrated with Probability developed titles that have already been approved by the U.K. Gambling Commission. Probability, and not Glu will handle regulatory responsibilities, but both companies will take on marketing and publishing duties, depending on the channel.

Set to launch in the first half of 2013, the games will only be available on iOS in the two markets Probability is approved to operate in: the U.K. and Italy. However, there is also the potential to bring the games to other mobile platforms and to new distribution channels via Probability’s partnerships with U.K. betting firms like PaddyPower, William Hill and Ladbrokes.

“This is not anything more than an ancillary revenue stream for Glu — our core business remains where it is, but its exciting for us because we’ve noticed the trends in real money gambling and the potential for other markets to open up,” explains Niccolo de Masi, CEO of Glu Mobile when asked why his company was entering the real-money gambling market.

According to de Masi, the partnership also allows Glu to investigate the feasibility of incorporating real-money monetization mechanics into titles like Gun Bros or Contract Killer down the line.

“You could have real-money rewards systems and real-money gambling mechanics as part of the soft currency/hard currency system in the countries that allow that,” he says. “We think it could take off and be a interesting long-term monetization compliment.”

Although online real-money gambling is still only legal in certain jurisdictions, Glu Mobile is part of a growing cohort of mobile and social developers experimenting with the practice. In August Seattle’s Big Fish Games announced it had teamed with Betable to bring real money gambling to the U.K. version of its mobile casino app Big Fish Casino. Idle Games and Zynga are also preparing to release titles using the mechanic.

Gamevil’s Kyu Lee weighs in on publishing, niche markets and international success

Judging by track record alone, South Korean publisher and developer Gamevil seems to make releasing hit mobile games look easy. The first half of the company’s fiscal year was the best it had ever recorded, with $28.1 million in sales and $9.8 million in profits. The company is not only doing well in the lucrative South Korean market, it’s been able to establish itself in the far more competitive international arena, where sales have increased by 161 percent year-over-year.

Inside Mobile Apps recently had a chance to talk to Gamevil vice president and head of Gamevil USA Kyu Lee about how his company’s turn to publishing has enabled it to increase revenues, rack up more than 150 million downloads and translate its domestic success to the international market.

Inside Mobile Apps: Gamevil has seen its business grow quite substantially recently. What do you attribute your success to?

Kyu Lee, head of Gamevil USA: I think on a macro level we’re growing because the whole market is growing. We [were a] feature phone game company for a long time and now more than 97 percent of our revenue comes from smartphones. We’ve also been switching from paid apps to free to play, ever since we’ve been doing that our revenue’s been growing significantly. More than 90 percent of our revenue comes from in-app purchases. The third thing is publishing third party titles. Traditionally we did like 12 games a year, most of them internally developed. Since we launched our game developer fund last year we’ve been publishing a lot of titles. This year we plan to publish 45 titles — we’re still signing up titles every month, so that 45 number could actually increase.

IMA:  A lot of companies are coming over from Asia but are having trouble replicating their success internationally. That hasn’t been a problem for you. Why do you think that is?

Lee: I think our titles are high quality. The budgets are even higher than the regular titles that are published in the west. That’s one of the reasons. Another reason is we’re very targeted in terms of the audience. We’ve been known for our role-playing games, our action RPGS in the Western market. It’s kind of a niche market, but it’s a also a category that very easily translates. The Zelda fans here are the same Zelda fans in Korea and in Japan. It’s niche but it translates very well around the world.

IMA: When you say a niche market, do you find you also have niche audiences? The kind that are small, but also more engaged, and likely to generate higher average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU)?

Lee: I think that’s been the overall direction of the company. We’ve been positioning ourselves like that early on. Those are the types of games we’ve been doing internally. [For the] games that we’re publishing, I think we’re becoming more diverse there. Air Penguin got more than a million downloads in its first month — it beat Angry Birds for a week in more than 25 countries. It did very well on Android too, I think it was a top five game. That game was one of our big successes on the casual front. We also acquired another IP called Cartoon Wars, that we share with the developer. That game is still doing amazing for us. It’s a tower defense game but it’s more casual than the games we traditionally produce. We’ve been trying to broaden our fanbase from our existing sports and RPG strengths.

IMA: Can you disclose any specifics about what your games earn?

Lee:  What I can say about ARPDAU is I’ve been seeing a lot of figures publicly released by other companies, and I think ours is higher. It has to do with a couple of reasons. One is that in South Korea a lot of the titles are on carrier billing and can be downloaded through the carrier stores. Carrier billing itself has less friction so it monetizes better. The other reason is the type of games we are developing.

IMA: Are you seeing a difference in ARPDAU between Korean and international users?

