The way Adrian Peterson racks up yards on a weekly basis, sometimes it feels like he’s running forever. But now, thanks to the NFL and mobile games publisher Pocket Gems, football fans can suit up virtually in their favorite team’s gear and tackle the league’s first free-to-play endless running game, NFL Runner: Football Dash. (more…)
Pocket Gems releases case study about its publishing program, first two published games both saw more than 2M installs in the first 2 weeks
Mobile game developer and publisher Pocket Gems today released a case study about its publishing program, where the company explained its publishing philosophy and process. It’s first two published games — Chasing Yello for Android and Amazing Ants for iOS — both saw more than two million installs in the first two weeks of its respective releases.
The purpose of the case study was to review the first two games Pocket Gems published and to share some information on how the games performed as well as more on the publishing process between Pocket Gems and the indie developers. Future developers can get a better sense as to how Pocket Gems works with developers, since many have asked Pocket Gems how its publishing process works.
“We had on our website that this is the general process, but here we can say here’s what we did with the first developers we worked with and get a better sense of what it actually looks like,” says Jameel Khalfan, who oversees publishing efforts for Pocket Gems.
The San Francisco-headquartered game studio, which was founded in 2009, first announced that it was adding a publishing side to its business in December 2012. The development house had revealed three games from indie developers it was publishing so far. The first game published by Pocket Gems was endless swimmer game Chasing Yello for Android in December 2012 from German developer Dreamfab and Danish developer Tactile Entertainment. The second title was Twyngo’s Lemmings-like puzzler Amazing Ants for iOS in January. Pocket Gems’ third announced title that was part of its initial publishing deal was we.R.play’s robot action title RoboQuest for iOS, which has yet to release. Khalfan says the game will launch “soon.”
Khalfan reiterated what CEO Ben Liu told Inside Mobile Apps last year, saying Pocket Gems didn’t believe there were any good publishing options for developers, so that’s why the company decided to fill that void.
“We only publish games that we love from a small group developers,” Khalfan says. “Our goal isn’t to go and publish a thousand games. Our goal is to find the best games and focus our time and attention on them rather than going for the shotgun approach.”
Pocket Gems helped Twyngo and Dreamfab through the entire publishing process including the design, engagement, and monetization phase, the testing phase and the launch phase. Khalfan adds that each developer Pocket Gems worked with needed help in one phase more than the other. Pocket Gems helped Twyngo decide whether it should release two versions of Amazing Ants — a light and full version — or a purely freemoim game with in-app purchase. Twyngo ultimately went with the latter. Dreamfab, which had already released Chasing Yello for iOS on its own, came to Pocket Gems for help with porting the title to Android. Due to the severe fragmentation when it comes to Android devices, Pocket Gems aided Dreamfab by telling the indie developer its best practices for which Android devices and operating system versions Dreamfab should support and not support.
“For each different game, it’s going to be a different approach from everything from the game design to the QA process to the launch and the ongoing marketing and analytics,” Khalfan says. “That’s the best approach for developers because they all want something a little bit different and they all have different skills sets, and they all have different things they are good at and things they want help on.”
A fear many indie developers have when working with publishers is if their game doesn’t perform well, publishers will put less support and resources into the their game, while putting more into games that are performing well.
“We want to put in our all for every game that we publish, so that’s why we focus on a smaller set of games,” Khalfan says.
Khalfan says Pocket Gems is currently looking for more games to publish from all genres and primarily free-to-play. Developers interested in learning more about Pocket Gems’ publishing efforts can go here.
Monetization and insights provider W3i is stepping up its game with Pocket Gems and other mobile game developers on Android going into 2013. This could be the year that Google’s platform finally catches up in revenues to Apple’s iOS.
Through its expanded partnership with Pocket Games, W3i now provides monetization solutions to Tap Paradise Cove and Campus Life. Far from being mere banner ads, the monetization service focuses instead on providing a native experience in these Android apps — tailoring ads, offers and video campaigns to the user experience.
