Indie games kickstarter cover

5 Tips To Market Indie Game Apps On A Shoestring Budget

This is a guest article provided by Shruti Lele.

The later part of the last decade saw herculean disruptions in the mobile technology space. With the launch of the first ever Apple iPhone in 2007 and subsequent launch of Android phones, the world of mobile technology was forever changed. Today, there are over a 1.5 Million number of apps in both the app stores combined and have together been downloaded over 160 Billion times. These numbers are indeed staggering and show the state of the mobile app ecosystem today.

The era of the indie game gold rush

According to Statistica, the top 5 Apple app store categories as of March 2015 were the following:

Top 5 iOS Apple App Store categories in March 2015

It is evident that of all the apps in the app stores, game apps are the clear majority. Most app developers, whether it is the indie developers, medium sized app development shops or giant game development firms, are trying to ride the popular game app wave.

Indie game developers are a special breed of app developers that are very innovative and passionate about gaming. It was somewhere around 2008 that the indie game world first experienced massive success with games likes Braid and World of Goo, which then started the era of the gold rush towards indie games. More recently the mobile indie game world saw the phenomenal success of Flappy Bird. It was stuff that indie game developer fairy tales are made of. The game became a global phenomenon in a matter of few weeks, raking in more than a whopping $50,000 per day. From then on, every indie game developer worth their salt started believing that they could develop the next big successful indie game and achieve gaming glory. If an indie developer sitting in Vietnam could achieve such success so could anybody right?

However the reality was a little bit different. Let’s look at some statistics:

  1. The average indie game developer makes less than $500 per month while it takes an average of $6000 to develop a game. (According to AppVee)
  2. Gartner projects that by 2018, less than 0.01% of consumer mobile apps will be considered financial successes by their own developers
  3. 95% of indie games are not profitable (According to Indiegamegirl)
  4. 500 new iOS games and 250 Android games appeared in their respective stores every 24 hours (Venturebeat)

What does this mean for the indie game developers?

While there are many challenges in the way of indie game developers, the biggest one is having unrealistic expectations. What indie game developers need to understand is that they don’t have to only look at the two extremes: complete failure or epic success like Flappy Bird, and that there is a happy middle where their games can slowly succeed with time.

Mobile gaming continues to dominate the app stores, generating the maximum revenue compared to any other category. According to a study published by Newzoo, the estimated total revenue of mobile games industry in 2014 is at $25 billion out of which $4 billion is gained by Apple and $3 billion by Google.

Global Games Market Report by Newzoo, Q3 2014

Source: Estimated Mobile Games Market Growth for 2013-2017 by Newzoo

Clearly, mobile games are here to stay and there is a huge market for indie game developers to tap into. With the right marketing plan and exposure, indie game developers can achieve app success.

Marketing indie game apps on a shoestring budget

One of the top challenges indie game developers face is app discoverability, which is a challenge across all app developers. It takes aggressive and consistent marketing to make an app stand out and get noticed. A big myth that a lot of indie developers have is that marketing an app requires a gigantic budget. That is just not true. For the best results it is recommended that indie game developers should start marketing their game long before it is actually released. Marketing usually takes time to plan and implement and it’s best not to lose precious time once a game is launched. If the foundation is laid properly, it will help get the maximum exposure for the game and increase it’s chances of success.

Here are some tactics that every indie game developer can use and most of them are completely free or have marginal costs:

1. Create a website and blog

This is the first most important task you need to do as an indie game developer. If you are a serial developer you should have one main website which lists all your games and then individual pages for each of the games. As a best practice it is important to have landing pages for each specific game that should feature high quality screenshots, overview of the game/top features and links to download the game. In addition the page should include social sharing icons and the trailer of your game.

