SGN Starts to Look Like a "Real Company." Adds Jetman To Its Gaming Platform, About to Raise $10 Million

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Video: Street Fighter IV in high-def looks mighty fine

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(Update: SGN raised $15 million on May 13, 2008). It was only last week that the Social Gaming Network (SGN) and Zynga announced their respective developer platforms for games on Facebook and other social networks. I said the game is on between these two companies to win the hearts and minds of social gaming developers. The folks at Zynga took exception to this characterization. If you put all of its games together, Zynga is the 10th largest app company on Facebook as measured by number of installs. SGN is No. 51.

Venture capitalist and Zynga investor Fred Wilson accused me of not doing my homework in a post that set off a minor debate over the holiday weekend. After I commented on his post that the jury is still out on which of these young companies will succeed, Wilson responded:

Its not even debateable who is a real company and who is not.

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus also clearly feels that the comparison is not warranted. He told me of SGN:

It is just a thorn in my side. It is some bad ex-girlfriend who will not leave me alone. I think we are very clearly the leader in the space.

That thorn is about to get pricklier. Sources outside of SGN confirm that the company is about to raise as much as $10 million in a venture round. Multiple term sheets are on the table. None have yet been signed as the company studies its options. Says one competing VC who has done his due diligence and is eager to lead SGN’s round:

When all is said and done they will have as big a network as Zynga. Fred Wilson doesn’t understand what is going on.

Sounds like a debate to me.

If size is the determinant of a “real company” (which I don’t think it is), then SGN’s platform is already a whole lot bigger than just a week ago. In less than a week it has signed 10 Facebook games to its budding social gaming hub, including Jetman—one of the most popular games on Facebook—Pirates, and The Dot Game. It has also signed Free Gifts, a virtual gift-giving application on Facebook that includes the other seven of the ten games.

All told, the new apps will triple SGN’s daily active users from 200,000 to more than 600,000 on Facebook alone, bringing it substantially closer to Zynga’s 900,000. And in terms of the number of installs, the SGN network is getting much closer to Zynga’s 11.8 million (18.4 million including recently acquired CLZ Concepts and four other Zynga games not reflected in the stats), depending on how you count. Jetman alone has 3.8 million installs and 200,000 daily active users, SGN currently has 3.3 million installs, and Free Gifts has 10 million installs—but that is mostly for its gift giving app, which other gaming developers on the SGN gaming hub will be able to incorporate into their games.

Responding to Pincus’ quip, SGN CEO Shervin Pishevar says: “We are like an old girlfriend that got famous.” Noting that many of Zynga’s games are copycat versions of other games (Zynga’s Diveman is very similar to Jetman, for instance), he adds:

If you want to be a developer platform, you probably shouldn’t be copying developers’ games. If you want to compete with them, fine. That is why they are joining us.

So is it game over? Hardly. The games have just begun. But is SGN a real business? It is as real as any business built on Facebook.

Update: In an e-mail Pincus responds:

Wow erick.

A) you give them credit for traffic they don’t even own
And
B) you won’t give us credit for traffic (clz apps) we do actually own.

Do you even care how hypocritical sherwin is to accuse me of copycat games when he copied free gifts on bebo and risk on fb? Getting the irony? He is partnering with an app he literally copied in december while accusing me of this?

Erick, with all due respect I’m wondering if you work for sgn now?

I’ve updated the post to include the CLZ numbers, which are still counted separately by Adonomics, the data source I linked to. As for who owns what traffic, Pincus is right to point out that games Zynga owns and operates are probably worth more than games simply affiliated to any particular gaming network. But SGN’s deal with Jetman and Free Gifts is as tight as it gets without buying them outright. SGN will be hosting their apps, and Jetman‘s developer will be creating more games for the SGN network. The battle here is over who will build the most powerful network and attract other developers, not who will buy up the most traffic.

Update 2: CLZ actually has 11.5 million installs, instead of the 5.3 million that Adonomics reports (it only counts 2 of CLZ’s 18 apps). But not all otehse are games (You’re Naughty, You’re a Hottie). I am beginning to really question how reliable Adonomics is. The SGN numbers are probably off as well. Also, all of these numbers come from Facebook, which currently has a bug with how it reports total installs. Daily active users is the better metric to use. Zynga has over one million daily active users, about double SGN’s (including Jetman and Free Gifts). Dead installs (i.e. inactive users) are only good for spamming.

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