Heyzap Adds a Game Organizer to Its Android Gaming Network

Touting newly signed developers like Get Set Games and Pocket Games, Android-based mobile-social gaming network Heyzap released a small update today.

The San Francisco-based company is adding what it’s calling a Play Tab, a space in the app where consumers can organize all of their favorite titles. It resembles the way an iOS user might be able to keep all of their games in a single folder for easy access. The Play Tab automatically ranks the games by how much the user interacts with them.

Heyzap, which has between 1 and 5 million installs on Android Market, is trying to strengthen its direct-to-consumer relationship at a time when many mobile-social gaming networks are duking it out in a vicious fight to become the leading destination for gamers on Google’s Android platform.

There is some very tough competition. There are the Japanese-owned networks like GREE’s OpenFeint and DeNA’s Mobage network, which come with plenty of financial backing. Then there are venture-backed companies like China’s PapayaMobile and Heyzap. Then there’s the elephant in the room: Facebook, which launched viral channels for HTML5 and native iOS apps this week. Android should be coming shortly, the company says. And Google could also always pull Google+ out of the wings and integrate it in a game-oriented way on Android.

Heyzap, which came out of YCombinator and has funding from firms including New York’s Union Square Ventures, moved toward Android after building a similar network for Flash games. But because Flash is no longer a technology on the ascent after Apple declined to support it on iOS devices, Heyzap has moved toward mobile gaming. It says it has 600 games including ones from Digital Chocolate, Pocket Gems and Fluik on-board.

Mobile-social gaming networks have tried more approaches over the years than be counted on a pair of hands. There have been standalone apps, social layers across thousands of games and then of course Facebook’s newly-launched, more HTML5-centric approach.

Designing such a network seems to inevitably involve trade-offs between getting widespread adoption and having a direct relationship with the consumer (which would lay the groundwork for later monetization).

Heyzap has a standalone app and buttons inside third-party games where users can return to the service. So it’s trying to get the best of both worlds.

DeNA’s Mobage, which only recently launched in the U.S. and China, leans a little more toward having a direct relationship with consumers as users have to get the network’s app first before interacting with the platform’s games. However, this is a friction point for users and the Mobage network app itself has fewer than 100,000 installs on Android. Several of the initial games that have come out on the platform have seen a fraction of the installs that they theoretically should see given their success on iOS. But we’ve heard the company is likely to fix this soon.

In contrast, Facebook made a trade-off in favor of widespread adoption this week when it decided to let native iOS apps tap its viral channels, in addition to HTML5-based ones. Had Facebook required that game developers build HTML5 apps in order to get viral distribution, Facebook’s mobile platform probably would have not seen meaningful uptake for some time. Many indie and mid-size developers, with limited resources, were probably not going to divert resources into HTML5 titles given the technology’s performance issues. The downside of this is that by supporting native iOS apps, Facebook may be effectively cutting itself out of payments revenue because Apple doesn’t allow third-party payment mechanisms on its platform.