Social gaming giant Wooga expands into third-party publishing

Nina Fowler 2013-07-30 11

Jens Begemann

Social gaming company Wooga is testing a new business model and will now publish the games of smaller developers as well as those it makes itself. 

Wooga, founded in 2009 and with over 250 employees in Berlin, makes free-to-play games for Facebook and mobile platforms, including Diamond Dash and Monster World. The company claims about 50 million people play its games each month.

The company’s first publishing deal will see it release Danish developer Tactile Entertainment’s free-to-play Airheads Jump for iPhone and Android in September. Wooga will provide guidance and support, for marketing, localisation, monetisation and user experience, in exchange for a share of any revenue.

The deal is a one-off at this point – Tactile and Wooga have an option to continue working together if the release goes well – and Wooga will not be setting up a separate publishing division. Asked if staff numbers would change as a result of the new strategy, Wooga CEO Jens Begemann said the ratio of developers to other employees would stay about the same and that the company’s headcount continued to grow.

It’s not the first social or mobile game developer to jump into third-party publishing. Zynga – which recently laid off 18 per cent of its staff following a rocky IPO – released its first big batch of partner games in September 2012. Angry Birds’ maker Rovio published its second partner game, Tiny Thief, earlier this month.

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There’s now a general acceptance that this model can work, Begemann said today. “What is good about publishing and what’s bad? The console way of publishing doesn’t work for mobile but there’s now acceptance in the market that the publisher has a good role in localisation, customer care and analytics and understanding free-to-play.”

The company now has the global network, expertise and experience to make publishing other developers’ games possible, he added.

As for its own game releases, Wooga plans to bring out new title Jelly Splash, a puzzle game, for iPhone and iPad in August and Android and Facebook in September. That timing shows the increasing importance of mobile for social gaming companies: while Wooga’s revenue from Facebook web play is still growing in absolute terms, mobile revenue is now growing more quickly, Begemann said.

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