Industry News

Analytics, Industry News

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Last Thursday, the mobile ad-tech space was surprised to hear the news about Oracle buying mobile viewability company MOAT for 850 million dollars ($850M).  This reflects a very high multiple on revenue and a very nice return for the investors that put in an aggregated amount of $67.5M – most of it in 2016. If you have been mostly involved in mobile apps – you might have not heard about mobile viewabilty at all and are wondering how can such an unknown aspect of mobile advertising can be worth so much money to someone. To understand this – we need to dig a bit deeper.

Over 95% of the impressions are ads for installing other apps

In a recent blog post we announced a new and super exciting feature that was recently added to the Traceback platform. At SOOMLA, we are all about giving visibility to the publishers to know more about their in-app ads so knowing who is advertising in your app is a big part of that.

One of the things we quickly realized when starting to look at this data is that most of the advertising activity is driven by demand coming from other apps. These are typically CPI campaigns that only pay when the user installed the advertised app. The surprising part is that the number of ads coming from brand advertisers is very low. In the last 2 years we have seen a growing number of indications that the brands are coming to mobile.

Chart showing US mobile ad spending by industry in 2015. Retain comes first with $6.65B followed by the financial services with $3.49BIn this link you can find a report from eMarketer breaking down mobile ad spend by category. In the image to the right you can see that while retial ad spend might have a mix of brand and app install campaigns, the following categories are dominated by brand ads:

  • Financial services (Capital One, Geiko) – $3.49B
  • Automative – $3.43B
  • CPG (Procter and Gamble) – $2.33B

With at least 10 billion dollars ($10B) being spent on brand campaigns, we would have expected more of these ads to show up in mobile apps. We are not alone in our expectation of course, in 2014 Eric Seufert wrote:

“If the largest brand advertisers shift just 10% of their overall budgets to mobile, they’ll match or exceed the money spent by the app economy’s behemoths – and they’ll be competing for the same ad inventory.”

Well, according to the eMarketer report, almost 50% of the digital ad spend of these brands have shifted to mobile and yet these ads are no where to be seen. Eric was not wrong to expect a change but we all missed one important thing – the ‘other’ mobile industry.

Mobile web and mobile apps – two separate ecosystems

From a user perspective, mobile is a single experience. Opening the URL www.weather.com or opening the weather app will result in a very similar experience. The technological aspects are very different between mobile web and mobile app and each one has a separate eco-system when it comes to mobile advertising with very little overlap in between. The mobile web ecosystem was pretty much inherited from the desktop space. Each desktop advertising player in the ecosystem gradually started adding mobile web support so eventually the mobile web and desktop web ecosystems operate in a very similar way. The mobile app ecosystem evolved mainly from the need of gaming apps to acquire massive amounts of users. This resulted in an install focused industry with a great focus on attribution – a concept that mobile web companies haven’t even heard about.

What is viewability and how it evolved

In 2013, early reports started coming in showing that when brands are paying for users to watch their ads, they are often not getting what they paid for – nearly half of ads are not seen according to Comscore report from 2013. In 2014, a report from Google claimed it’s actually 56% of ads that are not viewable. This made brands worried about buying display ad inventory online and gave a big push to a category called viewability measurement. Here are some of the problems causing low viewability rate:

  • Ads can be shown In a window that is in the background and hidden by another window
  • Users sometime scroll away from the part of the page where the ad was shown
  • Time on screen is to short or video playback was stopped early
  • Traffic generated by bots rather than humans

MOAT has put it together nicely in this web image:
Non-viewable impression can be caused by 4 things: Out of focus, Out of sight, missed opportunity (area), missed opportunity (time)

The need for a solution forced the digital advertising industry to act together and set official guidelines. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) together with the Media Rating Council (MRC) has published a first set of guidelines in June 30th 2014 which later evolved into version 2.0 of the guildelines in August 18th 2015.

Viewability in mobile web

As mentioned before, the mobile web ecosystem is a replica of the desktop web ecosystem in terms of advertising at least. Viewability measurement quickly became an issue in this industry as well and in June 2016, MRC published their mobile guidelines for viewability measurement. These guidelines are for mobile apps but we will touch on that later on. The main guidelines in the publication are these:

  • Client side measurement
  • Measurement of offline activity for apps
  • Filtering non-human ad views
  • Differentiate viewing from pre-rendering and pre-fetching
  • Detect when ads are out of focus
  • Pixel requirement: at least 50% of pixels were on screen
  • Time requirement: 1 continuous second of a post-rendered ad that meets the pixel requirement

The MRC is also accrediting viewability measurement companies who meet the criteria based on an annual audit.