The main goal of the website is to increase awareness about your game and get people to download it. It is thus crucial provide a seamless user experience where the readers are able to learn more about the game and easily download the game if they like what they see. Here are some examples of great landing pages for games:

QuizUp mobile game landing page
QuizUp: https://www.quizup.com/en
Dots mobile game landing page
Dots: http://weplaydots.com/dots/

A blog is where developers can write interesting stories about the process of game development, update their players about new releases or in general keep in touch with the player community. It helps loyal users keep in touch with the developers. Consistent blogging can not only help build a loyal community but also increase organic reach with due to SEO. In this age of search and social, it can’t be emphasized enough just how important it is to have a website and a blog for your indie game.

2. Create a short trailer

Trailers have been all the rage for a while now and it is a tried and tested best practice. It is the fastest most efficient way of showcasing a game and it is a must have for a website. Trailers are a great tool to entice gamers and help build the first impression in their minds. Here are some tips to help you create awesome trailers for your game app:

  • Hardware and software needs: You can create decent trailers just using your laptop, a video editing software like iMovies and some screenshots of your game. There are various tools and softwares in the market that you can choose from if you are looking to create high quality videos and are ok to spend some money. Gamasutra posted a great article on creating trailers. Check it out to learn more.
  • Keep it short and sweet: The trailer video should be attention grabbing, short and sweet (ideally no more than 90 seconds) and include real in-game footage. A good trailer can help convince a gamer to download your game so make it good and make it short. No one has the time to sift through long boring trailers and you will likely lose the gamer of your trailer is too long.
  • Include game title and your company name: It is recommended to include your game’s title and your company name clearly in the trailer. This helps with brand recall and helps players remember who you are.

3. Get on the social media bandwagon

Yes you heard right. Social media is not only for the millennials. Social media marketing is a great free way to spread the word about your game and help generate word-of-mouth interest for it.

Here are some tips to help you kick-start your social media presence:

  • Create social media pages: First thing to do would be creating some social media pages for your indie game. Do some research beforehand to find out what are the social media channels that indie game players spend the most time in. Pick the top 2-3 most popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and create your pages there accordingly.
  • Optimize your social media pages: Each social media page must include a brief description of your game along, trailer video, links to the website and to the app stores. In addition, you should make sure that you use high-resolution screenshots and cover pages for your social media pages. Keep in mind to incorporate the image guidelines for each of the channels.
  • Actively engage in conversation: Make sure you consistently post across all the channels. Be sure to post things about other games and/or industry news in addition to stories about your game. No one would like self promotion and you are to make sure you put out content that your players will be engaged in. Once you start building a community and start getting players interact with you, make sure you actively respond to all the messages. It helps your potential players to get to know the human behind the game.
  • Optimize posts: It is ideal to post during peak times like 11am to 11pm EST. It has been found that posting at 11am on a Monday works best. You should post multiple times through the day to be able to reach the maximum number of people. You can use tools like Hootsuite to schedule tweets and posts.

4. Reach out to the press

It is a very important and effective skill to know how to contact press. Everybody does it but not everybody does it well. Getting press coverage by a game journalist or getting featured in a game specific publication can be invaluable in getting the much-needed exposure for your indie game. While there is no magic pill to do it right, here are some tips on how to get the basics right:

  • Create a press kit: Journalists get thousands of emails on a daily basis and often don’t have the time to go through different links. It is extremely important and useful to have a press kit ready that they can download with the click of a mouse and get all the necessary documents they need to get about your game. Things to include in the press kit are: screenshots of your game, trailer/video of the game, team/company info page, any press mentions/awards received, links to social channels and logos.
  • Create a wish list of journalists and publications: Do your research and create a list of journalists who cover indie games and write for the type of publications that you want to be featured in. This step is very important because getting featured in the wrong type of publication doesn’t help as the audience of that publication might not be ones who are interested in indie games. Create an excel spreadsheet to list down the names of the journalists and also note down links to their social media accounts and the publications they write for. Maintaining a spreadsheet like that helps keep track of everyone you need to contact and ones who already have been contacted. It helps to start building a relationship with your target journalists by following them on social media and engaging with them long before you need something from them.
  • Draft an introduction email: It is always helpful to draft a generic introduction email to send to journalists so that you don’t waste time drafting a new one every time you need to reach out to a new journalist. Make sure the email is to the point and crisply answers why you are reaching out to the journalist. Remember, journalists get thousands of emails about “the next best game” so your email must be able to stand out from the others. Keep the email brief, pleasant and include a line about why they should care about your game.

