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Beyond Facebook: Global Social Game Opportunities


November 9, 2010 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

Games are one of the primary reasons people visit Facebook. Reportedly, 40 percent of its user base is there to play social games. That means that more than 200 million people play games on Facebook each month, and the top 10 games on Facebook have more than 12 million users each. Those are a lot of eyeballs! However, if yours isn't one of the top 10, attracting those eyeballs to your game can be a frustrating experience.

Fortunately, Facebook isn't the only game in town. Global social platforms want it known that there are real opportunities for developers who dare to be agile and venture outside the U.S.

Indeed, other global markets -- in Russia, in Eastern Europe, in Japan, in South America -- are hungry for quality social games. Publishers there have set up mechanisms to make entering those markets easier than one might expect. Localization, for example, is becoming less of an issue.

In Brazil, for instance, where the market has grown so large that this month the Brasil Game Show 2010 is expecting 20,000 visitors from all over the globe, Mentez is looking for developers.

Mentez -- Latin America's largest social gaming publisher with an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil (and one in Miami) -- is the brainchild of CEO and co-founder Juan Franco.

A year and a half ago, Mentez switched business models -- from producing its own games to focusing on finding, localizing, marketing, and monetizing social games from the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Today, Mentez publishes four out of the five most popular games on the Google-owned social network Orkut in Brazil and its portfolio reaches 22 million active users every week. One of those games, Colheita Feliz, a farming game, is the single most popular game on Orkut.

"If you currently only have your game on Facebook, you can double or triple your revenue by working the international markets," says Franco. "The U.S. is a very tough market that's dominated by two or three big companies. So it's very difficult for a smaller developer to compete in the U.S. on the Facebook platform these days. I believe that, for those good developers with good skills and good ideas, exploring international markets could be the best way for them to succeed."

One of those big companies -- Playdom -- apparently agrees, having signed an exclusive agreement for Brazil earlier this year with Mentez which has, so far, localized four games for Playdom -- Bola (a World Cup soccer game), Tiki Resort (a resort management game), Social City, and Market Street.

Mentez determines which games have the highest probability of succeeding in Latin America, translates the game, builds new virtual items for the game, tweaks the game mechanics if necessary, forms relevant partnerships with brands and celebrities, and launches the game on the two dominant social networks in Latin America. They are Orkut, which has 40 to 50 million users in Brazil alone, and Facebook, which owns every other country in Latin America.

"Localization is difficult for U.S. developers without help," explains Franco. "Many of their games are filled with cultural references -- like the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July and Halloween -- which mean nothing to Brazilians. So it's not as simple for U.S. developers as translating their games into Portuguese and dropping them onto Orkut."

Mentez has a team of artists and product managers who build virtual items that resonate with gamers in Latin America and help craft changes in the games so that they have a Latin American look and feel.

The publisher also has a PR team that helps the game get coverage in Latin American publications, and it runs banner ads inside their other games. It also takes a cut on virtual item revenue, so Mentez has a vested interest in seeing the game succeed.

Mentez also takes care of monetization through Paymentez, its proprietary, alternative payments network. According to Franco, "in emerging markets like Brazil, 50 percent of the 100 million people who are connected to the internet don't have credit cards -- and so PayPal doesn't work here. So gamers need other ways to pay. With Paymentez, they can walk into an Internet café and use cash to buy virtual credits.

"Paymentez has over 100,000 retail points of sale. That's just one more hurdle U.S. developers don't have to worry about when they partner with Mentez. They can sit back, get their checks in the mail, and enjoy a bigger footprint worldwide."


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