Who can measure mobile viewability

The top 3 providers for desktop viewability measurement have all been accredited for mobile viewability measurement. Here they are:

These companies cater for both advertisers as well as publishers.
Brand advertisers are willing to pay for viewability measurement to know that their ads are getting viewed. They would typically deduct the non-viewable ads from the media campaign when calculating delivery and payout. However, most brands would also consider publishers with low viewability scores as non-safe and illegitimate media. It is common for brands to have a viewability threshold of 90% or 95% for publishers. This means that publishers with a low score will simply not get any brand ads.

On the other side, publishers also have an incentive to have their sites and apps measured. The basic reason is that if you don’t allow measurement you will not receive brand ads. On top of that, publishers who sell directly to brands or ad-networks who represent them want to know the metrics and data points about their media so they can use it in their pitching.

Mobile apps have been a slow adopter of viewability

When you check how many app publishers have a viewability measurement SDK installed you discover that most of them don’t. We can look at the 200 most downloaded apps (top free chart) on both iOS (Top chart link) and Android (Top chart link). These are typically the apps who will have advertising in them as they attract a lot of users.

  • On iOS – only 5 out of the top 200 have viewability SDK – 2.5%
  • On Android – only 21 out of the top 200 have viewability SDK – 10.5%

Our assumption is that the more you advance towards the long tail the less likely apps will have a viewability SDK since the long tail apps are still focusing on more basic aspects.

SDK fatigue slowing down adoption and enticing provider collaboration

One of the problems slowing down the adoption of viewability measurement in the app ecosystem is the need to integrate an SDK. To make things even worse, an app would need to integrate the SDKs of all 3 providers (MOAT, IAS and DV) to enjoy the full benefits. A recent open source initiative is aiming to solve at least part of the problem. It started out of IAS but was later handed over to the IAB to manage the project. The 3 providers have agreed to collaborate and support the single open source SDK that will make things a bit easier on app-publishers.
At the same time, some of the ad-networks have increased their interest level in viewability measurement as a way to be more attractive to brand campaigns. Some of them are working on bundling the viewability SDKs inside their SDKs so that their entire inventory will become available to brand campaigns. That however, brings another risk. Most apps user multiple ad-networks so if many ad-networks follow the same path an app could carry a number of viewability SDKs at the same time.

Viewability might not be enough

It’s clear that brands would not advertise in mobile apps without having viewability measurement. If you haven’t heard about the P&G $2.8B Ultimatum to the media industry – you can read about it here. However, it’s not clear if having viewability measurement is sufficient to make brands start advertising in mobile apps. The condition might be necessary but not sufficient. In other words, there could be other road blocks for brands to advertise in mobile apps. Here are some other reasons why brands could be staying away from mobile apps:

  • 50% of mobile app traffic is in games and brands have shied away from games historically
  • Brands often have issues with incentivized advertising and rewarded video falls into the category
  • The lack of audience data and tools for advertisers to target specific segments
  • Today brands are separated from mobile apps by multiple hops which takes a cut and reduces the eCPMs for the publisher so his mediation provider might not allow them to show

Oracle might be the last one laughing

So if you think of the projections for mobile viewaiblity. MOAT is already positioned as the one of the top 3 and some say the leader of mobile viewability in a market that is expected to double itself in 3 years. Considering that mobile viewability hasn’t even made it into mobile apps – the market can double in size again when Apps realize that they can get the brands competing for their inventory as well. So if MOAT can still grow 4x in 3 years, maybe the price Oracle paid is not that high after all.

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Facebook is the app publisher to top App Annie's top 52 mobile app publishers

Last month, App Annie released it’s annual index of the top App Publishers in the mobile eco system. This is a tradition that App Annie has been going at for 3 years now. The winners not just get recognition but are also getting a very nice present. You can find the full list for 2016 in the image below as well as in the table where I also added some revenue numbers based on the companies financial reports.

App Annie used IAP revenue as the criteria for the list

There are obviously many ways to compare between companies and App Annie had to select one. Based on my analysis, App Annie is using revenues as the index in this list. This means that a publisher with 4.5B total downloads to date is not in the list while Miniclip is closing the list with a reported downloads number of 500M across all titles. That’s a fair decision, revenue is more important than downloads in the eyes of most people.