Erik Lundberg, General Manager at W3i’s San Francisco office (pictured), explains that the shift toward native experiences comes from mobile advertising finally moving away from online advertising models. With 15 years in online ads before joining W3i just eight months ago, he’s had time to study the changing trends.
“In the early days of ads and mobile apps, people took online models and slapped them on a smartphone like small banner ads that are only 100 pixels wide,” says Lundberg. “Users have tuned those out. More native ads like a full screen interstitial or offer-based ads, we see a much higher CPM, like 10 times higher. We think that trend will continue toward native ads that are a part of the application instead of just throwing up a banner.”
Social mobile game company Pocket Gems announced it’s expanding its existing partnership with W3i. Under the expansion, W3i will provide monetization solutions for two more of Pocket Gems’ Android games, Tap Paradise Cove and Campus Life.
W3i will also provide monetization solutions for Pocket Gems’ other Android games and Pocket Gems will expand the use of W3i’s Offer Exchange. The Offer Exchange provides offers courtesy of an offer wall and featured alerts. Ad units, meanwhile, include videos and app installations, which means Pocket Gems can implement advertising in its Android games without having to integrate offer networks into its titles.
Tap Paradise Cove originally came out for iOS in March 2012 and is still going strong. Our AppData traffic tracking service shows the game is still the No. 39 top grossing app, the No. 25 top grossing iPad app, the No. 28 top grossing iPad game and the No. 37 top grossing game. Campus Life is performing even better: it’s the No. 32 top grossing app, No. 21 top grossing iPad app, No. 30 top grossing game and the No. 17 top grossing iPad game.
Pocket Gems continuing W3i’s partnership on the Android side of mobile monetization will probably make the former even more tempting for third-party developers to publish their games with. While the iOS versions of these games are clearly monetizing well, we regularly hear from developers with similarly strong free-to-play titles that the Android audience doesn’t monetize nearly as well (back in July, GameDuell told us iOS users outspend those on Android four to one).
Mobile app news roundup: ZeptoLab’s new game, new funding for Flit and a an app from Coca-Cola and (RED)
Animoca celebrates the holidays with new releases, updates – Mobile game developer and publisher Animoca announced the launch of the holiday-themed game Pretty Pet Toy Store. The company also updated its restaurant management game Pet Cafe 2 and celebrity sim game Star Girl with special seasonal content. All games are available to download from Google Play.
Sony launches Wheel of Fortune mobile game – Sony Pictures Television launched a mobile game based on the famous television game show in celebration of its 30th season. It is available to download for $2.99 on iOS devices, Android and Kindle Fire.
HitFox Game Finder launches on Android — The free mobile game discovery app which has been available on iOS has expanded to the Android platform. Game Finder provides an overview of daily deals and can send push notifications when the price of selected games is reduced. It includes titles from both established and unknown developers. It can be downloaded from Google Play here.
The Coca-Cola Company introduces (THRED) mobile game to help end mother to child transmission of HIV – The free-to-play mobile game available now on the iTunes App Store is a joint project between The Coca-Cola Company and (RED), developed to raise awareness and funds for the fight to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. The game is an endless runner using the Unreal engine. It can be found here.
Cryptozoic, Playdek launch Penny Arcade: Gamers vs. Evil on iOS — A mobile version of the card game based on the popular webcomic is now available to download from the iTunes App Store for $4.99.
Pocket Gems launches first partner title Chasing Yello – Last week Pocket Gems announced that it will begin publishing third party titles. Now the first of these titles, dreamfab’s Chasing Yello, is headed to Android. It should be noted that dreamfab has already published the game on the iTunes App Store earlier this year. Pocket Gems also released Tap Paradise Cove and Campus Live on Android, both of which were previously available only on iOS.
Flit raises $750,000 in funding – The social shopping app for iPad Flit Shopping announced it closed a $750,000 round in funding from Crosslink Capital, YouWeb Startup Incubator, Spencer Trask and Correlation Ventures. Flit’s founder and CEO Adrian Lall said he plans to use the new funding to to engage with more retailers, brands, and consumers to broaden the app’s reach and coverage.
