Recent fundings have shown the HTML5 games market is booming. At Casual Connect USA, Alexander Krug, CEO of Softgames, presented the latest trends and untapped opportunities in HTML5 games. He observed, “HTML5 is some very incredible technology. It is changing the way our users can consume games or content in general . . . They can play it basically everywhere, anytime that they want . . . In the HTML5 ecosystem, casual games are very dominant right now.” To hear more about HTML5 market, tune in below.
So, you’ve just finished your casual game. Spent 6 months of development, setup social media channels, and gathered contacts. It’s going to be awesome! Your head is buzzing: acquisition, discoverability, monetization, retention rates. Yet, you’re stuck with a limited budget and the challenge to find and attract players. You need this to be a hit! Yup. I’ve been there. What if you could get valuable insight from players after only one day of development? Bart van den Berg, Co-founder and CEO of Blue Giraffe presented a postmortem at Casual Connect USA on how they use focus testing, play testing and bonded with players over prototypes. He advised,”Start playtesting from concept. Players love the connection, give great feedback and evangelize your game!”
“Get ready to embark onto HTML5,” Olga Khomenko explains. “As the technology matures, you will see it more and more!” She talked about how HTML5 could help older games in her session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014.
Olga Khomenko is the co-founder of PlayToMax, one of the leading companies in the HTML5 market, with a team of professionals having more than eight years of experience in game development. At Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014, she announced the upcoming release of popular titles such as Treasures of Montezuma 2, Farm Frenzy, My Kingdom for the Princess, D Day Tower Defense, and others, on the HTML5 platform. Having these titles available on the mobile web should bring a new impulse to the market, she believes.
Khomenko tells us, “I have real pride in the team we have at PlayToMax today. It’s a feeling I have every day when I come to the office.” This sense of gratification began when the company was first created with a team of five through its growth to the team of twenty-two it is today. The recipe she gives for its success is friendship and a sense of humor.
At PlayToMax, Khomenko focuses mainly on company management and client services. However, as she points out, when you have your own business, your job responsibilities are not strictly defined; you do many things simply because they are needed.
Focusing on the Mobile Web
Analysts expect by the end of 2014 mobile web usage will have outstripped PC web. This is exactly the trend PlayToMax is targeting. Since HTML5 is a web-based technology, PlayToMax expects strong growth for mobile web and a parallel increase in interest for HTML5 games. Because these are cross-platform, they can cover both PC and mobile at the same time. As the technology continues to develop, Khomenko believes mobile browsers will continue to advance in performance capability, giving users the opportunity to have a native-like experience.
PlayToMax is in an ideal position to respond to this trend since their main business is populating web-based mobile games while creating addictive and successful titles for the market. Khomenko admits, “This is a hard job. Out-of-the-box thinking and passion for what we do is what helps us every day.”
The most impactful trend she sees in the games business as a whole is mobile; it has been an important evolution for years and continues to influence the games market. This is shown by the movement toward games-on-the-go, endless games with simple gameplay that can occupy users’ time while they are waiting, traveling, or have some short period available for play. The result is shown in the success of games like 2048 or Flappy Bird.
Free Time Play
When Khomenko is gaming, she is, of course, doing it on HTML5, appreciating its easy accessibility with no passwords or logins; you just play. Her favorite game so far is D Day Tower Rush, a tower defense game with a fun setting. Another favorite game she continues to play and enjoy is Plants vs Zombies. She describes herself as somewhat old-school in her console play; she is still using her PlayStation 1, but admits she has limited time at home to play on it.
Khomenko’s passion in life, other than games, is music. For a couple of years, she has been playing drums in a band, called Miles Babies. Shortly after Casual Connect, they will be doing a tour in the Ukraine, with concerts in seven different cities. She claims, “It’s always funny to see the reaction of people when the girl tells them she plays the drums.”
“Users who are actually accessing your portal are expecting to play immediately a game,” Alexander Krug said during a panel at Casual Connect USA 2014. “That’s the good thing with HTML5. People are not forced to enter any ids or passwords, they can just start immediately playing and they are still connected to your brand.”
Alexander Krug is the CEO and founder of SOFTGAMES, the company that operates the world’s largest HTML5 platform, with more than 250 high quality cross-platform HTML5 games. Before founding SOFTGAMES, Krug worked for Yahoo!, where he was responsible for re-launching the entire gaming portal.
