Supercell goes ‘tablet-first,’ hires former iWin president Greg Harper as general manager for North America

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By Kathleen De Vere Comment

Just in time for Apple’s heavily rumored iPad 3 announcement next week, Finnish developer Supercell has revealed from now on it will be following what it calls a tablet-first strategy.

Many developers tell us that on a per-user basis, the iPad monetizes better than the iPhone. Last month at the Inside Social Apps conference, TinyCo’s co-founder Suleman Ali reported that all of his company’s metrics are higher on the iPad. According to Ali, the average revenue per user can be two to three times higher on an iPad than it is on an iPhone. Last week AppAnnie released statistics showing revenue from iPad apps now accounts for 30 percent of all iOS revenue. According to Apple, there are 140,000 iPad apps and 550,000 total apps, which means iPad apps are punching above their weight in terms of relative income earned. Overall, an iPad download generates $0.31 cents on average, but an iPhone download generates $0.13 according to AppAnnie.

For Supercell — an 18-month-old startup backed with $15 million in seed funding from London Venture Partners and Accel — better monetization and the potential of the iPad as a gaming platform means the time is right to focus on the device.

“We’ve been really excited about the tablet platform overall,” says Supercell’s CEO Ilkka Paanannen. “Every quarter the sales figures come in and they just keep getting better. The volume, the size and the growth rate of the platform is really interesting. More importantly, we see that there’s a massive opportunity in tablets to develop new ways of actually playing games. There’s a much bigger screen and when you combine that with a touch interface, it enables new kinds of game experiences.”

Although Paanannen tells us he believes the higher monetization figures on the iPad can be partially attributed to factors like higher app prices and the percentage of higher-spending early adopters in the iPad market, he is still optimistic about the device’s potential.

“We believe that tablets are going to become the de-facto device that all kinds of entertainment, including games, will be consumed on in the next couple of years,” he says.

Greg Harper, Supercell’s new general manager for North America is equally bullish. The former president of iWin, Harper will be heading Supercell’s new San Francisco office to help the company establish better connections to the American market.

“I think from a lot of what we’re hearing, there is greater engagement on tablets as well and I think there’s a direct correlation between that engagement and monetization,” he says.

According to Supercell, because of the iPad’s dominance in the tablet market, a tablet-first strategy actually means an iPad-first strategy right now, despite the promise other tablets like the Kindle Fire are showing.

“We track the various other devices coming to market pretty closely. We’re definitely encouraged by the numbers coming out of Amazon last quarter but it’s also important to see just how those devices are being used and what the behaviors are,” explains Harper.  “The question on some of these other platforms will be whether or not they’re used as much for games. We think there’s a good chance they will, but Amazon’s coming at it from a different perspective. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Supercell’s first game designed specifically for tablets is a team combat game called Battle Buddies, due out sometime in Q2. According to Paanannen, the game was designed from the ground up to be a tablet experience — not just a larger or more processor intensive version of a game the team would have made were it developing for the iPhone.

“Almost all of the developers are approaching tablets as a destination for smartphone games to be ported or upscaled to,” Paanannen says. “If you do that you’re not leveraging the unique capabilities of the platform. We truly believe that the bigger screen and fully utilizing touch as way of interacting with the game enables new experiences users haven’t seen on the platform before.”

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