Tango, the mobile messaging service which is now attempting to transition into mobile gaming, has just released its first Tango-powered iOS application built in-house, with the launch of “Road Riot,” an arcade-style racing game. The app is the first iOS title to emerge from Tango’s game development studio in Austin, Texas, and is meant to serve as something of a test bed where the company can track things like user engagement as well as other technical aspects to Tango’s social gaming platform.
“Road Riot” was released on Android earlier this month, where it has now topped 10,000 installs in Google Play, and sees decent enough reviews. However, at least one user bristled at the fact that the game was a “tie-in to a social app” and uninstalled it, to which the company responded that it had launched a “guest mode” as a workaround to address similar sentiments. (Apparently the distaste for Facebook-only app logins is seeing some spillover).
In June, Tango announced the debut of its content platform, which lets developers add a social layer to their apps as a way to port users’ “social graph” to mobile games. The Tango SDK serves an alternative to something like Facebook’s friend finder, for example, but also supports social leaderboards, in-app messaging, and allows for both competitive and collaborative in-game mechanics. For instance, app developers could show you where your friends are within a game or they could allow users to chat and play simultaneously. The integration details are up to the third-party developers.
Already, users of Tango’s mobile messaging app could play games in the app, as well as chat, share pictures, leave video voicemails, and more, but gaming was quickly becoming one of the most popular features, which prompted the company to make this move. According to Tango CTO Eric Setton, as of the launch of the Tango SDK, app users had been playing “tens of millions” of games inside the Tango each month.
Now, the company is hoping it can translate that success to the wider app gaming market. To do so, Tango has been partnering with a number of third-party developers who are adding its social features to their applications, including Gameloft, which released its “Candy Block Breaker” for Tango in early August. Tango is now powering around half a dozen mobile gaming titles, including “Roulette Live for Tango (iOS/Android), “Blackjack Live for Tango” (iOS/Android), “Jetpack Jinx for Tango“ (iOS/Android), and “Dream Bakery for Tango (iOS), “Bazinga for Tango” (Android), in addition to its own “Road Riot.”
The company has taken something of a different path to become a gaming platform than competitors like OpenFeint, DeNA’s Mobage, Papaya Mobile and Nextpeer, by first establishing a large user base within a social and entertainment service outside the gaming industry, then leveraging that footprint and brand recognition as a way to push into a new market segment. In the case of Blackjack’s Live’s launch, it was able to push the app up to the #1 spot in the “Casino” section in iTunes, by alerting Tango users about its launch. (The app is now #23 there.)
Tango, which today has 130+ million members, previously said it expects to power at least 30 games, if not more, by the end of the year. (Update: According to a post on TruTower, the company is now saying between 20-40 games by year end).