Krug became involved in the games industry years ago when he was creating a distribution website for independent game developers for windows, while working on an international school project. This was the start of his passion for working with game developers and partners.
Creating The Spark With A Partnership
The spark that ignited SOFTGAMES’ success was cooperation with an open source app store as the official launch partner. This allowed them to demonstrate their portfolio and created a massive chain effect for the roll out of their affiliate program and, most importantly, for their own gaming destination. Today, it has more than 10 million monthly unique users.
Every day at SOFTGAMES brings Krug new challenges to be solved and new ideas to discuss. Tracking and evaluating new trends at the right time, even if it means being a first mover, are huge parts of his responsibilities. The key aspects to handling his challenges and responsibilities, he emphasizes, are communication, knowledge, experience, and being open to advanced solutions.
Polishing the Product
He considers that his greatest career achievement has been creating a platform with over ten million monthly active users in less than one year. And his next goal is to reach 100 million monthly active users within the next year. As well, today SOFTGAMES casual HTML5 games cannot be differentiated from casual native or flash games; something which brings great pride to the entire team.
Krug is, naturally, a strong proponent of HTML. He admits that, although HTML5 had a tremendous start when it was first introduced, it was dumped just as quickly because it did not meet expectations. But in the last six months, as the technology has been optimized, there has been a great improvement in the quality of the games. He is certain that within the next 12 months, it will be the major platform for most developers of cross-platform mobile games, citing these reasons:
First, publishers are actively looking for and approaching developers to satisfy their audience demand for high quality HTML5 games. And SOFTGAMES knows that demand for a broad set of great casual games is intense; they are now releasing a new cross-platform game every work day.
Second, casual games are dominating right now, so there is great benefit for developers to start with a simple, well-polished project and expand from there. Instead of investing large amounts of money on a long-term basis, HTML5 technology allows developers to realize well-developed games within a month or two.
Third, the HTML5 games market offers tremendous opportunities when compared with the clones and app look-alikes native developers are currently facing. Krug notes that although the SOFTGAMES portfolio has over 250 games, Mahjong, Solitaire, and Zuma types of games are not yet available there, although the demand is great. Fast moving developers can benefit in these market game gaps, which do not exist in the app stores.
Finally, today the main revenue for HTML5 games comes from in-game advertising. The freemium model is not yet in use because of low payment aggregator payouts and a missing global payment infrastructure. Krug does not see this as a disadvantage for developers because they can quickly develop a game, sell it, and move on to make better titles. There is no need to allocate a large amount of resources after a release to optimize, maintain, and update a game without any guarantee of success.
SOFTGAMES is able to offer two options to developers. Either they sell developed games to SOFTGAMES via exclusive or non-exclusive sponsorships, or they agree on a share of the generated in-game advertising revenue. Non-exclusive sponsorships may be sold multiple times to different publishers. SOFTGAMES pays between $500 and $5,000 for a non-exclusive game, so developers can easily generate a few thousand dollars with a high-quality HTML5 game developed in a few weeks. Krug emphasizes, “This is projectable success through SOFTGAMES!”
The Benefits of HTML5
He feels HTML5 should be considered an excellent alternative to native development. Instead of hoping for the next big hit, simply through luck, developers can effectively schedule their next games and income as a result of the huge demand on the publisher site for high quality games made in HTML5. Krug points out that SOFTGAMES, with more than ten years of experience in the mobile gaming industry, had already decided three years ago to focus completely on its HTML5 platform. He insists, “Developers should join the gold rush as well – before it’s too late!”
Besides the tremendous growth of the HTML5 platform, Krug also sees impressive growth of the Android platform and believes the focus of developers will gradually shift from the predominate iOS to Android. And he has noticed an ongoing shift from paid to hybrid premium and ad-featured content as the dominant method of earning money in mobile games. SOFTGAMES is prepared for the future of these trends, since their early focus on HTML5 allowed them to build a strong active partner and user base.
The gaming technology that excites Krug the most is, of course, HTML5. He emphasizes, “Entertainment should be accessible without downloads, installations, or special equipment. Play anywhere, anytime, no matter what device you use.” And he believes the next technology evolution in HTML5 will be true 3D gaming and full sound support.
