PapayaMobile Launches “The Games Academy,” An Accelerator For Mobile, Social Game Developers

Mobile games network PapayaMobile is launching a new accelerator for mobile, social game developers called “The Games Academy,” which will kick off in Q1 2012. Like most accelerators, Papaya will be providing developers with office space, support from a team of industry veterans, legal advice and an opportunity to pitch VC’s.

However, there won’t be any seed capital provided, nor is the company taking an equity stake in the startups who join. Instead, Papaya only requires the teams use its Social Game Engine in their game’s development. Then at the end of the program, a “winning” team will be awarded with a grand prize of 100,000 guaranteed downloads.

That’s right – this isn’t your typical accelerator, The Games Academy is also a competition. While everyone benefits from the mentorship, training, the Academy’s QA lab, office space (in the Parisoma Innovations Loft located in SOMA), as well as access to legal and VC’s, only one company gets the big, big boost: 100,000 downloads.

PapayaMobile’s Justin Mauldin says that the company feels comfortable that it can push that much traffic to the winning app with its promotions, but if need be, it can buy incentivized installs from someone like TapJoy to fulfill the promise.

As for the instructors, PapayaMobile has lined up some notable experts to start: David “dc” Collier, President of Tokyo-based Pikkle and formerly the Business Creator for Namco Web&Mobile in Tokyo; Joel Breton; producer of Bomberman Live, Unreal, Duke Nukem, and Pirates of the Caribbean; John Szeder, VP of Engineering at hi5, previously from Digital Chocolate; Mark Wallace, lecturer in the Games Dept. at the Academy of Art University and formerly Conversation Manager for Second Life; and Charlie Huenergardt, also from the Academy of Art Univ., a 15-year veteran who has worked at Sega, Sony, 3DO, EA, Pirate Games, Crystal Dynamics, Shaba Games, and Page 44.

The program will run for four months and will include both classroom-style training and individual attention.

Says PapayaMobile CEO Si Shen, The Games Academy is a move made in direct response to a market that has been over-saturated by game investment funds.

“At the end of the day, money is only half of the equation,” she says. “Creating, marketing, and distributing successful social games that monetize well on mobile involves many different approaches. We intend to share our knowledge and bring about a shift in the industry.”

Partnering in the launch is Patrick Chung, Managing Director at SK Telecom Ventures, who will be advising teams on funding and how to launch their games in various markets. Game development community Design3 will offer The Games Academy’s syllabus and materials online for teams who wish to participate virtually.  And non-profit Applications for Good will be seeding one of the development teams to create apps that serve a public purpose.

Applications are open now for interested developers and will be up year-round. Going forward, The Games Academy expects to host three cycles per year.