Media & Entertainment

German Social Game Maker wooga Battles The Bosses, Prepares To Bring Top Title To Mobile


When it comes to social games, Zynga is the undisputed king. But, when it comes to second place, it’s not so easy to say — the competition is stiff. Yet, today German social game developer Wooga has (at least for the time being) overtaken EA as the new deputy in town. Wooga is now seeing over 35 million monthly active users engaging with its social games, compared to EA at just under 31 million, Playdom at 30 million, and CrowdStar at 22 million, which rounds out the top 5, according to Appdata.

Wooga doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Zynga or EA, with the former steaming towards its IPO and the latter an industry veteran that just so happened to acquire Popcap for nearly $1.3 billion last week.

But, seeing as 75 percent of Wooga’s 35 million monthly active users are playing outside of the U.S. (and that 70 percent are women), Wooga has plenty of qualities that set it apart from the pack. Not to mention that the startup pocketed $24 million back in May from Highland Capital Partners and a number of other VCs.

Of course, Appdata’s numbers have not yet taken into account the fact that Popcap is in the process of being integrated into the EA umbrella. Yes, the acquisition could take some time to finalize, but when the two are combined, it will surely put EA right back on top (as Popcap has 17 million+ users to its name). Wooga Founder and CEO Jens Begemann, however, sees EA’s move as one to gain new users by way of acquisition. And that it certainly has.

Yet, considering that wooga grew by 300 percent in the last month, Begemann has reason to feel confident that his company has plenty of growth ahead. It is also interesting to note that we may be at a point in which the Facebook social game market in the U.S. is closing in on saturation and that we could see game developers turning to international markets to expand and court more users. If this is the case, wooga already has a good start.

And while Zynga and Popcap both are already well-established in the mobile market, wooga has seemingly been in no rush to bring its games to mobile, in spite of the fact that this clearly offers a big potential growth area of the company. Today, however, that strategy has officially changed, as the game developer announced that it will be bringing its top game, Diamond Dash, to iOS later this summer. The gem-bashing Facebook game has already racked up 10 million users, and will be the first game available on iPads and iPhones. But the CEO said that it is planning an app for Android, which will be released shortly thereafter, and also has plans to develop a new title solely in HTML5, which users can expect to drop around the same time.

The rest of its suite (which includes games like Happy Hospital and Monster World), he continued, will be soon to follow. The company has hired a different team to develop its mobile apps then the one that designed its Facebook game, as it wants to optimize its game for the mobile platform, not simply to port just because it’s a growth area. “We know that if we copy the Facebook game, we won’t be successful”, the CEO told Inside Social Apps.

Begemann was adamant about the fact that the company has, since the outset, focused on creating an engaging gameplay experience for the user, not on simply the retention of viral growth. It’s an interesting lesson for fledgling social game developers to learn, and seemingly a simple one: If you don’t make a good game, you simply can’t forge any staying power in the market. It will be interesting to see where wooga makes the transition to mobile; if it’s successful, EA may very well have a German foe nipping at its heels.

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