When Krug is not working, he likes to take long runs to clear his mind and stay fit. He also reads a lot to broaden his horizons and, when he has time, he loves to travel to exotic places and get to know different cultures.
Although he used to spend hours playing DOS games such as Warlords or Heimdall, these days he prefers quick gaming sessions and spends about 30 minutes a day on one of the SOFTGAMES titles on HTML5. He loves casual level-up games such as Royal Knight, Bombs and Zombies, and Animal Link because he can easily access and play them. He especially enjoys being able to play the same game on his iPhone, Android tablet, smart TV, and even his desktop browser.
Krug advises those in the games industry who want to innovate and move beyond established ideas to “Work extremely hard, expect lots of drawbacks, and get up stronger every time you fall.” He recognizes that it is not easy to be a pioneer, especially when you believe in a young technology. However, at SOFTGAMES, he had enough early success to put his focus on HTML5 and in the end, he was proven right.
He has discovered mistakes are important; they will happen, but that’s okay. What matters is that when you fail, you learn from it, and do not make the same mistake again.
He does not believe in taking risks, since this is just a chance with an uncertain outcome. Rather, he emphasizes the importance of being visionary, well-informed, and connected. When he focused on HTM5, he was certain that it would become huge and that at some point the isolated app stores would break open. While to outsiders this may look like taking risks, for Krug, it is simply part of his daily routine as CEO.
Raul Otaolea, co-founder and CEO of WiMi5, has 14 years of experience in web games. WiMi5 is building an unprecedented online platform to create, publish and monetize web games so that indie game developers can leverage HTML5 potential. Raul discusses how HTML5 will help developers reach out to future gamers.
Today, around 40 percent of the world population (2.9 billion) has an Internet connection. The first billion was reached in 2005, the second billion in 2010, and the third billion will be reached by the end of this year. Mobile broadband remains the fastest growing market segment to connect to Internet, with continuous double-digit growth rates, according to ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau. In 2014, there were 2.3 billion mobile-broadband subscriptions globally.
Of the 4 billion people who will connect to Internet in the next decade, more than 90 percent of them are from countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia, and South America. And the leading agent for connecting these new consumers? Low cost smartphones. The ongoing transition to 4G networks and cheaper smartphones will likely keep the market for low cost smartphones growing above the global growth rate of 40 percent. So what does this all mean for game developers? A critical question we now face is determining which mobile platform is ready to scale and deliver game content to this new potential audience.
The Effect of Low Cost Smartphones
Mobile hardware vendors have started to take positions in this arena, creating new categories of low cost smartphones. Big players such as Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, and HTC have launched new low-end mobiles. Even Apple, with a clear focus on high-end devices, launched a new family of low-cost devices last year. New vendors coming from Asia, such as Huawei, ZTE, and Xiaomi are joining this battle. Operating systems vendors are also moving towards this direction. Great examples are FirefoxOS by Mozilla, Tizen by Samsung, and Android One Program by Google, that is already collaborating with Indian vendors Micromax, Karbonn, and Spic to build Android One-powered smartphones.
Mobile gaming continues to be a rapidly growing sector, with each country, culture, and language having unique profiles when it comes to player demographics, handsets, and business models. The challenge for global game developers will be to understand the most popular genres in these countries, localize games in the proper languages (taking into account cultural differences), and finally using appropriate business models and payment gateways to reach these markets. To succeed, gaming platforms need to take into consideration localization, culturalization, and monetization. And the million-dollar question is, which is the best platform to do that?
If the AppStore and Google Play will lead this new era, developers face a large problem: they need a huge marketing budget to stand out from the crowd. This rules out 99 percent of game developers. Today, small game studios and indie developers struggle with App Stores saturation and need to spend large amounts of money in game discovery. Imagine the chaos that 4 billion more users will bring. There is a much better option and it is called “the web.” Not the web as we knew it, but a new one.
The New Web
Thanks to the W3C, after 15 years of HTML5 standard development, we finally have a great technology to create cross-platform games. While we don’t know which vendor or operating system will win the battle for new mobile users, we do know for certain the web will be there. And HTML5 offers an open, standards-based, easy-to-share format to create games that can be shared with a simple link, allowing everyone to play with instant accessibility. Because the web is real-time, it is always up-to-date and device agnostic.