5. Build relationships with the indie developer community

This is an absolute must if you are a newbie indie developer. It really helps if you build relationships with fellow indie game developers. This community can be an invaluable resource in learning new things, getting support, cross promoting and much more. There are various forums and groups like the Indie Games subreddit, that indie developers participate in. Make a list of the top forums and groups you want to start engaging in and then make it a habit to carry on regular conversations and slowly build relationships with the fellow indie folk. Also, make sure that you extend any help and support you can because that will go a long way in building strong relationships and those developers will be more than happy to return the favor when you need it.

Conclusion

Marketing indie games is almost as important as thinking of the game idea and developing it. To summarize this article, must-have steps to start marketing your indie game are:

a. Create a website and blog
b. Create a short trailer
c. Get on the social media bandwagon
d. Reach out to the press
e. Build relationships with the indie game community

Remember, no matter how great your game is, it won’t matter if no one hears about it. So if you think you have the next big indie game, start marketing it now!

Shruti Lele

Author Bio:
Shruti Lele is a Sr Digital Marketing Manager at Personagraph, a mobile user insights company. She has a keen interest in all things digital including search, content, SEO and social. More recently she was responsible for conceptualization, deployment and content creation of a knowledge academy at Personagraph. For more interesting articles on the mobile ecosystem please visit Think Tank.
Follow Shruti Lele on Twitter and connect with her on Linkedin.

Defend Ukraine: iOS and Android game in support of Ukrainian Army. Download on iTunes and Google Play

Defend Ukraine: Charity Mobile Game Developed by Volunteers (Updated: now on Google Play)

An unusual iOS game called Defend Ukraine had been launched on the App Store a in November 2014. The main purpose of the game is to raise funds for Ukrainian Army which is fighting against Russian military aggression in Eastern Ukraine. All funds collected via this game will be transfered to Wings of Phoenix foundation, which supplies Ukrainian Armed Forces with necessary equipment, implemented over 10 large-scale charity projects and gathered $3.3 million so far.

Defend Ukraine is an arcade game compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

In March 2015, the game was released on Google Play. The Android version is free with ads, but you’ll only see them if you loose the game.

Download the app on Google Play

Download ‘Defend Ukraine’ on Google Play

In this game your mission is to help a cossack, your main character, to defend Ukraine from Russian invaders. All you need to do is simply tap on the caricature of a Russian president Putin as it hovers above different regions of Ukraine. The game requires your prompt reaction, as the enemy attempts to capture new territories.

Finally, if you succeed to keep all the regions of Ukraine free from aggressor, you’ll hear Ukrainian anthem. If not, you’ll hear the anthem of the USSR and then you may restart the game. Besides, Defend Ukraine game has three player modes for you to choose: easy, usual and hard.

Defend Ukraine is developed by GBKSoft, a software development company which is based in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. If you have any ideas regarding the game improvement or just want to spread a word about it, feel free to join the game community on Facebook.

Download Defend Ukraine on the App Store for $0.99. Additionally, if you like to provide extra help to Ukrainian Army, click on the Donate button inside the game. It will redirect you to the Wings of Phoenix’s website where you can donate as much as you want.

Download on the AppStore

Top 10 languages for mobile games and apps localization

Top 10 Languages for Mobile App/Game Localization with Maximum Revenue

Promoting a mobile app or game only in one language is not enough. Actually, an app publisher should create multiple localizations in order to cover the top grossing and emerging geographical markets. We recommend considering no fewer than 10 languages for mobile app localization.

