All posts in “mobile gaming”

Game publisher GameMine inks a $20 million partnership with South Africa’s Vodacom


On the heels of a $20 million funding round last month, the new game publishing company GameMine has inked its first big deal with a global carrier.

The company has partnered with the South Africa mobile carrier Vodacom Group to bring GameMine’s subscription-based mobile games to the South African market.

More than 175 GameMine titles will be distributed to Vodacom subscribers ad-free and free of charge during a promotional trial period.

“GameMine recognizes the distinct value and importance of South Africa’s thriving mobile carrier market as an appropriate demographic region for our company’s product, as well as an early trend indicator for the African continent’s entire mobile industry,” said Daniel Starr, GameMine’s chief executive in a statement.

The partnership is a validation for GameMine’s subscription-based pitch to wireless carriers. Rather than rely on ad revenues, GameMine goes through wireless carriers like Vodacom to upsell its customers.

The partnership will significantly boost GameMine’s global subscriber base, as well as its exposure within international mobile carrier markets while providing Vodacom’s South African iPhone and Android users with access to GameMine’s best-in-class mobile games, all of which are being provided in a fully unlocked, ad-free manner.

It’s GameMine’s first big deal since Starr launched the company six months ago. The serial entrepreneur has worked at mobile billing companies for the last decade.

Starr’s last business, Principal Media, was a billing service for international mobile billing. That company was sold to an investment firm for roughly $40 million.

Daniel Starr, chief executive, GameMine

For Starr, the move into game publishing came as a result of watching some of the mistakes and observing the friction that exists in making money off of traditional games.

“Once I got deep into the numbers, I said we should be doing gaming,” says Starr. “We got rid of our old company. Sold it quickly for some cash and jumped into gaming full-speed.”

The company charges through the mobile carriers’ billing platform rather than charging a gamer during gameplay.

Rather than relying on a blockbuster model or the traditional tentpole approach that content companies  from game studios to Hollywood studios to record labels have used almost since their inception, GameMine takes more of a “Netflix” approach, Starr says.

GameMine customers aren’t buying into one title, they’re buying a rotating cast of titles that update regularly, are unlocked and ad-free, he said.

“We’re an all-you-can-eat buffet for games,” says Starr. “It’s not, ‘Is steak selling the best, or is chicken selling the best?’ We’re trying to get more people through the buffet,” Starr says.

Leveraging the work he’d done providing billing services to carriers, Starr reached out to carriers and started pitching his game brand.

“The carriers… they want to disintermediate them more than anything you can imagine,” says Starr of the platforms and applications that have been eating into the mobile operators’ revenue. “They’re frustrated that they created these networks and these other companies reap the benefit of the services.”

With the contracts that GameMine is cutting, carriers can take between 5-25 percent of the transaction, depending on the country, Starr said.

Every phone that a carrier ships in the markets within which the company operates will come equipped with GameMine already downloaded, Starr said.

The company’s approach was compelling enough to net it a $20 million investment from the Los Angeles-based investment firm Palisades Venture Capital.

What do E3 attendees think of mobile gaming?


The smartphone has changed the gaming industry landscape dramatically. As our pocket computers advance, so too does the possibility of fully satisfying mobilegaming experiences.

Companies like Nintendo are blurring the lines between portable and console/PC gaming with the Switch. At the same time, big studios have largely moved away from attempts to integrate mobile content into the home console.

Casual games continue to dominate smartphones and tablets. And even as games that require more commitment have made a name for themselves on mobile (Pokémon Go, I’m talking to you), it’s hard to imagine an experience on mobile that rivals that of a console.

But at E3 this year, we had the opportunity to asks attendees (well, those who didn’t scoff at the words “mobile gaming”) what they believe the future of mobile gaming looks like. Here’s what they had to say:

Mobile gaming company Scopely raises $60M


Scopely just announced that it has raised $60 million in Series C funding.

The round was led by Revolution Growth, a firm led by former AOL executives Steve Case and Ted Leonsis (AOL owns TechCrunch), which targets startups outside Silicon Valley and New York. (Scopely is headquartered in Los Angeles.) Revolution’s Donn Davis is joining Scopely’s board of directors, while Greenspring, Sands Capital Ventures, Cross Creek Advisors and Pritzker Group Venture Capital also participated in the new round.

Scopely has built a platform for promoting and monetizing mobile games, whether developed in-house or by third-party studios. Its titles include The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, Wheel of Fortune Free Play and WWE Champions. The company says it reaches more than 125 million players, with The Walking Dead alone generating hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

In the funding release, CEO Walter Driver noted that it’s been less than a year since Scopely raised its Series B, and he said the company is already profitable. So why raise more funding?

“This capital infusion will enable us to expand the business through inorganic means while we continue to execute on our path of organic growth in parallel,” Driver said. “The opportunity to work with the founding team of AOL is extremely exciting for us as they have a long history of operating at the intersection of technology and media.”

Scopely has now raised nearly $160 million in total funding.

Featured Image: Scopely

The maker of Dots says it’s getting more ambitious with its fourth game, Wilds


Dots. Two Dots. Dots & Co. It seems like Dots (that’s the name of both the startup and its first game) is following a pattern with each release — a pattern it’s breaking with its fourth game, Wilds.

Wilds isn’t scheduled to launch until late 2017, but the company has just released a live-action trailer for the game, directed by Radical Friend and choreographed by Jasmine Albuquerque-Croissant.

Chief Creative Officer Patrick Moberg said Dots is doing something “radically different” with Wilds — instead of presenting players with one puzzle after another, it’s created a “completely nonlinear” experience.

VP of Game Design David Hohusen described Wilds as a combination of a puzzle role-playing game with “the core Dots mechanic,” where players try to make dots disappear by connecting them. This time around, though, players will encounter those puzzles while exploring a larger world and story that they can explore.

“The Dots themselves are less of an ambiguous metaphor and have more of a literal purpose in the world,” Hohusen said. “They have a narrative explanation.”

He added that the puzzles themselves have also been rethought to create a fresh experience for longtime players.

Development on Wilds actually started before the creation of Dots & Co, according to CEO Paul Murphy. When Hohusen first presented the idea in the fall of 2015, Murphy said he realized, “The ambition of the game is enormous,” which meant that Wilds would need more development time than a normal Dots game.

[embedded content] So Dots & Co was a way to keep the franchise fresh, while also exploring some of the new-to-Dots concepts (companion characters and a virtual economy) that were planned for Wilds. In fact, Hohusen said technology is shared between the two games, meaning that improvements in one can be easily incorporated into the other.

And while there’s a new game on the horizon, Murphy said Dots will continue to create new content and improvements for its existing titles.

“We shouldn’t ever have to sunset a game that we release — if we do that, our development process has failed,” he said. “Anything that we release, our commitment to the players is this game will be live for a very long time, and there will be new features. In fact, we released a new update to Dots last week.”