Examples of large web-based marketplaces include the Chrome Web Store, Mozilla Market Place, Windows Phone Store, and Amazon. Already existing online game portals are shifting from obsolete technologies to HTML5 and a growing number of new portals have been born to push HTML5 games. We are facing a major transition to the way we experience and access game content – developers can now build great games for both desktop and mobile for a huge potential market without massive marketing budgets. Spil Games, Booster Media, Kongregate, Softgames are just a few examples.
In terms of mobile browser support, Android Chrome and iOS Safari (version 8, due this fall) will support HTML5 and specific key technologies for games like webGL. New operating systems such as FirefoxOS and Tizen are already HTML5-based so they provide seamless integration. Designers that want to be in native app stores can always create a hybrid app because HTML5 is that flexible.
In the coming years, we are going to see a massive deployment of HTML5 as the share of mobile games on the market continues to rise in parallel with mobile subscription growth. When the next 4 billion subscribers tap in to the web, expect an increase in the diversity, quality, and quantity of web-based games. We are certain to see more games developed using HTML5 rise to the top of the most played mobile games charts. So what are you waiting for?
Rob Grossberg, Co-Founder and CEO of TreSensa, Inc, is no stranger to HTML5 games. Tresensa has many HTML5 games in their own portfolio. He shares his thoughts about how HTML5 could help indie developers.
The sad truth within the Apple App Store and Google Play is that it is no longer enough to build an awesome game. There are thousands of absolutely awesome games in the app stores today that nobody is playing. The app store dead pool is alive and kicking with quality content in search of an audience. Discovery in the app stores is so tough these days that the only viable way to get someone to play your game is to pay one of the many mobile marketing services to drive installs of your game. As a result, a prerequisite for app store success today is a massive marketing budget to buy users (the current cost is in the $3 to $5 per install range), drive your game into the charts, and then pray it sticks. A large marketing budget is not even a remote possibility for the vast majority of game studios looking to become the next Supercell or Rovio. The app store economy is broken and it is the indie studios that are getting squeezed out.
It is no coincidence that as it has gotten tougher and tougher to succeed within the ecosystems of the app stores, companies (including mine!) would jump into the fray to bring game studios alternative means to reach people with gaming content on their mobile devices. So what’s the secret sauce? HTML5. Yes, that is the same HTML5 that took a beating a few years back, but has not gone away.
Over the past year, demand for HTML5 games, particularly HTML5 games that are mobile web optimized, has been rising. Online game portals such as Games.com, Yepi.com, Spil Games and Gamehouse.com have all shifted their focus to HTML5 and are actively seeking quality content for their sites and their millions of monthly users. The online Flash game ecosystem has woken up to the fact that mobile now needs to be core to their business, and the technology most portals are adopting to make the shift is HTML5.
In addition, many game stores like the Firefox Marketplace, Tizen, the Amazon Appstore and the Windows Phone Store are hungry for HTML5 games and often look to showcase and feature indie games. These stores may seem very small compared to Apple’s app store and Google Play, but good games can really stand out as “big fish” in these smaller ponds. Also, more and more media properties are starting to include HTML5 game content within their various mobile offerings. These are companies like Disney, Warner Bros., WWE, and HBO, that are already attracting large audiences on mobile and want to start supplying their users with the most engaging form of mobile content (games!) without pushing their users into the arms of Apple or Google. They are turning to HTML5 to do this.
A real benefit to these new areas for game distribution is that they are all based on a revenue share model, and thus do not require upfront marketing dollars to get your game in front of millions of consumers. In terms of monetization, the freemium model is the model of choice with advertising and in-game purchases driving revenue. And because the costs to produce and distribute these games is much lower than native games, studios have more leeway to extend creativity within the games themselves, as opposed to constantly pushing users to purchase points in order to attempt to recoup large upfront development and marketing costs.
Has there been a hit HTML5 game that has crushed it and turned its developer into a mega-millionaire? No. Are opportunities emerging for indies to make several thousand dollars per game per month with quality HTML5 games? Yes.
So indie developers are left with this – forge ahead with a native game, try your best to navigate the challenges within the app stores, and hope you are the next big thing, or pioneer emerging areas for mobile games by adopting HTML5 and hope you can be an early player in the next big thing for mobile games.
Alexander Krug provided an overview of how HTML5 is working right now. “If you look to the numbers, you can understand that flash gaming is not the future anymore,” he says. “Everybody who is doing flash games should switch to HTML5 probably, or also to a turn mobile site.”