App Store Superpowers are the countries holding leadership in terms of downloads and revenue. The latest stats show that the United States is not the front-runner anymore. In 2014, Japan and South Korea surpassed the United States by revenue on Google Play. At the same time, Japan is hot on the United States’ tail on the App Store, where it is #2 by revenue.

According to App Annie’s infographic presented at GMIC Silicon Valley event in December 2014, the following three countries form the App Store Superpowers: Japan, South Korea and the United States.

iOS + Google Play worldwide app revenue & download growth by region, Q3 2014
iOS + Google Play worldwide app revenue & download growth by region, Q3 2014. Infographic by App Annie.

When building the list of the top 10 languages for mobile app localization, we should keep in mind other English speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, where mobile apps and games gain high revenue as well. Collectively, the English speaking world is still dominating on the mobile app market.

Another significant player on both iOS and Android is China, which became the top 2nd gaming market by revenue worldwide in 2014. Bear in mind that games drive up to 75% of total revenue on the App Store and nearly all revenue growth on Google Play. App Annie Index Market Q3 2014 report puts China to #3 by revenue on the Apple’s App Store. The only reason why this country has not reached similar revenue rank on Google Play is that it got numerous Android app stores, and only 13% of Android market share in China belongs to Google Play.

Android app stores in China
Android app stores in China

As a matter of a fact, simplified Chinese, which is common for Internet and mobile users in China, goes to the #4 in our list of top ten languages for mobile app localization, following English, Japanese and Korean.

Let’s not forget about the Old World. Traditionally, the lion’s share of revenue generated by mobile apps and games in Continental Europe belongs to its most developed countries: Germany, France and Italy. It is worth noting that the estimated revenue from mobile games in Western Europe, according to AppLift and Newzoo, reached $3.2 billion at the end of the year 2014. Which makes Western Europe the third region in the world by revenue from mobile games, after North America and Asia Pacific.

Global mobile games revenues by region
Global mobile games revenues by region. Source: AppLift & Newzoo

Following English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese, the next positions #5 to #9 in our top 10 languages for mobile app localization go to major Western European languages. Let’s take a look at the chart provided by Statista listing the leading gaming markets worldwide in 2014:

Leading gaming countries worldwide by revenue in 2014, Statistic
Leading gaming countries worldwide by revenue in 2014, Statistic

Germany is the leading European market by revenue from mobile apps and games. In App Annie Index: Market Q3 2014 Germany was reported the #4 country by revenue on Google Play. in our list of the top 10 languages for mobile app localization, German language wins #5, and #6 goes to French. Italian (#9) follows Portuguese and Spanish which take #7 and #8 respectively. The reason why Portuguese ranks better than Italian and Spanish is that Brazil’s market share of Google Play downloads increased more than any other country worldwide in Q3 2014. In total, estimated year over year revenue growth in Latin America’s mobile gaming segment exceeds 60%, which is bigger than elsewhere.

In the end, we recommend looking at another huge emerging market, the Southeast Asia. As stated by Newzoo in 2014 Global Games Market Report, the following six countries represent 97% of game revenue in Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Phillippines and Vietnam. So, Malay becomes our #10 language for mobile app localization, which is the most widely spoken in this region.

Let’s summarize, here’s our top 10 mobile app localization languages for 2015:

1. English
2. Japanese
3. Korean
4. Chinese
5. German
6. French
7. Brazilian Portuguese
8. Spanish
9. Italian
10. Malay

UPD: check out the top 10 countries by total, online and Facebook population with infographics: Global Population: Online and Social. Infographics.

2014 Digital Games review by Superdata

Main points about digital games in 2014. Infographic.

2014 has gone already, but let’s make a quick flashback into the world of digital games.