Lee: Yes, it’s different. Not necessary through Google Play but through carrier billing. We also opened our Japanese office last December and we’ve been starting to localize to more languages. We used to do only Korean and English. Ever since our Japanese offices opened we’ve been doing three languages at launch, English, Korean and Japanese and we just added a fourth language which is Chinese, it’s not coming at launch but after launch. This year we’re also determined to add German and French. I think our European penetration will also improve. We’ve actually seen significant growth due to our efforts. Outside Korea, I can tell you US and Japan are probably our biggest markets.

IMA: You started the $10 million partner fund for developers over a year ago, it brought in Cartoon Wars and other successes. In the last earnings call you said that you’ll invest further into the fund. What are your plans?

Lee: Last year just on publishing and IP acquisitions we spent $10 million. We’re on pace to spend the same amount of money this year. It depends on what kind of deals are out in the market, we might have to burn more cash to bring in more business. There have been a lot of developer funds out there but I want to emphasize that we are spending.

IMA: That’s interesting. Why is it a good idea to work with Gamevil and not one of the other publishers with a developers fund?

Lee:  We have more focus on publishing titles than we do on developing our own titles. We only have 10 of our own games. We’re doing 30 third party titles. If developers are publishing as their hobby project or something like that, it’s not going to succeed. The flip side to [focusing so much on] publishing is that it may demotivate your own developers — they might think they want to go out and start their own company too. We’ve been telling our own developers that we’re totally open to that.

The other thing is that we have a large cross promotion base, 150 million downloads on iOS and Android. We’re very strong in Asia too, so if you’re a U.S. company and you feel like you figured everything out in the U.S. we can figure Asia out for you. The developers we’re working with — some of them are two man studios, some of them are 70 person studios. Throughout the experience we’ve had with these developers we gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of trial and error.

IMA: Is there anything specific Gamevil looks for in a publishing partner?

Lee: If it’s in our demographic it is much easier to cross-promote. We’re not looking for paid games because those don’t monetize well in Asia. It has to be free to play. Everybody is looking for stronger social elements, but that’s what we’re looking for too. Most importantly the game has to be fun. We’re reviewing at least five to 10 games every week. Our bar is pretty high. I think it’s getting higher and higher because the landscape is becoming more and more competitive and we need home runs. If it’s something different and fun then we’ll always be happy to look into it. We’ll always give feedback on why we don’t like it because those developers can always come back with something great.

Profitable Animoca’s “Android App Supermarket” strategy pays off

Hong Kong’s Animoca has carved itself out a profitable niche on Android thanks to a slightly unorthodox business strategy.

While most mobile developers aim for a new release every three to four months, Animoca will release dozens of titles in that time frame. The company’s goal isn’t just to become a top mobile developer, but to be seen as an “app supermarket” — a destination that offers an enormous and varied catalogue of goods.

“What we’d like to do is push out an app a day. We want to have an app out there for every single person, whether they’re two years old or a senior citizen,” explains Sunny Cha, Animoca’s senior manager of marketing and corporate development.

According to Cha, the company’s target is to have a catalogue of more than 400 apps available by the end of the year, split between its main gaming business and its edutainment subdivision, Baby Cortex. The company currently has over 300 apps available worldwide, and plans to release another 60 before 2013.

A division of another Hong Kong company called Outblaze Ventures, Animoca currently employs more than 150 people between multiple studios in Hong Kong and South Korea to develop its titles. Animoca also publishes select titles, and although 90 percent of its games are produced in-house, Cha tells us Animoca wants to move further into publishing in order to bolster its catalogue.

While the company is based in Asia, Cha tells us Animoca’s userbase is also evenly distributed all over the world. “We see about 30 percent of our users in North America, 30 percent in Europe, 30 percent in Asia and 10 percent elsewhere,” she says.  The company’s revenue split is similar to its user split, but is typically between 10 and 15 percent higher in Asia — something that Animoca credits to it focus on quality assurance. The company tests endlessly to ensure its titles will run seamlessly on the hundreds of Android devices commonly used in the region, which in turn increases average revenue per user (ARPU) and average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU).

Although Animoca has a rocky relationship with iOS — Apple removed the company’s games from its platform in January, something Animoca blames on the behavior of some of its former third-party marketing providers — the company is currently profitable thanks to its business on Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

“In terms of revenue, what we lost on iOS, we’ve pretty much gained all of it back on Android because we have so many apps and so many users,” says Cha.

So far, Animoca  has racked up over 80 million downloads and 45 million players, but  doesn’t break out its monthly or daily active user counts. It is backed by an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel Capital and IDG-Accel.

 

Cloud-based cross-platform messenger MySMS looks to unite text and IM

Austria’s mysms wants to bring iMessage-like convenience to everyone’s communications, combining the best of SMS and instant messaging clients. The company’s independent, multi-platform messaging service allows users to send and receive messages on multiple devices, all through a single, cloud-based account.