ZeptoLab releases Pudding Monsters – The creators of the hugely successful Cut the Rope, ZeptoLab, released their new game Pudding Monsters. The game is a puzzle adventure in which the player controls the sticky Pudding Monsters through 75 levels. You can read our coverage of the game’s announcement here.
Kontagent’s mobile analytics now available on iOS — Mobile and social analytics provider Kontagent announced a new iPhone and iPad app providing access to the company’s full kSuite Mobile Dashboard for tracking mobile business performance. The app will be free to download for existing Kontagent customers.
Mobile game developer Pocket Gems is throwing their hat in the game publishing ring, announcing today that they are publishing three indie-developed games in the coming weeks.
The first three developers that Pocket Gems is partnering with are dreamfab, Twyngo, and we.R.play. Dreamfab’s runner genre title Chasing Yello will be the first game published by Pocket Gems to hit the market, launching next week on Google Play. Twyngo’s Lemmings-like puzzler Amazing Ants for iOS is set to release later this month and we.R.play’s robot action title RoboQuest in early 2013 on the Apple App Store.
Recently appointed Pocket Gems CEO Ben Liu said two concepts that make Pocket Gems different than other publishers is that it’s approaching publishing from a developer perspective and also customizing each partnership with a developer instead of with a one-size-fits-all solution.
“We really view ourselves as a developer first and foremost,” he says. “That will never change for us. Publishing is our way of deepening relationships between companies that we were already giving advice to and working with informally.”
Liu told Inside Mobile Apps that the San Francisco-headquartered development house had been approached by many publishers in their past already, but none were a good fit.
“One thing that we always felt was missing was people approaching [publishing] from a developer point of view,” says Liu. “One reason why we never went with any of the people that approached us was that it wasn’t a good fit for a pure developer.”
Pocket Gems, who’ve developed 19 games to date, will help the indie developers by providing customized advice, reviewing games with their QA team, building a launch plan, promoting the app to find loyal users, and continuously supporting the game after launch with data and analytics.
Twyngo founder Unni Narayanan was on hand at an event yesterday at Pocket Gems’ office. He told us that since Amazing Ants is the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company’s first game, they needed help with distribution. After exploring a number of different publisher options, Twyngo chose Pocket Gems.
“What attracted us to Pocket Gems is they have a very developer-centric view,” Narayanan says. “They weren’t just a publishing house collecting assets and pumping them out the door. They’ve developed successful apps. They are quite good at monetization and retention. Those we’re things that we wanted to get right as well as we could on our first release.”
Pocket Gems, which is coming out of its best quarter in terms of revenue and gross profit, received Series A funding in December 2010 from Sequoia Capital.
Imangi Studios, the independent studio behind the mobile mega-hit Temple Run, has signed a two year long deal that will see W3i become its exclusive monetization partner on Android.
Under the terms of the deal, Imangi Studios has integrated a W3i-powered offer wall that gives players the option to download, launch and play other Android games in exchange for free Temple Coins, the game’s virtual currency. W3i’s technology allows developers to run offers from multiple networks through a single offer wall, without having to negotiate separate agreements.
The financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed, but W3i typically operates its install business on a revenue share model, with developers taking home the lion’s share of the proceeds.
Today’s announcement marks the the second major Android-based deal W3i has signed this year. In June the company announced it would be Pocket Gems’ exclusive monetization solution provider on the platform.
W3i now reaches more than 14 million daily active users on Android — 5 million of which come from Temple Run alone, according to today’s announcement.
Tap Campus Life is a new mobile game from Pocket Gems. It’s a free-to-play game, and made its debut as the No.9 top free iPhone app at the start of this week. The game is available now from the App Store.
Tap Campus Life casts players in the role of a custom-designed female avatar attempting to start her own sorority. Beginning with a tiny, empty room with no furniture, it’s up to the player to recruit new girls, purchase new items to entertain them and build a better sorority than the game’s “villain” Prissie.
