It’s not uncommon to hear social game developers complain that Facebook is becoming too difficult to build on, and that mobile development looks attractive as an alternative. But will they actually move? A Minnesota company called W3i hopes to help push more social developers into mobile with a fund and publishing group Recharge Studios.
Recharge is planning to invest a minimum of $1 million for outside studios to make social games for the iOS. To sweeten the pot, Recharge only wants a share of iOS profits in return — in other words, it won’t ask for an ownership stake in the company or launches on other platforms, like Android.
“Because you can acquire consumers relatively cheaply, mobile is like the early days of Facebook gaming,” says W3i cofounder Robert Weber. “We think it’s a great opportunity for developers on Facebook, especially if they’re feeling squeezed out.”
While Recharge has the ability to do technical work, Weber sees its greatest value in funding, marketing and monetizing a game. The best opportunities lie in social games because there are currently so few that fit the bill. Ngmoco’s titles like We Rule likely made back their original development costs many times over, according to Weber.
The missing component is viral channels as strong as those on Facebook — those, Weber thinks are still developing. In the meantime, Facebook-style concepts can do quite well. “There weren’t even restaurant-themed games on the iOS until about 30 days ago,” he says. “My advice to Facebook developers or guys looking to go straight to iOS is, scan through the AppData rankings and find the places that games in a certain style haven’t been done — don’t pick Café World, because that will be on everyone’s hitlist, but find a top game and use that as inspiration to create an iOS game.”
Besides lower marketing costs and a potentially more opportunities, mobile developers may also have lower overall development costs than Facebook developers. W3i thinks it can help get 10 games published with its initial million dollars, and it open to eventually spending several times as much if the concept works.
“I think where this all plays out is, in six or 12 months, as many as 75 of the top hundred iOS games will be free to play,” Weber says. “If you look at the revenue coming out of the App Store, they’re making serious money. I look at my wife, she plays Facebook games, but now she spends more time on We Rule.”