“In the 21st Century, entertainment should be accessible without downloads, installations, or special equipment. Play anywhere, anytime, no matter what device you use!” So claims Alexander Krug, Founder and CEO of SOFTGAMES, a company whose vision is to reshape the way people discover, play, and share mobile games across multiple platforms.
Realizing the Potential
Krug considered himself a typical AppStore user, gaming on his iPhone, until 2010, when he read an article giving the average earnings and outlooks of AppStore developers. He realized the AppStores would develop into a hit-driven business, with the advantage going to apps with high production values, seven-digit marketing spending, or simple branded approaches. So the majority of developers would be left desperately rushing from project to project, just trying to break even but never able to scale their business or make serious money.
SOFTGAMES decided to create an alternative to their worldwide native AppStore/Operator/Off-deck distributions. The result was the successful launch of their HTML5 games publishing and distribution platform, which features highly targeted, dynamic advertising. Krug believes this new platform tremendously improves opportunity for the majority of developers. He receives the greatest satisfaction in his work through seeing what the company has achieved with this platform.
He also feels there is nothing more rewarding than seeing everyone in the company doing outstanding work to reach their ambitious goals; saying hard work, persistence, making the right decisions and learning from mistakes are the basis for their present success.
Always Think of the New
Everyday, Krug finds new challenges to be solved and new ideas to be discussed. He emphasizes, “The industry evolves and changes so fast that it becomes more and more important to try and to work out new things. It is crucial in this young and developing business to be open-minded and to tackle new trends at the right time even if it means being a first mover.”
For the future in the games industry, Krug sees three massive trends coming. First, he believes within the next year, HTLM5 will be the major platform for most developers of cross-platform games, with the market now ready for the high quality cross-platform games SOFTGAMES is able to serve.
He expects the second trend will be the focus of developers shifting from the iOS to Android, since we are already seeing the impressive growth of the Android platform. And finally, he emphasizes the on-going shift from paid to hybrid freemium and ad-featured content as the dominant method of earning money with mobile games.
SOFTGAMES has prepared to meet these trends through the strong active partner and user base they have built with their early focus on HTML5. Krug maintains, “Go HTML5 or die!”
And he loves free-to-play! As he says, “It allows millions of users to play and enjoy for free. The word ‘free’ is the main part of our business.”
Taking a Break
When Krug is not involved with work, he enjoys running to stay fit and clear his mind. When time allows, he chooses to broaden his horizons through reading and traveling to exotic places, learning about their cultures.
And, of course, he enjoys gaming. These days, as the quality of HTML5 rises, most often he is playing the games at Softgames.com. His favorites are Candy Rain and Words with Owl; he recommends trying them out if you are willing to risk playing multiple times.
At Casual Connect Asia, Krug announced the world’s first publisher program dedicated to HTML5 games. This SOFTGAMES HTML5 games publisher program provides website owners, webmasters, and app developers with easy access to hundreds of free, cross-platform HTML5 games. This program allows them to choose games from SOFTGAMES’ online catalog or with automated tools using their XML and JSON feeds at no cost.
At Casual Connect Europe, Spil Games announced the Spil Games Platform. Robbert van Os states, “I am very excited about the monetization approach. Spil’s announcement can speed up the adoption of the HTML5 games market.”
Robbert van Os, Developer Relations and HTML5 Advocate at Spil Games, says his ten years at Spil Games have been an amazing experience, every day of the week. He has had too many moments of gratification to be able to single one out as the best, but the fact that Spil Games is serving over 180 million users every month is definitely a source of satisfaction.
Van Os started out at Spil Games as a developer and shortly after became team lead. Then he transitioned into being responsible for the global IT infrastructure and development. A few years ago, he reflected on his true motivation and, as a result, moved into a kick-starter role for several key strategic products within Spil Games. Among these were their social gaming platform, their mobile web portals, native game development and, more recently, the next generation advertising platform. Now his focus is on HTML5 game development, with external developers, community, and Spil Games internal teams.
Play Whenever, Wherever
The pivot to touch devices and the movement toward device agnosticism are the trends van Os sees most affecting his company in the next two to three years. He emphasizes, “People will play whenever, wherever and on every device that holds a browser.”