The game unfolds in a similar manner to many other free-to-play games of this type — “quests” walk the player through “suggested” activities, pointing out exactly what buttons to press with large bobbing arrows, and the player makes most progress by following this linear path of tasks rather than taking advantage of the illusion of “freedom.” Income is generated by the girls present in the sorority at regular intervals (though exactly where this money is coming from is seemingly left up to the player’s imagination) and this may be spent on new items for the house. In order to attract new girls, various “events” must be completed, each of which have prerequisite items or costumes that must be purchased before it can be begun. Some “premium” girls with more distinctive appearances (such as a “punk rocker” character) cost hard currency to unlock before they may be attracted.
Upon triggering an event, a real-time countdown begins. This may be bypassed by expending hard currency, a small (and easily-spent) quantity of which is provided to the player at the beginning of the game. Once the countdown has expired or been bypassed, the event begins. Most events require the player to look out for on-screen symbols to tap on and trigger various animations — for example, a “workout” event sees the player triggering yoga poses and stretches around the room. Each event has an “energy bar” that is partially depleted with every action taken, and when this has been emptied the event is over, hopefully with the object of the player’s affections feeling more inclined to join the sorority than before.
Once a prospective new member’s prerequisite events have been completed, the player may attempt to recruit them. Once again, there is a real-time (and bypassable) countdown before this action actually begins, at which point the player must pick from several on-screen conversational topics, represented by icons, in order to build the new girl’s affection bar to the maximum. If the player is successful in attracting the girl, she joins the sorority; if they fail, they must try again later.
Tap Campus Life’s gameplay is a little different from other similar mobile and social games of its type, making it mildly worthy of note, but what is somewhat less admirable is its depiction of women as skinny, image-obsessed, airheaded wannabe “socialites.” The fact that it quite literally objectifies several of the characters by requiring premium currency to unlock them only adds to the game’s rather sexist feel overall. The “airheaded sorority girl” is an established trope in popular media, but in movies and TV shows, characters of this type are usually depicted in an exaggerated, over-the-top manner and played for laughs — in the case of this game, however, it’s never quite clear if the developers are expecting the player to take these characters “seriously” or not.
Ultimately, Tap Campus Life is another addition to the ever-growing category of freemium mobile games that offer relatively little in the way of depth, but can provide mildly amusing diversions. It’s not a terrible game, but neither is it particularly interesting, either. It will likely enjoy a short period of success, but in the long-term its likely to be replaced by another, very similar game.
Tap Campus Life is currently ranked at No. 9 in Top Free Apps, No. 13 in Top Grossing Apps, No. 5 in Top Free iPad Apps, No. 21 in Top Grossing iPad Apps, No. 5 in Top Free Games and No. 3 in Top Free iPad Games. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.
Zombie Takeover is a new free to play iOS game from Pocket Gems, Inc., available as a Universal app for iPad and iPhone. It’s a building sim with light combat elements, and is built around a Tiny Tower or Tap Pet Hotel-like mechanic of playing in very short bursts then waiting for long periods of real time for things to happen.
At the outset of the game, the player is placed in control of a zombie school. Through a series of tutorial missions, the player is introduced to the game’s main mechanics — building rooms to attract specific characters; turning said characters into zombie forms of themselves; producing food to enhance and grow the zombie army; and attacking nearby buildings in an attempt to take them over. As the game progresses, the player will gradually take over more and more buildings, allowing them to attract different types of horror-themed monsters into their team.
Building rooms is a matter of space management. Some rooms occupy a single square of the building in which they will be placed; others are larger. Running out of space requires the expansion of the building in question, an operation which can be performed either upwards, a la Tiny Tower or Tap Pet Hotel, or outwards. Certain rooms are produced almost immediately after three taps, while others take several hours to produce. Similarly, some characters are quickly turned into zombies, while for others the transformation process takes hours.
When the player has enough zombies required to assault a particular room in a building, the player has the opportunity to send their undead army into combat. At this point, a timing-based combat minigame begins. The enemy forces defending the building wait on one side of the screen, and the zombies the player has assigned to the combat wait at the bottom of the screen behind a gate.