The other choice that App Annie made is a bit odd in my opinion. App Annie is ignoring ad revenue and is only measuring IAP revenue for the Index. It seems that Supercell and MZ are high on the list without any advertising revenues while companies who relay only on ad monetization are not on the list at all. Sure, the industry has been focused on In-App Purchases as the main monetization model but even App Annie reports that this is all changing.

App publishers who monetize with ads like Facebook were ignored

The one app publisher that is clearly missing from the first spot is Facebook. They are obviously the #1 app publisher in the world. In 2016, the company made $22.5B from mobile advertising revenues out of their total $27.6B. One might say that Facebook is a tech giant that shouldn’t be on the list but if you look at the company who currently holds the first spot on the list – it is Tencent. Tencent has almost twice as many employees and a similar size user base on it’s messaging and social networking apps as Facebook.

Here are a few companies that should have made the list based on publicly available information:

Company Headquarters IAP Revenue Ad Revenue Total Mobile Revenues
Facebook United States - $23B $23B
Twitter United States - $1.8B $1.8B
Cheetah Mobile China $61M $500M $561M
Snapchat United States - $348M $348M

Another company that would probably make the list but we couldn’t find public revenue number is Outfit7. The company was recently acquired for $1B which suggests an annuarl revenue of at least $250M based in industry benchmarks such as the acquisition of King.com with a multiplier of 3.3x ($2B reported in 2015 and valuation of $6.6B).

Google would also easily make this list with mobile apps such as YouTube, Chrome and the Search app. However, they are the operators of the Google Play App Marketplace and are also in the business of selling Android based phones such as the Nexus and the Pixel so they should be excluded from this race.

The top 52 publishers according to App Annie

Below you can find the table of App Annie’s top 52. I added the revenue stats for some of the public companies so you can see what are the thresholds for different spots in the list.

# Publisher Headquarters IAP Revenue Ad Revenue Total Mobile Revenues
1 Tencent China $15.7B $3.9B $21.9B
2 Supercell Finland $2.3B - $2.3B
3 NetEase China $4B $0.3B $4.3B
4 MZ United States
5 Activision Blizzard United States $1.6B - $1.6B
6 Mixi Japan
7 Line Japan $840M $360M $1.2B
8 Bandai Namco Japan
9 Netmarble South Korea
10 Niantic United States
11 GungHoOnline Entertainment Japan
12 Square Enix Japan
13 Electronic Arts United States
14 Sony Japan
15 Elex Technology China
16 COLOPL Japan
17 GAMEVIL Sourt Korea
18 Ceasers Entertainment United States
19 CyberAgent Japan
20 DeNA Japan
21 Zynga United States $443M $157M $600M
22 KONAMI Japan
23 Chrchill Downs United States
24 InterActiveCorp (IAC) United States
25 Spotify Sweden
26 SEGA SAMMY Japan
27 IGG China
28 Perfect World China
29 Kabam United States
30 NEXON Japan
31 Time Warner United States
32 Playrix Russia
33 Happy Elements China
34 Snail Games China
35 Netflix United States
36 Glu United States $160M $40M $200M
37 Baidu China
38 Scientific Games United States
39 GREE Japan
40 International Game Technology United States
41 Scopely United States
42 gumi inc Japan
43 Marvelous Japan
44 Microsoft United States
45 Klab Japan
46 Aristocrat Australia
47 G-bits China
48 Vivendi France
49 Kunlun China
50 Long Tech Network China
51 Ateam Japan $207M - $207M
52 Miniclip Switzerland

This table is also available as a google spreadsheet here

Here is AppAnnie’s original list in an infographic format.