Spil Games is prepared for what is coming because feature-based design is the foundation of their platform, built from scratch with a focus on mobile first. Van Os emphasizes, “We are rapidly deploying the products built on this infrastructure.”
He also believes the biggest impact on the game industry as a whole will be coming from device agnostic content.
Gaming with Kids
When van Os is not working, he is spending time with friends and family, and admits to being addicted to news and love-coding.
His gaming is frequently done with his children. These days, he is playing Mario Bros on Wii-U, saying it is perfect for the children to participate. For his personal gaming, he prefers to spend his time exploring casual game content, since it is readily available and free on his browser.
Based in NYC, TreSensa is a game development/distribution company that optimizes games for the mobile web. The brainchild of Rob Grossberg, Rakesh Raju, and Vincent Obermeier, it is often referred to as ‘the biggest mobile gaming company you haven’t heard of’. Rob shares the story of TreSensa and its journey of creating the world’s first mobile web content delivery ecosystem.
TreSensa launched in July 2011. Before venturing into the gaming space and founding TreSensa, Vincent and I spent many years in the digital marketing space, working at various companies such as DoubleClick and Tremor Video. Rakesh is our gaming guy. Prior to TreSensa, he was on the original engineering team for Real Arcade, Real Networks’ digital game store, he built the R&D team for Tribeca Tables, one of the world’s largest online poker networks, and he ran a successful casual/mobile game development shop in India.
Casual Connect actually played a staring role in helping to bring Rakesh to TreSensa. Vincent and I had spent months and months looking for a NYC-based tech co-founder who had game experience. I think we would have had an easier time finding Al Capone or Bigfoot. But then Brad Hargreaves, the founder of General Assembly and head of the NY Games Forum, introduced us to Rakesh and the courtship was on. Rakesh played hard to get for a while and did not want to leave his game studio in a lurch. Then came Casual Connect Seattle. Vincent flew out to Seattle with Rakesh, and they were both blown away by the discussions and interest in HTML5 game development at the conference that year and immediately recognized the huge potential that existed for mobile web game distribution and monetization. They would meet up between sessions, and Vincent would provide the HTML5 updates from the business tracks while Rakesh would provide the updates from the tech tracks. Then Vincent helped Rakesh pick out a sweater at a nearby shop, and we had our game and tech guy.
As a company, we decided to make our big bet on the mobile web and HTML5. We firmly believed (and still do) that the mobile web will be the next major platform for mobile games. In 2011, the mobile gaming market was becoming more and more fragmented. We realized that the economics within the app stores, with its discovery challenges and rising cost-per-user-acquisition, was a broken economic model and that providing alternatives to the app store could be a BIG deal. Not many other companies were willing to make this bet at the time, but we guessed that within the next two years, the browsers, operating systems, and devices would only get stronger, able to support a wide range of popular casual gaming genres. We guessed right, as that is exactly what has transpired. In addition, people have been replacing their lower end devices much faster than predicted, which has been great for us, as dealing with weak Android 2.3 devices (which have now dropped to under a 20 percent share of the Android market) is no fun.
Getting Over the Hurdle:
TreSensa’s technology comes in two parts: we have our game engine/development tools, and we have our games distribution/monetization platform. In 2012, we focused on our engine, TGE. We needed to prove that commercial quality mobile web games could perform within all major web browsers. It was a challenging year for us, as HTML5 was at a very nascent stage when we started out, so we had to use our engine and our game development expertise to fill in many gaps in HTML5. When we ran into problems with performance and could not find any existing solution, we’d build something to solve it ourselves.
Then in the summer of 2012, Facebook dumped its HTML5-based mobile app due to performance issues. Suddenly, HTML5 was a bad word not to be mentioned around children, developers, and VCs. Even my dogs stopped loving me. But we stuck to our guns while many others who initially backed HTML5 jumped ship. We had our Wayne Gretzky moment of going to where the puck was not. We knew that mobile web gaming was going to happen. We just needed to wait for the market to catch up. In order to make our seed investment last as long as possible, we paired down to a skeleton team of four, and took on several work-for-hire projects to help pay the bills. In fact, the first game released using TGE was a game for Progressive Insurance called Rocket Cat.
