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Gaming The New Era Of Facebook

February 9, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

At Kabam (formerly Watercooler Games), the five-year-old developer's three Facebook games -- Kingdoms of Camelot, Dragons of Atlantis, and Glory of Rome -- are doing considerably better than that. Its oldest game -- Kingdoms of Camelot, launched in late 2009 -- currently has a monthly average user (MAU) level of roughly 5.8 million.

"That's in the realm of sales for blockbuster console titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo Reach, and Starcraft," says Andrew Sheppard, chief product officer. "That's why we're so bullish on this market opportunity."

He would not, however, reveal figures on Kabam's sales or profits.

Last month, Kabam announced that it had raised $30 million in a third round of funding to develop new games -- and maybe make a few acquisitions. Those new games, says Sheppard, will all be in the same realm as its previous three -- massively multiplayer social games (MMSGs) for hardcore gamers who play on Facebook.

Sheppard expects the additional funding will enable Kabam to increase the frequency of its game releases -- from one every three to four months to one every one or two months.

And, he says, even though Kabam has grown 10 times larger over the past 12 months -- to a staff of 230 -- he expects the aggressive growth to continue both in California and in their Beijing studio. "People who are passionate about building core game playing experiences should know that we have plenty of open roles."

"We've pursued a distinctly different strategy than other social game companies," he says. "Rather than target casual players, we are focused on creating a new segment of games that appeal to a more core gamer demographic. MMSGs combine the deep, immersive gameplay found in MMO strategy and role-playing games with the social connectivity and interaction provided by social platforms like Facebook."

Unlike casual social games -- where interactions only occur out of game when players request assistance from friends -- MMSGs provide synchronous gameplay, adds Sheppard, "where people play with and against other players in real time in persistent game worlds inhabited by millions globally. They also feature real-time chat."

Sheppard believes companies like Zynga, Playdom, and PlayFirst -- which he refers to as "the first generation of social game companies" -- trained a whole new generation of gamers on Facebook, many of whom had never touched a game before, in what has become known as a social gaming convention.

"But that audience of casual gamers is thirsting for deeper, richer gameplay experiences," he adds, "and that's basically the audience we're targeting." He describes Kabam's core demographic as being mostly 25-plus males compared to the 40-plus females who play Facebook's casual games.

Those casual games -- like the ones created by Zynga -- are "very much asynchronous experiences that are gated with just your network of friends on Facebook … and they are designed for short, bursty sessions of gameplay -- perhaps five to 15 minutes -- that is rather shallow and not that deep," says Sheppard.

"Our MMSGs feature synchronous gameplay with tens of thousands of users actively participating with one another in sessions that are hours long, very similar to those of World of Warcraft.

"What is ironic is that Zynga is referred to as the leader of social games, but when you really look at their games, they aren't any more social than WoW. In fact, they are actually less social; their games force you to use your friends to gain advantage in the game," he adds. "That's not our approach at all."

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