When the gate opens, the player can tap on one of their zombies to send them into the fray. While they are engaged in combat, a small meter next to them fills and turns into a tappable button once full. Tapping this button unleashes a more powerful attack than the zombie’s usual strikes, so combat becomes a matter of quickly surveying the screen, tapping on zombies to bring them through the gate, and tapping on these “power” buttons to quickly dispatch the enemy forces before too many zombies are defeated. Downed zombies aren’t removed from the game, but they are then required to be transformed again, leading to more downtime.
The long waits involved in playing Zombie Takeover provide incentive for players to engage with the game’s monetization strategy. Items known as “Charms” are sold via in-app purchase, and these can be used in a variety of ways. They can be used to hurry building of a room, production of food for zombies or transformation of characters into zombies. They can also be used to purchase a variety of special items, including more powerful characters. They can also buy powers to let more “minion” support characters be summoned simultaneously. They can also go toward different customized backdrops for the game or more efficient “kitchen” rooms to produce zombie food. Unlike many similar games, Zombie Takeover doesn’t gradually introduce elements with long wait times — almost from the outset, the player is made to wait or pay. This includes the combat portion of the game, too — normally, players must wait several hours between attacks on buildings unless Charms are used, meaning that progression can be very slow if in-app purchasing isn’t a desirable option.
Zombie Takeover’s position in the App Store charts has fluctuated enormously since its launch. It’s pushed into the top ten on the Free Apps chart on three separate occasions over the course of the last month, but is currently languishing at No. 232. In the Games chart, meanwhile, it has followed a similar pattern, with several peaks and troughs and a current placing of No. 110.
It looks set to provide a moderately good income stream for Sequoia Capital-backed Pocket Gems, however, with placing on the Top Grossing charts both for apps and games. The title’s showing an upward trend, particularly in the iPad Top Grossing Apps chart. Pocket Gems launched a sequel to Tap Zoo 2 and a few seasonal titles during the holiday period, but it’s the first time since August that the company has released a completely new game.
You can follow Zombie Takeover’s progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for social and iOS games and developers.
It’s crunch time for Sequoia-backed Pocket Gems, the maker of what seemed to be a never-ending hit, Tap Zoo, a casual game that stuck among the top 10 grossing iOS apps for about a year.
But with Zynga now gunning for the company’s crown jewel, the San Francisco-based game developer has just released a more polished version of the game called Tap Zoo 2: World Tour with several new worlds starting with an African-themed park (see below). (To unlock the new park, players have to reached Level 14 and cross-breed a hyena and giraffe.) The company also made its cross-breeding mechanic more sophisticated by letting users mix and match the heads, bodies and tails of different animals to create new ones.
With refreshed artwork, Tap Zoo 2 shows the higher-production value that Pocket Gems now has to achieve to compete with games in the same genre from Zynga, Backflip Studios and TinyCo. It’s a trend we’re seeing in multiple game genres. As user acquisition gets more expensive on iOS and with more venture funding in the space, we’re seeing the original genre leaders on Apple’s platform like Storm8 fall behind other companies that put more attention into art and graphics like Funzio, which coincidentally was founded by some of the original Storm8 founders.
In launching Dream Zoo, Zynga riffed on Pocket Gems’ original Tap Zoo by adding more leveling for each animal, a social currency called ‘Hearts’ and more mini-games around cleaning and feeding. In Zynga’s roadshow for its initial public offering expected next week, the company said that when it launches a new game, it expects to do three to five times better than the incumbent. Because Zynga has lost daily active users for two consecutive quarters, it has to successfully diversify off Facebook and onto iOS and Android to raise value for shareholders going into 2012. So Zynga will spend whatever it takes to lock up those top-grossing spots.
To keep up with the competition, Pocket Gems has hired very aggressively in the last few months by bulking up to around 100 employees and even sending executives to India to recruit local talent there. It’s gone for the low-hanging fruit by releasing seasonal editions of its games like Tap Zoo: Santa’s Quest and Holiday Hotel, but plans to do entirely new games too.
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