It’s been a fruitful year for games industry, especially for mobile games. Superdata created this amazing infographic featuring the most important facts about digital games in 2014, including mobile games, social games, pc games and console games. Let’s overlook the previous year in review:

Infographic by Superdata: 2014 Digital Games Review
Infographic by Superdata: 2014 Digital Games Review
Hot Mobile Games Industry Trends for 2015

Hot Mobile Games Industry Trends For 2015

2014 has been a jammy year for the mobile games industry. In the last 12 months, games have been shining at the top of grossing charts on mobile app marketplaces like the Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Despite the visible success, it’s not as easy as it seems to figure out the landscape of mobile gaming in the upcoming 2015, as this industry probably remains the most disruptive and dynamic in the modern hi-tech segment.

Below are the major trends that, as stated by different experts in mobile gaming, will affect the industry above all in 2015.

Games are the best money generating mobile apps

Games drive the most revenue on both App Store and Google Play, compared to other categories of apps.

According to App Annie Index: Market Q3 2014 report, the lion’s share of Google Play’s worldwide revenue has been generated by gaming apps. From July to September 2014, this trend continued to persist, that led to the increase of games’ share in overall revenue on Google Play. The highest earnings occurred in the United States and South Korea, where games accounted for nearly all revenue of the platform.

This becomes even more evident when you look at the “Best of 2014” list released by Apple earlier this month. 9 of top 10 grossing apps throughout 2014 were games, and only 1 was a non-gaming app. Macquarie Research reveals that in 2014, games will deliver an estimated 75% of income on the App Store. Huge, isn’t it?

Non-gaming apps on the Apple's App Store
Non-gaming apps on the Apple’s App Store

On average, each of the two best selling games earned more than 1 million dollars a day on the App Store during October 2014. Supercell’s Clash of Clans, which is a #1 top grossing game, had an average daily revenue of $1,387,620, and King’s Candy Crush Saga, which is a #2, made $1,097,578 a day.

Top grossing gaming apps on Apple's App Store in October 2014
Top grossing gaming apps on Apple’s App Store in October 2014

Gamers want it for free

Since mobile gaming became an integral part of modern pop culture, the so called ‘devaluation of games’ began. An average user no longer wants to spend any money at all to install the game. 90% of revenue generated by games on App Store this year came from free-to-play titles.

Global Games Market Report by Newzoo, Q3 2014
Estimated Mobile Games Market Growth for 2013-2017 by Newzoo

Research from Newzo published in Q3 of 2014 estimates the total revenue of mobile games industry at $25 billion, $4 billion of which will be gained by Apple and $3 by Google. It’s surprising, but all that revenue is driven by a very tiny segment of gamers. Only 2.2% of users ever pay in free-to-play games, and 46% of the total revenue comes from just 0.22% of the total amount of mobile users, Swrve reports.

Big players get hold of app stores

2014 was the year when massive game publishers monopolized cash flows from app marketplaces. Two companies (King and Supercell) own nearly half of top 10 grossing mobile apps in the US (hence, they get the major portion of revenue). No wonder, there’s a lack of new products in top charts: 8 of top 10 grossing games were published in 2013 or earlier. At the same time, 80% of 1.2 million apps available on the App Store got no downloads at all.

Under such conditions, small game developers approach big publishers for marketing expertise and promotion. This makes some game industry giants that used to focus solely on in-house games launch publishing programs for third-party game developers. For instance, Rovio Entertainment, a company behind Angry Birds title, announced its mobile game publishing ititiative for game developers under the new brand named Rovio Stars in May 2014.

Next steps for game developers

New approaches to marketing games

Given the fact that an average cost of install in mobile advertising is overpriced and probably will rize up to $10 for native mobile apps next year, indie game developers and publishers need to find alternatives to get their apps discovered. And maybe, the solution can be found in the technology that game developers used to pay no regard for. Yes, it’s HTML5.

PuzzleSocial, a game develpment studio based in NYC, unveiled a case study about leveraging mobile web to drive high-quality installs for their game called “Daily Celebrity Crossword”, which is available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire. They built a lite version of the game on HTML5 and distributed it via mobile web. In 4 months, this resulted into 320,000 unique game plays and, which is more important, 10% of those players proceeded to download the native mobile app.

