Kabam announced today that its latest game, The Godfather: Five Families–based upon the famous film series–is now out of beta and will be exclusive to Google+. The social gaming company has a variety of free-to-play titles on Facebook, on their own site Kabam.com, and on Google’s social network, but this is the first time one of their games will be exclusive to Google. “This is our fourth title to launch on Google+ and they have repeatedly exceeded our expectations,” says Chris Carvalho, COO of Kabam. Godfather, being Kabam’s latest and greatest, and with the appeal from the films, seems to be perfect to help Google+ games differentiate from those on rival Facebook.
It’s no surprise that Kabam’s latest is on Google+, as Google became an investor in the company as part of an $85 million round of funding in May. That funding is just the latest indicator of the company’s growth. Kabam started as Watercooler in 2006, working on social apps for Facebook. “We had about 10 million monthly active uniques, but it was really tough to scale. We were only making a couple million dollars a year from all that traffic,” says Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam (pictured left). In 2009, they released Kingdoms of Camelot. With the game’s success the company was renamed Kabam and changed its focus to developing and publishing games.
Since the company changed its name and focus, it has grown steadily. They went from 20 employees in 2006 to 200+ in 2010 and to 400+ employees today, including two new divisions. Camelot now has 15 million players, with $85 million in revenue over the last two years. And Dragons of Atlantis is expected to bring in $50 to $60 million in revenue this year. Chou said, “When you actually take a look at our business today, we have smaller monthly active uniques, but we make a lot more money than we used to–orders of magnitude more.”
And now Kabam is bringing that great track record to Google+ with Godfather. And just as Zynga and its many titles helped Facebook grow to where it is today, and vice versa, the symbiotic relationship between Google+ and Kabam may result in an explosion of growth for both. Chou believes that Kabam’s differentiator, from the casual games of Zynga et al, is a more hardcore focus. “As people were playing casual games and getting exposed to the virtual goods business model, we were able to take players who were looking for deeper, more immersive gaming experiences with more choice and consequence in gameplay.”
Kabam’s games feature more mature art, rather than the cartoony graphics of most social games; the gameplay of Kabam’s games has the resource management of many of these online games, but amps up the complexity and adds the excitement of real-time combat between players–not the turn-based maneuvering between players where moves within a battle are hours or days apart, as most social games do. Carvalho says, “The Godfather will transport millions of players to a living world of 1930s gangsters and family alliances that will transcend what any other mafia-style social game has offered.”
So will Godfather pay off for Google+? Kabam believes its hardcore approach is the future of social gaming, and has the numbers to back that up. According to the company, 89% of Kabam’s players are on the games daily, about double the rate of typical social games. And Kabam has more players exceeding the usual 1-hour games, with 41% playing 3-hour+ sessions versus the 4% to 10% of the players of other social games. “The audience that plays our games, the engagement rates, the monetization rates, are just vastly different from what Zynga or other social gaming companies get,” says Chou. And if that audience is now playing on Google+, in lieu of rival Facebook, all the better.
But Chou also expects social games to evolve, and Kabam with it. “We are betting big that 3-D streaming technology is going to be big,” he says. “Games you play inside of a browser online are going to look much closer to what you expect on a console.” With social gaming’s future on the horizon, and Kabam positioned to capitalize on it, Google and its nascent social network can only benefit. Chou says, “Google+ has been a fantastic platform for us. And we continue to invest heavily in it.”