Disney’s first quarterly conference call since its $563 million acquisition of Playdom took place late yesterday, and as one might expect, the discussion between analysts and company execs often turned to Disney’s social plans.
Much of what CEO Bob Iger had to say was fairly obvious: Disney acquired Playdom because it thought it could profit more from directly publishing games than licensing its brand, and that between Playdom and Tapulous, which Disney acquired in July, the company will now be publishing games across all platforms.
However, Iger did have a few comments that added color to Disney’s acquisition of Playdom (thanks to Seeking Alpha for the call transcript):
I mentioned in my remarks that the customer base is pretty diverse from 18 to post 50. It’s dual-gender, meaning it doesn’t skew just in the men’s direction, which we know a lot of other games do. It seemed tailor-made for not only Disney-branded games, but Marvel and ESPN, and we really like the opportunity.
The other thing that was really interesting to us is that we now have over 50 million people, who are members of various Disney, ESPN, and ABC Groups on Facebook. So, we began with a very, very solid base of people to market to and when you add to that the over 40 million people, who are playing Playdom games already, that seemed pretty compelling to us.
Further into the call, Iger said that he’d been pursuing licensed social games with ESPN and Marvel, but decided that Playdom looked fairly cheap — although it was also noted that the Playdom buyout is expected to be dilutive to earnings for several years.
Another interesting tidbit came when Iger was talking about online monetization opportunities:
We believe long-term that monetization will occur in compelling ways, we think it will be diverse in terms of how it is delivered from micro payments, we will see for instance on the social games front to subscriptions, which will see from places like Hulu and obviously, on the social games front to advertising to varying forms of pay-per-view. We’re pretty pleased with how we’ve entered the market as broad and diverse as it is.
Micropayments are what most social game companies survive on, so that part is another obvious call. But read back over this part: “to subscriptions, which we’ll see from places like Hulu and, obviously, on the social games front…”
What Iger is referring to sounds more like a massively multiplayer online game, in which players are engaged enough to pay a set, recurring fee. With that in mind, it seems possible that Disney has a more in-depth and engaging future in mind for its social game development.
Finally, Iger had an interesting response when asked whether he felt threatened by Facebook’s dominance as the only real social gaming platform:
I think it’s already been demonstrated that game playing on Facebook is good for Facebook, and it’s good for the creators and owners of the games. Clearly, the addition of Facebook currency, while in some cases can be viewed as Facebook acting like a gatekeeper, the existence of that currency I think will enable more people to spend money in their games experience. So I think it’s mutually beneficial.
The other thing that I think as to be considered is that these games exist on multiple platforms and we’re going to take a platform agnostic approach to the distribution of these games, not only to other social networks but just to other platform. There is no reason why you can’t play some of these games on, what I’ll call traditional dot com sites or on mobile devices and we intent to distribute rather broadly, particularly as we move our IP through Playdom into the system.
Disney is obviously ready to deal with Credits; immediately following the acquisition, we were able to report that Playdom had signed a deal to use Credits exclusively on Facebook, a decision that their new corporate bosses must have had a say in.
However, Iger also makes it clear that Facebook is just a part of Disney’s social gaming plans. Whether the company will be more successful than Zynga in finding good alternative platforms to Facebook will only be told with time, but with its brand heft and experience in distribution, Disney should prove a powerful force in evolving social games.