Dragonplay lands $14M in funding from top grossing Android app, looks to M&A for casino genre growth

Live Holdem Poker Pro developer Dragonplay announced a $14 million first round of funding today led by Accel Partners. The money will go toward acquiring smaller developers to work on more card, board game and slot titles for Android, iOS and Facebook.

Dragonplay’s Live Holdem Poker Pro is currently the top grossing title on Android, but its Farm Slots title has also seen significant traction on the platform. The idea, it seems, is to touch on as many sub-categories of the casino genre as possible — like other companies entering the casino space on social and mobile platforms. Additionally, Dragonplay started early on cross-platform play with Facebook. Live Holdem Poker currently boasts over 12 million installs between Android and Facebook alone and only just recently arrived on iOS. The game currently see 2 to 2.5 percent conversion rates on Android; counting incentivized installs from Tapjoy, that goes up to 4 percent — which is slightly better than average for most games apps.

What sets Dragonplay apart from other developers is its Android-first focus. We’ve seen established iOS and Facebook players — like Zynga, which Dragonplay beat to Android with Live Holdem — stumble when making the jump, while some early adopters like Game Insight have made millions while somehow making it look easy. According to Dragonplay founder Sharon Tal, the company didn’t even need to spend any money on marketing for Live Holdem; it just knew how to play the hand it had.

“We are definitely Android-first. This is our advantage,” Tal tells us. “We didn’t focus on Facebook, but we are about to. Now, we’ve launched on iOS as well, but most of the users are coming from Android.”

From Accel Partners’ perspective, Dragonplay is a solid bet in the rapidly growing casino games market.

“We’ve seen some massive companies emerge in the [casino games] space. Android is an important frontier and a very fast-growing platform,” lead investor Adam Valkin says. “What’s interesting about this category is that has massive appeal, the kind that early Zynga games have. And it has high engagement and monetization rates. We look at what the company’s achieved in terms of audience and revenues without having spent any money on marketing.”

The emerging casino games market on Facebook and mobile has been confusing for some with the mistaken assumption that these games deal in real money gambling. In actuality, these apps are free-to-play games that deal exclusively in virtual currency payouts. Most games in this category — be they card or board or slot machine sims — vary only slightly in gameplay from one to the next. Special features, like the cross-game chat function in Dragonplay Android games, are the main differentiators.

Dragonplay is currently prepping a second slots game called SlotCity for launch — on Android first with Facebook and iOS to follow. The Tel Aviv-based developer is actively looking for studios to acquire anywhere in the world that are developing casino games for social and mobile.