On an Android phone, mysms works much like Apple’s iMessage, explains CEO Martin Pansy. When a user sends a message using mysms, the app checks if the recipient is also using mysms. If they are, the app uses an IP protocol to send the message for free even if the user is using cell data and not connected to a Wi-Fi signal, he explains. If the recipient isn’t using mysms, the app automatically switches to sending a traditional text message and carrier fees apply. On iOS, mysms functions more like a traditional instant messaging service, since Apple doesn’t allow mysms to replicate the functionality of iMessage.

What sets mysms apart from iMessage and other alternative messaging apps like Voxer and Whatsapp is that mysms users can send and read messages sent through its service from multiple devices: smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and even a Facebook app. This cloud-based approach allows mysms to blend the functionality of SMS and instant messaging into one universal application.

People want to have just one single inbox for all their text messages and IM services,” explains Pansy. “For example, if you use Facebook instant messenger you can only use that; if you use Whatsapp, you can only send messages to people who have Whatsapp, and Whatsapp is only on mobile, not tablet or desktop. Same is true for standard SMS, which we only receive on mobile. We want to break up this barrier.”

Although the majority of mysms’ userbase currently comes from U.S.-based Android users, the app is growing fast with iOS users and in markets like Germany and Saudi Arabia. The service currently has over 30,000 users, and altogether they’ve downloaded the mysms more than half a million times between its iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Chrome and Facebook apps.

The service currently monetizes through the sale of SMS in Europe, where it can sell messages over IP and offer its users cheaper rates than they would get from their regular providers. In the long term, the company may also go down the freemium route, offering users additional premium features for a small fee.

By the end of the year, mysms is aiming to have 100,000 users, but the goal isn’t to be just another messaging app. In the longer term, Pansy and the mysms team are betting on turning the technology into a communications platform — more Twitter than Voxer.

“Our platform is based on APIs,” says Pansy. “Developers can build applications on top of our infrastructure, it’s something that will interest to us at a later stage, but we’ve been thinking about since the beginning.”

Mobile revenues now account for 8.8% of Tencent’s earnings as net profit his $490.1M in Q2 2012

Chinese internet giant Tencent has reported second quarter revenues of 10.5 billion RMB ($1.6 billion), up 9.1 percent quarter-over-quarter and 56.2 percent year-over-year.   Net profit for Q2 2012 was 3.1 billion RMB ($490.1 million), up 5.1 percent quarter-over-quarter and 32 percent year-over-year.

Revenue from Tencent’s mobile and telecommunications value added services (MVAS) — the category the company’s mobile games, apps and services fall into — was 929 million RMB ($146.9 million), up 1.7 percent from Q1’s 913 million RMB. Although Tencent’s MVAS revenue growth slowed in the second quarter, earnings in the category are still up 17 percent year-over-year. MVAS revenues now account for 8.8 percent of Tencent’s sales, with growth attributed to bundled SMS packages and mobile games.

As we’ve reported before Tencent has been working to expand its smartphone development expertise, and has even released its own line of Android smartphones in order to bolster its mobile userbase.

Although the company classifies Chinese mobile regulations as “uncertain”, the company is still pushing forward to lock down market share in China’s rapidly growing smartphone market. Canalys Research recently reported that China now accounts for 27 percent of all global smartphone shipments, with 42 million units shipped to the country in Q2, up 199 percent year-over-year and 32 percent quarter-over-quarter.

Tencent’s shares are currently trading at 230 Hong Kong dollars ($29.64), giving the company a market capitalization of 419.3 billion Hong Kong dollars ($54.05 billion).

Gamevil Q2 2012 sales dip 7.8% Q-over-Q to $13.4M, as net profits rise to $5.2M

South Korea’s Gamevil has posted its Q2 2012 results, reporting total revenues of 15.2 billion KRW ($13.4 million), up 96 percent year-over-year, but down 7.8 percent from the company’s Q1 sales of 16.5 billion KRW ($14.6 million). The company’s net profits for the quarter were 5.9 billion KRW ($5.2 million), up 56 percent year-over-year and 13.4 percent over Q1’s 5.2 billion KRW ($4.6 million).

While Gamevil’s total sales dipped slightly in the second quarter, overall the first half of the 2012 fiscal year was the best the company had ever seen, with 31.8 billion KRW ($28.1 million) in sales and 11.1 billion KRW ($9.8 million) in net profits.

Gamevil chalked up the results to its smartphone sales. The company now has almost 150 million smartphone customers and is seeing significant growth in sales, both domestically and internationally. During Q1 and Q2, the company’s South Korean smartphone sales increased by 67 percent year-on-year. International smartphone sales for the first half of the year were even stronger, growing by 161 percent year-over-year.

