6Waves Lolapps on Smartron5 Buy, Future M&A Prospects in Asia

Facebook publisher-developer 6waves Lolapps is increasing its presence in Asian markets while curating Chinese-developed games for Western audiences through a series of acquisitions and publishing partnerships.

Late last month, the company announced the acquisition of Smartron5, a Beijing-based social game developer that is only just now launching its first original IP on Chinese social game network Tencent. This increases the total headcount of 6waves Lolapps in the region to over 75 and brings two new games to the company’s portfolio, with the recently-launched Tencent title headed for Facebook and mobile platforms in Q1 of calendar 2012.

6waves Lolapps CEO Rex Ng (pictured) says the acquisition was based on the strength of the Tencent title and its potential to appeal to a Western audience, as well a desire to accelerate mobile development on 6waves Lolapps titles.

“In China there’s a lot of developers quickly adapting to the mobile side of things — iOS stuff, a lot of Android stuff coming out of Beijing,” he tells us. “So it was actually a perfect opportunity for us to go there and fast-track mobile for us. There are not many Chinese language games on iOS yet. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”

As a market, China presents social game developers and publishers a challenge as Facebook is banned in the mainland. Tencent dominates the industry in the region, but developers find it difficult to transition to the network due to closed platform restrictions on APIs and other red tape. Chinese developers also find it difficult to transition their games from Tencent and similar Asian social game networks to the West, both because of platform differences on Facebook and iOS and because of different cultural expectations from games.

Even so, 6waves Lolapps has found some success in bringing Chinese language games for Chinese audiences to Facebook — where Ng estimates there are about 1.5 to 2 million potential players. The most recent example Ng points to is mid-core citybuilding and combat game, 胡萊三國 (Hoolai Sanguo). Like many Chinese social games, Hoolai Sanguo is set in the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history and features player versus player combat. The art style is cutesy in a way that appeals to a broader audience than just the mid- to hardcore players, which may be why it’s one of the top-grossing games on Tencent. Despite its success as a social game in Asia, however, Ng says it would be unwise to localize Hoolai Sanguo in English because the game wouldn’t resonate with a Western audience.

“There are times when we want to look for content that’s purely for the Asian audience,” Ng explains. “A lot of the time, the Chinese culture style of game works really well in Korea or Japan, because the students study the same textbooks and watch the same movies, so they are well aware of the culture. That’s what we look for. These games won’t make it to English and the rest of the world and that’s by design. We don’t try to bring Kingdoms of Camelot to Taiwan and Hong Kong, right?”

With Smartron5, the plan is to guide the developer toward creating casual games for both the Asian and Western market on a individual basis, only sharing games between hemispheres when the cultural nuances suit both audiences or are completely irrelevant due to the genre type (e.g. puzzle games and bubble shooters).

As for tapping into the well-established hardcore gamer audience in the broader Asian market, Ng says the company is exploring more options.

“The midcore stuff is something we just started to look at,” he says. “We feel that there might be other teams, other studios out there that might be more adequate for it. We might actually be looking to do more [merger and acquisition activity] around that.”

According to our AppData traffic tracking service, 6waves Lolapps currently enjoys 32 million monthly active users and 5.4 million daily active users across both its published and developed applications on Facebook.