Wooga Ramps Up Mobile Strategy With New Android, iOS Titles
Social gaming company Wooga has quickly established itself as one of the most popular social game developers.
The Berlin company has some of the top social games on Facebook, with titles such as Diamond Dash, which has about 70 million total users since it was released in March 2011. Diamond Dash has 20 million downloads on iOS.
With that initial mobile hit, the company is investing heavily into mobile, the company says. Wooga is preparing to launch Diamond Dash on Android and also bringing Monster World, its farming game, to iOS. Both are expected to be released this fall.
Based on the explosive growth in mobile, Wooga now has structured its workforce so that half of its 200 employees are working on mobile games, including iOS, Android and other platforms. It’s a striking shift for a company that just launched its first mobile game one year ago. The growth of companies like Wooga on mobile is key both for companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook because engagement and payments are so strong for this category. It’s also important for social gaming on Facebook, to have new social gaming companies that emerge outside of large companies such as Zynga and EA.
In July 2011 Wooga released Diamond Dash for iOS, which was its first mobile game. That game, where users play quick one minute rounds connecting diamonds of the same colors, took off and has had 20 million downloads on iPhones and iPads. Wooga is now bringing Diamond Dash on Android, its first game on Google‘s mobile platform. Players on Android will be able to play against others on Facebook on the desktop or on iOS.
So why the heavy emphasis on mobile? One answer: mobile players who play Diamond Dash (and connect with Facebook) are a remarkable eight times more likely to spend money in the game. In other words, mobile players spend more and play more. At the same time, logging in with Facebook is a key part of driving mobile engagement on Diamond Dash, Wooga CEO Jens Begemann says. That allows players to challenge friends with high scores, win medals, and the like. People play many more rounds on the game when they are connected through Facebook, he says. The company said in March that 64% of Diamond Dash players log in with Facebook.
Android is a major market with fast growth and developers are responding with more games. Still, Google’s platform presents challenges for developers, including its fragmented market across many different devices and screen sizes. That means polishing games takes more time. So Wooga has taken time to make sure its Android version of Diamond Dash is on par with its iOS version. ”For us that means we’ve waited a few more months before we decided what to do,” Begemann says. “We wanted our Android version to feel native and feel made for Android, not just feel like it’s ported from the iPhone.”
While there are still more Wooga users playing its games on the desktop through Facebook, revenue per user is higher on Wooga’s mobile games, Begemann says. That’s true for many other developers in the industry as well, he says.
Wooga is also bringing Monster World, its farming game where users harvest chocolate flowers, unicorn trees and lemonade bushes, to iOS. While not as well known as Diamond Dash–the game launched two years ago–Monster World still has about seven million monthly active users and an “extremely loyal fan base,” Begemann says. Wooga plans to continue to bring successful Facebook.com games to mobile.
With Monster World, Wooga has kept fans coming back long after a game launches. It does this, like other successful social gaming companies, by putting a heavy emphasis on game development after it launches. About 80% of the work for a game happens after launch, Begemann says. Teams work on rolling out new content and features every week. “You may play it for half a year and think you’ve seen it all and then you’ll unlock new content areas and new game mechanics you haven’t been aware of,” Begemann says. “We’re building these games as a franchise that people can play over many years.” The other factor keeping users coming back is social. Helping friends in the games sending gifts, and chatting are key features that keep people engaged, Begemann says.
Wooga prides itself on quic kly trying new platforms. Previously Wooga launched games on Google+ and HTML5. But it recently pulled its games from Google+ and canceled its HTML5 game Magic Land Island and released it as open source code. The company tries to jump into new platforms to see if they take off but is not afraid to switch directions, Begemann says. “It’s not ready for the mass market,” Begemann says of HTML5.
Wooga now has six titles and plans to double that number over the next year. That includes a substantial increase on mobile. While the company has moved aggressively into mobile games, Begemann says in the long term, the company will move to whatever platforms are most popular with users. “In my vision of 2020 if I was looking ahead, we’ll make good games as an entertainment medium people will enjoy every day. We don’t care so much what platform that is on. We do games for the platforms where the majority of consumers are.”
An interesting fact about Wooga’s development process: the company has all of its development under one roof in Berlin. It’s a formula Steve Jobs adhered to at Apple. Begemann believes that having all of the employees in one place makes development and collaboration faster and more efficient. That’s contrary to many gaming companies such as Zynga, who have separate studios scattered around the world. At Wooga, each game has a small team formed like a start-up, with separate teams focused on iPhone or desktop versions of games.
Backed by $32 million from Highland Capital Partners, Tenaya Capital, Balderton Capital and HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, Wooga has more than 200 employees and is targeting 250 by the end of 2012. The company has doubled every year: two years ago it had 55 and last year it had 99. The company is much smaller than others such as Zynga and EA, but with the company’s quick moves into mobile, it will be interesting to watch Wooga’s titles and how they shape up against the competition.