Roughly, this new marketing model can be presented as follows:

  • An HTML5 based lite virsion of a game provides limited game play with a few levels available for free;
  • Users discover the lite game version via one of the mobile web distribution networks and can start playing it right from a mobile web browser without needing to install an app;
  • If they like the game, they can follow the link to download the full game version from an app store, that is shown to them at game over;
  • A game developer is charged by a distribution network only when a user downloads a native app.

Another promising user acquisition channel is at the back of social video services like YouTube and Twitch. So called “Let’s Players”, people streaming their game play with comments online, have been on the stage since the establishement of YouTube. But in 2014, game developers fully realized the strong potential of Let’s Players which became a full-fledged, powerful media. It’s highly important for game developers to build relationships with popular Let’s Players, who can broadcast a game to millions of their own fans. PewDiePie, a Let’s Player of the year 2014, has 33 million subscribers on YouTube. He’s also popular on Twitch (440,000+ followers), a game-specific video broadcasting service with 60+ million monthly active users. There’s a lot more Let’s Players who are interested in new games to comment, check them out.

Alternative mobile app platforms

It’s been a while since the messaging service Kakao Talk, which is no.1 in South Korea, succeeded as a mobile gaming platform. At the end of 2013, it had 140 million registered users, $203 million revenue and 426 games available. However, Europe and North America always preferred traditional mobile app stores. 2015 may become the year of revolution for mobile games in this area, since Viber decided to follow Kakao’s path. Earlier this year, Viber announced the launch of Viber Games, a marketplace for mobile games. The company plans to make this feature available globally in January 2015. Yet, 5 countries have been selected for soft-launch in December 2014: Ukraine, Belarus, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore.

Viber Games: Android app screenshot
Viber Games: Android app screenshot

Initially, Viber Games launched with two titles from Storm8 (Viber Candy Mania and Viber Pop) and one title from Playtika (Wild Luck Casino). All of them are free-to-play, and Viber will make money from in-app purchases inside those games. Besides, users can synchronize games with their Viber account in order to send gifts and share achievements with friends. Viber Games is not a stand-alone platform, it’s rather a separate section within Viber messenger which redirects to a native store to install a game on a user’s device.

As we can see, Viber is taking the leaf from Asian messengers like KakaoTalk and Line, and that will probably cause a shift in the way users discover games.

Promote your games in Asia and be aware of emerging markets

China, Japan, South Korea, as well as Southeast Asia, grab more and more interest from game developers. Indeed, Asian market looks stronger than ever: Japan and China took positions #2 and #3 respectively (right after the United States, which still holds #1) by downloads and revenue on the App Store in Q3 of 2014. On Google Play, Japan surpassed the United States by revenue taking the #1 from the US, South Korea reached #3 and Taiwan closed the top 5. As for emerging markets to consider, there are Brazil and India, which gained #2 and #3 by downloads on Google Play respectively.

Find out more about the Top 5 Content Marketing Trends for 2016.

Big Fish Games - Logo

Breaking: Big Fish Games Sold for $885 Million to Churchill Downs

Game publishing giant Big Fish Games and Churchill Downs Inc. have agreed Big Fish acquisition deal for $885 million.

Churchill Downs Inc., which is a parent company of Churchill Downs, holds racetracks, casinos and online gambling business.

In his speech, Big Fish founder and CEO Paul Thelen stated that Churchill Downs is a “great cultural fit for us.”

churchilldownsincorporated“We are extremely proud of the company we have built over the last twelve years,” Thelen said. “Churchill Downs is a company with a commitment to interactive entertainment and a track record of growth and performance. We believe Big Fish is now positioned to become an even greater force in the casual, mid-core and social casino mobile and online games industry.”

On the surface, it may seem peculiar that Churchill Downs is gobbling up Big Fish.

