W3i’s Recharge Studios Funds 12 Titles, Plans to Have 20 Games Out in 6 Months

By Kim-Mai Cutler Comment

It’s no secret that the world of pay-per-install advertising has become increasingly crowded. There are now around a dozen companies that developers use to buy downloads to push their newly-launched apps up the charts.

To stay ahead and differentiated, the biggest companies are becoming more like full-service firms that bring funding along with marketing and game design advice to developers.

The earliest company to move forward publicly with such a strategy was Minneapolis’ W3i. It created Recharge Studios last November with the original plan to invest a minimum of $1 million in outside studios to make social games for the iOS.

Fast forward to this spring and the company has funded 12 games, of which two have been released. They’re also signing on a handful of new developers, like Bight Games, which helped design TradeNations, a Medieval city building game that’s almost always in the top 50 highest-grossing games. The Canadian firm has switched to working with Recharge Studios from Seattle’s Z2Live for its next iOS title, after the two had issues over IP ownership. (Z2Live retains iOS rights to the game.)

Other studios working with Recharge include SkyVu Pictures, Riptide Games, InEarth, Game9, Jenkat Media and Hive Media. With all of its partnerships, Recharge is moving forward with a game once every three weeks or so. In six months, they plan to have about 20 games out.

Development costs have risen though; initially Recharge was thinking it would invest around $40 to $60,000 in funds. But in some cases, the price is about double that.

“The cost of delivering a good mobile-social game is growing, hence you need more development and marketing dollars,” said Matt Tubergen, who leads product management for Recharge. “Earlier on, we thought we would focus on launching a minimal viable product. But now, we have a lot more data about the experiences we want users to have from the start.”

Establishing deeper relationships with developers likely helps W3i increase the size of its advertising footprint. Pay-per-install advertising is a model where developers pay for every time a user downloads their app. These networks get downloads by working with other developers, who offer their players virtual currency or rewards in their games if they install apps.

W3i says it can power up to 70,000 installs for a campaign now, which is theoretically enough to get a title into the top 25 of the iOS charts. Rival Tapjoy is still much larger however, fueling 1.5 million installs a day. To be fair though, Tapjoy has been doing installs for nearly a year and a half, while W3i only just started this year.

Both Tapjoy and another San Francisco-based rival Flurry have also moved forward with similar programs. Tapjoy has a so-called “self-publishing” program where the company will give away tens of thousands of dollars in advertising credits if a developer gives the company exclusive distribution rights. Flurry also recently launched a game acceleration program and poached a decorated game developer from Playfish, Jeferson Valadares.