The company’s top performing titles for the quarter were games in its Baseball Superstars series, the Zenonia series and Cartoon Wars. In the second half of the year, the company plans to release new Baseball Superstars and Zenonia games, as well as three new mobile social games called Kingdom Royale, Monster Warlord and Train City Mobile. The company is also investing further in the Gamevil Partner Fund, and focus more on distributing its games to China and Japan.

TinyCo to set up not-so-tiny 60 person studio in Vancouver B.C.

TinyCo has announced it will open new, standalone studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. TinyCo is the latest in a growing series of San Francisco-based game companies to set up north of the border, following in the footsteps of Gameview Studios and GREE.

According to TinyCo CEO and co-founder Suli Ali, the company chose Vancouver for a variety of reasons. “It’s in the same time zone that we operate in, there are short direct flights to get there,” he explains. “It’s [also] a desirable place for people from San Francisco to live, but most importantly, we’ve got a real depth of talent that we really want to go into and recruit against.”

Ali tells us that although TinyCo is still in the process of finalizing its new office space, the company already has its first three Vancouver employees on board. Over the next six months, the company plans to increase headcount at TinyCo Vancouver to 60 people, including programmers, artists, engineers, data analysts, QA staff and product managers. The team will be building games for both iOS and Android using TinyCo’s cross-platform Griffin engine.

TinyCo is not revealing how much money it’s spending to set up the new studio, but the company is backed by $18 million in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz.

 

 

Nexon revenues dip quarter-over-quarter to $290.8 million in Q2

Nexon has posted its Q2 2012 results, reporting total revenues of 22.8 billion yen ($290.8 million), up 12 percent year-over-year, but down 24.7 percent from its Q1 2012 revenues of 30.3 billion yen ($387.2 million). The company’s net income during the quarter was 6.7 billion yen ($85.6 million), up 32 percent year-over-year, but down 45.5 percent from Q1’s 12.3 billion yen ($157.1 million).

The company’s most lucrative region was China, which was responsible for 47 percent of Nexon’s business, bringing in 10.7 billion yen ($136.5 million) in revenue — an increase of 38 percent year-over-year,

Nexon is estimating it will earn about 24.9 billion yen ($318.2 million) in revenue during Q3 2012, and its total revenues for the 2012 fiscal year will be approximately 104.3 billion yen ($1.33 billion), an increase of 19 percent year-over-year.

Com2uS posts record quarter, sees smartphone sales increase 325% Y-o-Y to $17.6M

South Korea’s Com2uS is reporting record high quarterly sales and profits for Q2 2012, with revenue increasing 158 percent year-over-year to KRW 22 billion ($19.7 million), and net income increasing 490 percent year-over-year to KRW 6 billion ($5.31 million).

Com2uS’ revenue and net income also increased significantly quarter-over-quarter, with revenues up 96.4 percent over Q1’s KRW 11.2 billion and net income up 57.8 percent over Q1’s KRW 3.8 billion.

The company credited the increase in sales and profits to its growing lineup of social smartphone games and to switch to the free-to-play model, highlighting the performance of Tiny Farm, Derby Days, Monkey Battle (Swing Shot in the U.S.), Aqua Story, Com2uS Pro Baseball 2013 and Inotia 4 in particular. Revenues also increased significantly year-over-year due to the existence of a Games category in the Korean iOS app store. Prior to November 2011, the Korean Game Ratings Board had prohibited games in the Korean iOS app store due to concerns about age-ratings for games.

The company’s transition to smartphone gaming has so far, been extremely successful. Com2uS’s total smartphone sales in the second quarter were were KRW 19.9 billion ($17.6 million), up 325 percent year-over year, 117 percent quarter-over-quarter, and accounting for 90.4 percent of the company’s total quarterly revenues. By comparison in 2011, smartphone sales accounted for 64 percent of Com2uS’ total annual revenues.

Com2uS’ Korean revenues were KRW 14.5 billion ($12.8 million), or 65.9 percent of total revenues. International revenues for the second quarter increased 85 percent year-over-year and 36 percent quarter-over-quarter to KRW 7.5 billion ($6.6 million), growing to 34.1 percent of the company’s total quarterly revenue.

The company also noted it is now the first Korean mobile game company to see quarterly sales in excess of KRW 20 billion ($17.7 million). Com2uS’ operating margin was 31 percent for the quarter.

As part of today’s announcement, Com2uS also updated its sales estimates for the fiscal year. The company is now predicting total annual revenues of KRW 74.1 billion ($65.5 million), up 36 percent from previous estimates of KRW 54.6 billion ($47.9 million). Com2uS estimates its total smartphone revenues in the 2012 fiscal year will exceed KRW 66.8 billion ($59.1 million), up 39 percent from the company’s previous estimate of KRW 48 billion ($42.5 million.

The company’s shares rose on the news, climbing 1.09 percent today to KRW 46,300 ($40.97), giving Com2uS a market capitalization of KWR 467 billion ($413.2 million).

 

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