App Annie Top 52 Publishers of 2016: Tencent, China Supercell, Finland NetEase, China MZ, United States Activision Blizzard, United States Mixi, Japan Line, Japan Bandai Namco, Japan Netmarble, South Korea Niantic, United States, GungHoOnline Entertainment, Japan Square Enix, Japan Electronic Arts, United States Sony, Japan Elex Technology, China COLOPL, Japan GAMEVIL, Sourt Korea Ceasers Entertainment, United States CyberAgent, Japan DeNA, Japan Zynga, United States KONAMI, Japan Chrchill Downs, United States InterActiveCorp (IAC), United States Spotify, Sweden SEGA SAMMY, Japan IGG, China Perfect World, China Kabam, United States NEXON, Japan Time Warner, United States Playrix, Russia Happy Elements, China Snail Games, China Netflix, United States Glu, United States Baidu, China Scientific Games, United States GREE, Japan International Game Technology, United States Scopely, United States gumi inc, Japan Marvelous, Japan Microsoft, United States Klab, Japan Aristocrat, Australia G-bits, China Vivendi, France Kunlun, China Long Tech Network, China Ateam, Japan Miniclip, Switzerland
As well as in a text format:

  1. Tencent, China
  2. Supercell, Finland
  3. NetEase, China
  4. MZ, United States
  5. Activision Blizzard, United States
  6. Mixi, Japan
  7. Line, Japan
  8. Bandai Namco, Japan
  9. Netmarble, South Korea
  10. Niantic, United States,
  11. GungHoOnline Entertainment, Japan
  12. Square Enix, Japan
  13. Electronic Arts, United States
  14. Sony, Japan
  15. Elex Technology, China
  16. COLOPL, Japan
  17. GAMEVIL, Sourt Korea
  18. Ceasers Entertainment, United States
  19. CyberAgent, Japan
  20. DeNA, Japan
  21. Zynga, United States
  22. KONAMI, Japan
  23. Chrchill Downs, United States
  24. InterActiveCorp (IAC), United States
  25. Spotify, Sweden
  26. SEGA SAMMY, Japan
  27. IGG, China
  28. Perfect World, China
  29. Kabam, United States
  30. NEXON, Japan
  31. Time Warner, United States
  32. Playrix, Russia
  33. Happy Elements, China
  34. Snail Games, China
  35. Netflix, United States
  36. Glu, United States
  37. Baidu, China
  38. Scientific Games, United States
  39. GREE, Japan
  40. International Game Technology, United States
  41. Scopely, United States
  42. gumi inc, Japan
  43. Marvelous, Japan
  44. Microsoft, United States
  45. Klab, Japan
  46. Aristocrat, Australia
  47. G-bits, China
  48. Vivendi, France
  49. Kunlun, China
  50. Long Tech Network, China
  51. Ateam, Japan
  52. Miniclip, Switzerland
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Zynga buys harpan llc. Pays $42M for a 1 person company

Some of you might have heard about the recent acquisition of Harpan LLC. by Zynga. Forbes have reported it last week and so have Busienss Insider and PC Mag. Reading these articles, you can’t help but notice the surprise of the reporters as they write about the amount of money spent to buy a 2-person company with 4 versions of the same game that was not even invented by them. Is Zynga out of their mind? Actually – it’s quite the opposite.

Zynga doubling down on ads

If you have been reading Zynga’s financial reports you might have noticed an interesting trend also highlighted in another post we published on this subject. Zynga has been depending more and more on ad revenues. In 2011 only 6.5% of their revenue came from advertising while in 2016 this number grew to 26.1% or $194M in absolute numbers. We will soon how this relates to the acquisition of Harpan.

The macro trends all point in the same direction

This shift in Zynga’s strategy might be a smart move in response to macro trends in the industry. There is a concensus in market forecasts provided by different intelligence companies. eMarketer projected that ad spending worldwide will increase from $101B in 2016 to $195B in 2019. So far their projection is coming true.

Emarketer report projects a growth in mobile ad spending reaching $195 by 2019
More recently AppAnnie projected that the amout of reveneu mobile game app companies are generating from in-game ads will increase from $21B in 2015 to over $50B in 2020.

App Annie projects growth in ad revenues generated by mobile games. From $21B in 2015 to over $50B in 2020The increase in ad spending is exceeding the growth in mobile users and creating inflation in two important KPIs of the industry:

  • CPI -cost of install / bringing a new user
  • ARPU and LTV from ads

This is also covered in some of our recents posts – AppAnnie: View to Play is here to stay and CPI Increase is here to stay

