Mobile Gaming Veteran Glu Takes its Top Title Gun Bros to Facebook

Normally when we write about mobile and social games, it’s usually about top Facebook developers bringing their titles to the iPhone or Android.

But apparently, it goes both ways.

Glu Mobile, a publicly traded San Francisco mobile gaming company, is taking one of its best-selling games, Gun Bros, to the Facebook, Wild Tangent and Hi5 platforms. With 4.5 million downloads for Gun Bros, chief executive Niccolo de Masi is betting that the company’s very best brands have the potential to thrive on other platforms. It contracted Hatfield, Mass.-based Hitpoint Studios to develop versions of the game for these platforms.

“Facebook has baked in long-term advantages for the largest developers that might make it difficult for a newcomer,” De Masi said. “But I think that for exceptional games, they are powerful enough to cut through.”

While companies like Zynga, Playdom and Playfish took off on the Facebook platform, Glu stuck to its guns (pun intended) by focusing strictly on mobile gaming. De Masi is betting that the next few years will bear out the wisdom of this decision as smartphone sales bring millions of potential new customers into the fold.

De Masi said this year the industry will start to see mobile gaming titles do $10 to 15 million in revenues. In two years, that figure might rise to $50 million.

“At that point, you’re starting to bump into what smaller console titles will do,” he said. “The smartphone gaming pie is set to grow by a factor of 10.”

But even as the giants in the console and social gaming worlds migrate over to mobile, De Masi said they lose their home turf advantage because they lack the same relationships and granular know-how about user acquisition and monetization.

“Titles like Gun Bros do as well as mega-brands like Call of Duty,” De Masi said. “Platform expertise erodes most of the advantages these other companies have. Mobile-only expertise is going to be more and more expensive to acquire.”

Glu had a rough few years before de Masi stepped aboard from Hands-on Mobile. After reaching from an all-time high price of $13.95 four months after its 2007 initial public offering, it tumbled to a low of $0.24 as it was caught off-guard by the explosive success of the  iPhone.

But under de Masi’s tenure, Glu’s shares have risen 77 percent to $2.57 over the past year. In its most recent filing for the third quarter, it reported a net loss of $1.6 million, down from a $3.6 million net loss in the same time period a year earlier.

The company is keeping its portfolio evenly divided between titles that appeal to a hardcore gaming audience and casual ones that appeal to more mainstream users. It’s also worked hard to ensure that its users can play against each other regardless of the device they’re using. Two weeks ago, it said plans to raise $15 million in an additional public offering of stock that values its shares at $2.05.