But the famous race track operator, which employs more than 4,500 and has 10 offices across the country, actually maintains a large online horse racing wagering business called TwinSpires and runs slot-machine gaming and video poker machines at some of its racetracks. Big Fish sells a number of casino-oriented games, everything from Vegas Penny Slots to Mystic Palace Slots to Gallop for Gold, a horse racing-themed casino game. Its Big Fish Casino was the top revenue producing social casino app on iOS last year, and the company’s casino games ranked 4th in total market share in the category behind Zynga, IGT/DoubleDown and Caesar’s Interactive.

Social casino games are estimated to be worth roughly $2.7 billion worldwide, according to a report from Eilers Research.

gallopforgold
Gallop for Gold

With the acquisition of Big Fish, Churchill Downs obviously wants to get into the race.

The companies declined to make executives available for comment in advance of a conference call Thursday morning. The news release makes no reference to the status of Big Fish Games’ ongoing operations in Seattle, but a spokeswoman tells GeekWire that the operation will remain intact and all 622 employees wordwide will remain once the deal is finalized. (Editor’s note: This post has been updated with more current information).

Big Fish raised $83 million from Balderton Capital in 2008, and it had been discussed for years as a possible IPO candidate. But the company never produced a big hit in the mobile or social gaming realm, passed by companies such as Zynga (with Farmville) and Rovio (with Angry Birds). That didn’t seem to bother executives at Churchill Downs.

“They have never had the mega-hit game, and we actually like that,” Churchill Downs CEO William Carstanjen said in Thursday’s conference call.

Missing out on a huge blockbuster game has allowed Big Fish to build a sustainable and diverse business over time, with Carstanjen singling out the “seasoned” management team and “consistent” results. Gross bookings at Big Fish stood at $278 million last year, and Thelen is poised to make a $50 million “founder bonus” if he can grow the company to $1 billion in gross bookings by the end of 2016.

“Mobile and online games is a large, competitive and sophisticated segment,” said Carstanjen. “Scale matters. Game development expertise matters. Distribution scope matters. Marketing analytics and experience matter. We don’t think we could expect to be successful dipping a toe into the water, and we felt we needed to go big and start with scale, team and with more expertise and experience.”

Big Fish was founded in 2002 by Thelen, a former RealNetworks employee who holds an MBA from Stanford and an electrical engineering degree from the University of Washington. By 2011, the privately-held company reported $180 million in revenue and boasted about 700 employees. Thelen resumed the CEO post in 2012, attempting to launch the company’s streaming gaming efforts. However, by 2013, Big Fish had pulled the plug on the cloud games business and announced a number of layoffs, including the closure of facilities in Ireland and Canada.

The acquisition marks one of the biggest in Seattle’s vibrant gaming community, joining the ranks of IGT’s purchase of DoubleDown Interactive for as much as $500 million in 2012 and EA’s purchase of PopCap Games for up to $1.3 billion in 2011. It also helps cement Seattle’s role in the social casino gaming space.

bigfishgames-111“Seattle has long been a major center for casual game development,” said Derrick Morton, the CEO of Seattle gaming startup FlowPlay and, like Thelen, a former RealNetworks employee. “The sale of Big Fish Games to Churchill Downs is just another example of how Seattle game companies are building valuable businesses. We often don’t get the credit we deserve in comparison to Silicon Valley, but it’s clear that, while we don’t get the buzz, we definitely attract the benjamins.”

Susan Lusty, a spokeswoman for Big Fish, said that Churchill Downs plans to retain all employees. Big Fish employed 495 workers in Seattle as of last week, not including 47 contractors. It employed 622 people worldwide, including offices in Oakland and Luxembourg.

Source: Taylor Soper & John Cook via GeekWire

Candy Crush Soda Saga by King.com Goes Live on iOS, Android

King.com launched Candy Crush Soda Saga on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The game was first published on Facebook in October, and is a sequel to King’s hit Candy Crush Saga. Gamers are presented with a bunch of new features in Candy Crush Soda Saga: new symbols, a new match 3 mechanics, additional level goals. etc.