Harpan is part of a trend – acquisition of ad driven app companies

So if Zynga is indeed following the trends and made a strategic decision to base more of their business on advertising the acquisition suddenly makes a lot of sense. Sources in the industry suggests that Harpan was making almost all of it’s revenue from ads. These revenue streams are on the rise due to the mactro trends and the current worth of Harpan could double in 3 years due to increase in ad revenue monetization opportunities.
But Zynga is not alone in reading the market and pretending for the change: in 2016 we covered a peak of funding and M&A deals targeting companies with a strong focus on ad based monetization. You can add to that list the acquisition of Outfit7 for $1B and the acquisition of Ketchapp games by Ubisoft. I’ll not be surprised if we will see even more activity (funding and M&A) around ad-driven mobile game companies in 2017. Some companies to follow are:

  • Tabtale
  • Mobilityware
  • Gram Games
  • Voodoo
  • FuturePlay

 

 

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Industry News, Marketing

Apple search ads - what's the master plan - header image

About a week ago, Apple launched it’s Search Ads platform into existence and there are many app publishers who are trying different tactics to use this medium to their advantage. You can read about some of these here:

Once the dust settles, you might want to ask yourslef what is Apple’s master plan for this? Why is Apple doing it? Here are my thoughts on this subject.

Search Ads aren’t enough for Apple

Apple’s revenue is well over $200B. When they go after a new revenue stream they ask themselves – is this channel going to be meaningful for us. If the channel has the potential of being at least 5% of their total revenue or in other words $10B/year they might consider it. If it’s lower, it might not be worth the efforts and risks. For example, the app-store revenue for Apple were $6B in 2015 but it’s growing fast and are likely to reach $15B in a few years. App-store search ads can’t deliver these revenue volumes on their own. There is simply not enough supply.

Apple is looking at the mobile ad spend forcasts

Some of you might have seen this report by eMarketer forcasting $195B in mobile ad spending by 2019.

Emarketer's forecast showing global ad spend on mobile will reach $195B by 2019

[Image credit: www.emarketer.com]

Everything we have seen until now tells us that this forecast is going to come true. Apple is 75% percent ahead of Google when it comes to App Store revenues but it knows that it’s far behind when it comes to advertising. The Apple ad-network – iAd was shut down as of June 30th 2016 after failing to become a major monetization channel for apps but Apple didn’t give up hope. Their mistake was that they didn’t understand the importance of consistent demand. They were fucosing on bringing big brand campaigns which is important in order to drive eCPMs up and stay competative but without consistent demand, publishers remove your SDK in favor of other SDKs. Apple learned from this mistake.

When Google launched their search ads product Apple were watching and they realized that Google did a sloppy job this time. Unlike Adwords, the Google Play search ads are not available as a market to the public but are instead offered as a managed service through Google account managers. Apple saw this opportunity to create a more appealing open product that allows anyone to set up their own campaigns. They created high demand for it’s search ads and more importantly this time the demand will be consistent.

Apple’s next move is for the supply side

The revenue potential of search ads alone is limited as we mentioned before. The demand is huge but the supply is the problem. Following the moves of other tech giants can give you a hint as to what Apple’s next move might be:

  • Google generated consistent demand with Adwords and then launched Adsense to improve supply
  • Facebook generated consistent demand with Feed Ads and then launched Facebook Audience Network (FAN) to enhance supply.

It’s likely that Apple will try to do the same once they aggregate enough demand for their ad products. They have tons of data about their users so they can offer the same levels of demographic targeting offered by facebook in addition to leveraging search data to indicate interests of users. Since they are the platform owner, developers will trust their SDK and give them a shot again. This time the demand will be consistent and allow developers keep them as part of the monetization mix. It might take a year or even 2 years but eventually this has to be Apple’s plan.

 

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img_3345

In the last WWDC, Apple announced that they will be launching Search Ads into the App Store in one of the biggest changes since the App Store was first launched. Later in Jun/16 they also revealed additional details about how the new feature will work. The release date was recently announced as October 5th – today. If you haven’t done anything about it yet, now will be a great time to start moving so you don’t get surprised and might actually benefit from the chaos that will break lose following the launch.

Bidding on brand searches for your own apps

One of the standard practices from search ads in Google will also work well here. Buying the name of your own app as well as small variations and mistakes allows you to to defand against Conquesting.

Conquesting – getting the top search result when the user was clearly searching for a different app than yours


I can imagine that its frustrating to pay for something you used to get for free. However, not doing this will be much more painful as your competitor will conquest your brand searches. In addition, Apple explained that they will optimize the algorithms based on user interaction and relevancy so even if you place a low bid you are likely to win as your app is the most relevant one.

