Global Social Game Publisher 6 Waves Raises $17.5 Million

Hong Kong-based 6 waves has been quietly building an empire of Facebook applications and games, and now it has just raised a $17.5 million round of funding from Insight Venture Partners, marking the latest in a growing string of large investments in social gaming on the Facebook Platform.  6 waves intends to continue expansion not just as a developer but as a full-on publisher, offering distribution and monetization services to social game developers around the world.

The company, founded by former Yahoo employees, is now one of the largest developers on Facebook, with more than 141 applications, more than 44 million monthly active users and more than 9 million daily active users, according to AppData. A year ago, it had more than 60 applications using and 22 million monthly active users; at that point, it had gotten big by creating and launching templatized apps based on what had gotten popular on Facebook. It created a mafia role-playing game called Gangster Wars, for example, then launched versions in Chinese, Spanish, German, French,Turkish, and Italian. Using its far-flung network of in-house apps, the company has spent the past year building its business around helping other apps.

What exactly does 6 Waves do? Increasingly, it is cross-promoting clients’ games by running what is essentially a cross-promotional ad network across its titles. Most large game developers have been increasingly using cross promotion to help grow their own portfolio of apps; although Zynga, SGN and others had launched similar services in 2008, they have since focused on their own games.

6 Waves doesn’t just do cross-promotions, though. It hosts developers’ games, helps them translate games to various languages, and helps games monetize. “Since we have worked on so many games,” co-founder Rex Ng tells us, “we can also provide valuable feedback to optimize their games on viral-ness, retention, and monetization. The most successful developers are those who are most adapted to Facebook in terms of social features and viral channels. These developers focus their resources and attention primarily on improving the game continuously.”

The results have been splashed across our leaderboards — both 6 Waves and some partners saw strong growth last fall with a notable surge last fall that has continued through today.

The range of gaming services provided by 6 Waves has been more prevalent on other types of gaming platforms, like ngmoco’s +Plus, Scoreloop and OpenFeint on the iPhone, and Mochi Media and Heyzap for casual Flash-based web games. Those platforms lack the social features that Facebook and other social networks offers, so these companies try to recreate them on their own. Facebook app developers, meanwhile, had so many potential users and so many viral channels that they could more easily do quite well on their own.

But social gaming has become increasingly competitive, which means 6 Waves’s services have become increasingly valuable. The biggest developers can still promote their own apps, buy their own ads, etc. even as Facebook has removed or drastically altered the viral channels that many smaller apps used to grow and monetize. With this new investment, 6 Waves is poised to reach more developers around the world.

“We started publishing for Chinese developers,” Ng says, “but we have since diversified to work with developers from all over the world. To date, we have partnered with many developers from US, Canada, France, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with more in the pipeline. Since our audience spans across North America, Europe and Asia, 6 waves provide a one-stop shop for developers to reach a global audience.” While Ng didn’t provide us with a client list, we’ve noted that it has worked with Asia-based developers like Volo World, maker of Medical Mayhem, and TwoFishes Interactive, maker of My Fishbowl.

Facebook is not the only focus, though, Ng explains. He also notes that country or language-specific social networks, like Mixi, Cyworld, Netlog, and Vkontаkte, “resemble the initial growth curve of Facebook.” So expect the 6 Waves to expand to social platforms beyond Facebook as well.

The company has 18 employees and is considering expansion beyond its Hong Kong home, potentially building function-specific teams in Singapore, Taiwan and the US.