After staff shake-ups, 6waves returns to publishing over 40 social titles and focuses on mobile

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By Mike Thompson Comment

After its dramatic layoffs and re-branding last month, 6waves is jumping back into the publishing pool with both feet.

March was a big month for the publisher, which was still going by 6waves Lolapps (and sometimes “6L”) at the time. Two weeks after the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco ended, the company announced developer staff cuts to the Lolapps side of the business, targeted at shifting all operations toward games publishing on social and mobile platforms. Shortly after that, 6waves dropped “Lolapps” from its name entirely and named 32 publishing deals with different developers for a total of 40 published games set to release in the first half of 2012.

That list of games has expanded since the initial announcement, with CEO Rex Ng telling us to expect a new game every two to three days. Of those titles, 20 of them are for mobile and the previously announced 40 are for social networking platforms. Ng believes the mobile game industry is particularly enticing because the social game field is becoming overly crowded by big companies who can pump a lot of money and talent into a title. As a result, it’s increasingly tough for smaller developers to get noticed.

As for the Ravenwood franchise, Ng confirmed what sources previously told us; external teams will continue to maintain the existing games and release the third and final game in the series, Raveshire Castle. Daily and monthly active user traffic to the current games, Ravenskye City and Ravenwood Fair, has steadily declined over the past three months. We may see a surge, however, when Ravenshire Castle launches within the next three to four months.

The timing of the layoffs led to speculation by some media outlets that they were tied to the lawsuit filed against 6waves Lolapps in January by developer Spry Fox over Yeti Town, the iOS clone of Triple Town. This was never confirmed, though Ng tells us 6waves recently moved to have the case dismissed. He declined to go into detail because the suit is still in progress.

By extricating itself from game development, 6waves is returning to the business plan that made the company a success in the first place. When the company launched, it focused on international titles because Facebook was so saturated with English-language titles that didn’t target other regions. 6waves is returning to these roots by actively seeking out foreign developers to work with. Of the 32 announced publishing partners, six are in China and five come from Russia.

Ng explains many studios in countries like these — especially China, where 6waves has two offices —  are approaching the publisher to help them launch on on Facebook. Since Facebook isn’t popular (or even legal) in certain territories, these groups’ games often aren’t initially released on the platform. Instead, the games first launch on services like Vkontakte and Mail.RU in Russia, Nasza-klasa in Poland and Tencent in China. It’s only when a developer wants to reach players in areas like North America that it begins looking to publish their games on Facebook.

Facebook still hasn’t perfected the science of game discovery, though, so it’s easy for new games to get lost in the crowd. Joining with 6waves means a developers has access to a much larger audience than it would if it self-published, and 6waves will work with them on localizing and polishing a title so it stands a better chance of attracting and retaining players in different regions.

The new partnerships are already paying off for some developers. Games like Aviator, Criminal Empires and Township were originally launched on Facebook months ago and saw dwindling MAU numbers after early surges. Since being republished by 6waves, each of these titles appeared on our fastest-growing and emerging Facebook games lists over the past few weeks.

The publisher’s new focus on publishing is also tied to its relationship with Chinese internet giant Tencent. Tencent has over 700 million users and 6waves SVP of Publishing Jim Ying explains the network is so large it needs a constant stream of new content. Ravenwood Fair is already on Tencent and 6waves is working on two other titles for the platform.

6waves returning to publishing is probably the best move it can make at this time, based on its experience and proven track record. It’s already figured out how to succeed at something in which other companies like Rock You (which cut half its staff last year and is continuing to struggle) and Zynga (with only a few developers currently announced for its new platform) are still finding their way.

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