Conquesting your competitor brand searches

The flip side of this is that a few of your competitors will be less prepared and you can catch them off guard to conquest their brand searches. This will give you highly targeted users and can work especially well in genres where apps offer similar services or gameplay. For example: casino games, card and board games, dating apps.

A mile wide and a cent deep

One of the interesting choices that Apple made is not to enforce any minimums on the bidding. That’s right – you can bid as low as $0.01 per click. This calls for a wide net strategy. If you set up enough keywords at $0.01 there will be a period of time where demand is still picking up and it will allow you to get some really cheap installs.

 

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Header image - new breed of companies get 7 funding deals in 2 months

In a previous post we presented 3 case studies starring a new breed of game companies. Companies who are both publishers and advertisers at the same time. These companies have in-game advertising as a significant part of their monetization strategy but can still see high enough ARPDAU and LTV to be able to effectively do paid user acquisition campaigns.

This summer we have seen this new breed of companies catching fire with 7 of these companies getting additional funding or engaging in M&A activity for a total amount of $300M. The market is telling an interesting story through these acquisitions. Companies who can effectively trace-back their ad revenue and manage their monetization smartly can often reach monetization levels where they can show ROI on their marketing spend. Moreover, by demonstrating their ability to be on top of their moneitzation, these companies are able to convince investors that they will be able to scale fast with additional funding.

 

If you also want to stay on top of your ad based monetization and be able to show investors that you know how to smartly invest your UA budgets you should check out SOOMLA TRACEBACK.

Learn More

 

Studio Press release Date Transaction Amount 
futureplay logo - the company is pioneering a new way to monetize they are calling view to playFutureplay  PR Link  Aug 25th 2016 $2.5M
huuge games logo. The company CEO commented in a panel at casual connect that the company is making 50% of their revenues from advertisingHuuuge Games  PR Link  Aug 4th 2016 $4.6M
Rocket games logo. The company was recently acquired by Penn Nat'l for $170MRocket Games  PR Link  Aug 3rd 2016 $170M
Scopely recently announced a funding round of $55M. Both their hit games utilize ads for monetization while investing heavily on paid UAScopely  PR Link  July 26th 2016 $55M
Flare games recently bought Kopla games following the success of their hit Nonstop KnightFlare games  PR Link  Aug 2nd 2016 Undisclosed
Tinyco was bought by SGN for an undisclosed amountTinyco  PR Link  July 75h 2016 Undisclosed
Firefly recently announced a funding round of $10MFirefly Games  PR Link  Aug 11th 2016 $10M
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Machine zone logo 2 swords and shield with MZ on top

In a recent news release, Machine Zone, developer of Game of War and Mobile Strike announced that they are rebranding as MZ and will launch a cloud platform to allow other game developer to leverage the infrastructure they have built to support their massive scale.

My analysis is that the cloud platform move is a mistake. Here are 3 reasons:

Content is King and Middleware is the Peasent

When we started SOOMLA, one of the gaming gurus I consulted with advised me: “In Gaming, content is king, there are no successful Middleware companies”. This was 100% true 4 years ago and it is 99% true today with one exception – Unity. As a startup company you are in a position to bet your life and believe you will succeed where others failed before. An established company however, with an ability to create content hits should avoid such risky moves.

NIH is Strong in Gaming

If anyone should know this it’s MZ. About 90% of the revenue in the mobile gaming space is now concentrated in the top 50 companies. Almost all these companies suffer from NIH mentality. NIH stands for Not Invented Here and is mostly refering to companies with a strong bias against outsourcing. The game backend is considered core by most companies so the chances of outsourcing is low.

Game Publishers Protect Their Data

For MZ to be successful with their B2B business, other game publishers will have to trust them with their data. I know very few companies who are willing to share their data with 3rd parties. Even fewer will be willing to share their data with their competitor. The only companies who might be comfortable with their data being at the hands of MZ are the small companies and they typically don’t have the money to pay.

The fact is that many companies try to provide cloud services to game developers and none of them was successful in building a significant business. No reason to believe MZ found the secret sauce here.

 

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Zynga ship is landing in tel-aviv and looking for Israeli companies to onboard

It was recently published in some of the Israeli tech publications that Zynga intends to buy a studio in Tel-Aviv. Mark Pincus himself was quoted as saying that the gaming giant is interested in tapping in to the local talent. As a local Tel-Aviv resident and a gaming industry insider I decided to make Mark’s life a bit easier and offer a short list of companies Zynga should be looking at.

