Kabam is one of the leading companies out there when it comes to free-to-play offerings on the mobile front, with four different titles managing to cross over the $100 million mark. But the company isn’t done yet, as it seeks to expand its market overseas, mainly to the hotly growing market of Asia.
Alibaba has agreed to help out with that process, as it recently invested $120 million in the San Francisco studio, putting its value over the $1 billion point – a rarity for such companies these days.
When it came to how Alibaba will help the overseas business, COO Kent Wakeford had plenty to say. ” hey have one of the broadest distribution footprints in China,” he said. “They understand the culture and what consumers are looking for, and they own Alipay, so that’s payments. And there’s a knowledge there of other payments and what are the best practices. And then there are SDKs, so Alibaba will help us integrate with other app stores across the board, not just their own. Then there’s the investment side, which aligns them financially with us.”
As far as entering the Asian market, Wakeford said the company already has a plan in place. “We plan to take the entry into China slowly and methodically, to get it right. The first product we’re doing that on is Lord of the Rings. We chose that game because our research on game genres showed that there’s a big audience for that kind of game, battle-card games, in China. And the theme and IP, the Lord of the Rings movies, have a big fan base in China. We’ll look at it the way we do here — bring consumers into the game, keep them playing for a very long time, and then hopefully paying. We’ll look at games just the same way we look at them in any market. Now, there may be differences, but we’ll learn what the differences are. One area we don’t have any data on [in China] is user behavior within the game. Where do they spend money, what mechanics do they spend more time on ” he said.
Wakeford also said that the company has no plans to shift away from free-to-play, as that’s still a highly thriving market. “What free-to-play has done is make great content available to hundreds of millions of people,” he concluded. “That’s such a phenomenal change that, for the gaming industry as a whole, it’s tremendously beneficial. You look around the concept of free-to-play, and to use a general industry stat, 95 percent of people play for free. We have a very long player retention time, and that says to me, hey, they’re getting a lot of value out of what they’re doing. There will always be a vocal minority to anything. And when you open up to hundreds of millions of people, the vocal minority becomes a much smaller minority.
The full interview with Wakeford can be found here.