In Candy Crush Soda Saga, players complete each level by making matches of three-or-more like symbols in horizontal and vertical rows. New to the game is the square match, which also allows players to clear symbols by making a match of four symbols in a square. This particular match results in a fish symbol, which, when activated, will clear a random square elsewhere on the board.

While similar to its predecessor, the game does has five new level types. One level may ask players to fill the background of the board with soda, by making matches with special soda bottle symbols. This adds a unique element to the game, as the board fills from the bottom of the screen, rather than new symbols dropping from the top. Another level type asks players to help free gummy bears trapped under ice blocks, while yet another challenges players to help a floating bear reach a certain height on the board with the help of soda. Two final level varieties see players working to free bears that have been stuck in honey, and clearing all of the chocolate from the board.

Making a match of four or five like-symbols still results in the striped candies and color bombs players are used to, and another power-up has been added for making matches of seven symbols in a row. This boost changes the color of random symbols on the board, potentially causing large combos in the process.

Players can purchase power-ups to help them in tricky situations, and users can compare their high scores on each level with those of their friends. A lives system limits the length of a single gameplay session, but players can purchase lives with premium currency, or exchange them with their friends for free.

“We’re excited to offer our players the chance to experience the next installment in the franchise now that Candy Crush Soda Saga is available on mobile devices,” said Sebastian Knutsson, chief creative officer at King, in a statement. “We continue to be astounded by the global success of Candy Crush and the initial response to Candy Crush Soda Saga, since it launched on Facebook last month, has been positive. With the mobile launch, fans will be able to play the game anywhere, anytime, and on any device and we hope they have as much fun playing it as much as we have had making it.”

Download Candy Crush Soda Saga right away for free on App Store and Google Play.

Via:: Inside Mobile Apps

Game Review: Agent Run for iOS & Android

Agent Run, a new gesture-based endless runner, has launched on iOS and Android devices, and challenges players to run through environments, dodging obstacles with the use of quick swipes on the screen. Created by two indie developers from Vienna, Matthias Maschek from AgentDroid and Wolfgang Knecht of pixelclash, the game stars Robert Robertson, an agent on a mission to destroy Professor E. Vil and his Doomsday Machine.

In Agent Run, Robertson runs across the screen automatically while being chased by Professor E. Vil’s thugs. Attack dogs, closed doors, swinging logs and other obstacles are scattered on the path ahead of Robert, and players must swipe on the screen to eliminate these threats before he can run into them. For dogs, players swipe on strings hanging bones in mid-air, for instance. The dogs catch the bones, and become distracted. Most other obstacles can also be eliminated with a quick swipe.

Some items in the world aren’t obstacles, but instead provide opportunities to collect coins. A jump pad, for instance, rockets Robert into the sky, collecting an arch of coins in the process. These coins are used when players fail (to earn a second chance at the game), or to purchase a head-start at the beginning of a run. Users can also spend coins on powers in the game’s store. There are eight gadgets in all, including a jetpack and a bazooka, and players start out with the hedge trimmer for free. The hedge trimmer, for instance, is used to mow down tall thorns that may otherwise trip Robert up and end the game.

Users can complete missions as they play, with the mission system resembling that of Halfbrick’s Jetpack Joyride. Users earn stars for each mission they complete, and will earn overall “levels” as they earn stars. Gamers can also unlock nine achievements by playing the game.

Agent Run offers four different randomly generated environments, including a jungle, basement and military bunker. The first level of the game is available to download and play for free, while the three remaining levels can be unlocked for $2.99.

“We decided to create Agent, Run! as an homage to the best Bond films of all time – and we knew that an endless runner would be a perfect match,” said Matthias Maschek, programmer and designer of AgentDroid, in a statement.

Agent Run is available to download for free on the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

Via:: Inside Mobile Apps