Luckyfish – social games company

Luckyfish specializes in social casino games such as casual slots games. The team’s background is from gaming company 888.com which was one of the innovators in the online casino space. The company received an investment from Carmel Ventures in 2014 but didn’t require additional investments due to cash flow from the games themselves. Luckyfish is the biggest social casino company in Israel yet to be acquired.

Jelly Button – maker of Pirate Kings

Jelly button started as a studio for super successful Playtika. They have since developed their own successful games and mostly known for their mega hit – Pirate Kings – which combines innovative game play with extremely high levels of virality.

Plarium – the Israeli response to Machine Zone

Plarium was one of the first companies to introduce the hard core genre to Facebook games and have since shifted their focus to mobile games. Their biggest hit is Total Domination but in the mobile space they are known for their medieval themed hard core game – Vikings.

TabTale – counting towards 1 billion downloads

When you go to the TabTale website you can’t ignore the counter showing the total number of downloads. The company has dominated the top free charts in the last few years and has shifted their focus from kids games to other casual genres by leveraging their massive platform for both in-house development as well as publishing partnerships. The company received investments from Magma Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures.

Tacticsoft – the hidden gem

This studio is the smallest of the bunch. Tacticsoft started as a maker of PC games and have hit the jackpot with BattleDawn – a hard core world domination game. They have since shifted their focus to mobile and are now in alpha version of their new strategy title. The company has raised angel investments in the past but mostly relied on their game cash flows to fund the new projects.

Hope this list helps Zynga and their post. The local industry would surely benefit if Zynga sets up an office in Tel-Aviv. If you have any thoughts or comments about this list feel free to respond below or tweet me @y_nizan.

 

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Industry Forecasts, Industry News

My Learnings from China Joy

Last week I attended a huge conference in Shanghai called China Joy. It was fascinating and awesome and like everything in China it was really, really big, but I’m not here to talk to you about that.Your Ad Here Icon

One of the things that took me by surprise was that games in China don’t have ads in them. I mean, that’s almost embarrassing to admit. How did I not know such a thing about an industry I live and breath? And…if I missed something like this, what else did I miss about China?

Where are the Mobile Ads?

You might think that Chinese users are less receptive to ads, so game designers choose not to include them in favor of superior user experience. However, the reality is a bit different. It is not the game publishers choice not to include ads, but actually the App Stores in China that object to ads. There are roughly 300 App Stores in China, so users can install apps from multiple stores. This creates quite a competitive atmosphere between the various App Stores, so they do everything in their power to prevent users from downloading games from other stores. They want to own the user exclusively and that can’t be done with the way ads are managed today.

Mobile game advertising in China could be a huge thing. Mobile game advertising is already worth about $5B in thChinese Appstorese US. Think about how big it could be in China. Maybe it would be smaller, but we are looking at a billion dollar opportunity at the very least. In addition, unlike in other parts of the world, the biggest advertising company, Facebook, doesn’t exist. While this could potentially be a huge opportunity for ad networks, there are some pretty big challenges to get there.

What the Future Will Hold

My estimation is that by the end of 2016, there will be ads in mobile games in China. The more innovative ad networks, will find a way to work with the App Stores to offer ads inside games while respecting the needs of such App Stores. One way this could happen is via white labeling. Basically, the stores will take the part of the ad network by leveraging advertising technology from ad-networks outside of China. For the App Stores it seems like the best move. They will make additional revenue while keeping their game publishers happy. However, there is one problem, ad networks tend to be better when they are bigger. There are advantages to scale for both sides of the network. For advertisers, bigger networks means they have to deal with less interfaces and get more reach for their ads. For publishers, scale means better fill rates and more ad diversity.

Therefore, I’m anticipating that soon after, the App Stores will grow their own networks. Therefore, three types of services will evolve:

  • DSPs focusing on aggregating all the App Stores into a single interface for advertisers.
  • Network-to-network marketplace between the App Stores.
  • Publisher side dashboards allowing publishers to monitor and manage their ad monetization across different App Stores while still respecting the boundaries.

These are, of course, my opinions and estimations. I’ll be monitoring this market closely to see if I was right. If you have other thoughts about how this market will evolve, feel free to share.

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SOOMLA - An In-app Purchase Store and Virtual Goods Economy Solution for Mobile Game Developers of Free to Play Games