The Tide Begins to Turn
In Fall 2012, we had a set of mobile web games that worked great, but we realized that building a mobile web game was only half of the battle. To then distribute and monetize a mobile web game was a big challenge, as the emerging distribution channels each had their own requirements and complexities. We decided to take on the distribution challenge and develop a proprietary distribution platform called TGS. On October 9, 2012, we launched our first three games on games.com and a showcase site we set up called www.mobilewebarcade.com. A set of beta studio partners using our engine then cranked out about 20 more games within the next three months, and we added five more distribution partners. Others in the industry began to take notice. In early 2013, we began to work with DeNA and NBCU to support their mobile web game efforts. A few months later, we began working with HBO on a game for their True Blood series. And then that summer, we began working with Amazon as part of the big web app initiative and Kik Messenger as they launched their HTML5 game platform. The momentum started gaining speed and has not slowed down.
This year is going to be a big year for mobile web gaming. We are seeing the interest pick up both from game studios/developers, as well as from distribution partners. In particular, the online game portals are making the shift to HTML5, with many either recently launched or soon launching their mobile web game portals. TreSensa has over sixty distribution partners now integrated on its platform and over forty-five commercial quality HTML5 games within our library of content. And just this month, we de-coupled our game engine from our distribution/monetization platform so that games built with other third party engines (and some good ones are starting to emerge) can be easily integrated with our distribution/monetization platform.
Throughout our two and a half year history, we have had to work with all sorts of constraints – resource constraints, money constraints, technology constraints, and market constraints. We took on the challenges as all start-ups must and did so with a small team of passionate “doers”. For a good part of 2012 and 2013, we shipped code pretty much every day and having a close knit team allowed us to accelerate, react to the market, and experiment in ways that would be much harder to do with a large team. Even with revenues growing and additional funding, our plan is to keep the team small (we are now a team of eleven) so that we can stay agile and continue to innovate as mobile web gaming emerges and evolves.
We are just getting started.
Robert Grossberg, Co-founder and CEO at TreSensa, describes the proudest moment of his career as “when I said to myself, ‘Why not me?’ and took the leap to start TreSensa.” He emphasizes that starting your own business requires that leap of faith, believing that your vision can be translated into a viable enterprise. It is also a scary thing to do, especially if you have a family to support. But Grossberg did have the advantage of years of experience as an operator at several startups, where he was able to see firsthand what it takes to succeed as a CEO.
HTML5 Drives the Mobile Web
In 2011, Grossberg, with Vincent Obermeier and Rakesh Raju, founded TreSensa. They saw game studios struggling to build successful mobile gaming businesses in the existing app store economy, and they believed the mobile web and HTML5 could be the solution to many of the issues involved. Grossberg and Obermeier brought experience in digital marketing and monetization to the venture; only Raju had prior gaming experience. They were able to approach the challenges of mobile gaming with no preconceived ideas or prejudices; a situation which Grossberg believes has helped to drive their innovation.
A CEO’s Life
At the beginning, Grossberg was closely involved with the day-to-day execution in the business, but as the company has grown, his activities have shifted. He is now responsible for fund raising, PR, and recruiting senior talent to the team. He is also involved with setting the strategic direction of the company and leading certain business development efforts. But most important, he claims, “I try to stay out of the way of the other people on the team and block for them when necessary so they can be as effective as possible.”
A Sucker for Simple Fun
When away from work, Grossberg is mainly involved in family activities, such as coaching his son’s lacrosse team or TV show binges with his wife. He also enjoys running and playing ice hockey. Because of TreSensa’s focus on mobile gaming, he has spent much of the past two years playing mobile games. He says, “I am a sucker for the basic, but addicting, games like SuperHexagon, BikeRacePro, and Paper Toss.
Emerging Markets Multiply Mobile Growth
The spread of smart phones and tablets, especially in emerging markets, is the most important development Grossberg is currently observing. He says, “The hardware, software, and wireless infrastructure are getting stronger and stronger, opening up mobile gaming to billions and billions of new gamers. We are talking about the largest addressable market in the history of the world.” He foresees a huge impact on the gaming industry through the growth of mobile gaming in international markets such as India, Africa, the Middle East and Brazil.
Grossberg points out that every smart phone or tablet contains a browser. TreSensa’s technology enables mobile browser-supported game play across the widest set of devices and operating systems. As a result, they are in a position to help studios distribute their games through multiple channels to reach this massive audience. He encourages developers to check them out at www.tresensa.com.