Seattle’s Big Fish Games Launches A Cloud-Based Subscription Service

Big Fish Games may not be a household name, but they’re a notable force in the world of casual gaming (especially on the iPad). The company passed $180 million in revenue last year. Now they’re adding yet another revenue stream beyond paid apps and downloadable games.

The company is launching a cloud-based gaming service that casual players can pay a monthly subscription for. The price points aren’t finalized yet and the company will start out with roughly 100 games for now. But eventually, content will come from Big Fish’s library of more than 2,500 games. Big Fish launches about one game every day. (Yes. Every day, through its own in-house developers plus other studios they contract with.)

Because the games run in the cloud, they can be played on multiple devices from tablets to connected TVs. A gamer’s progress will get saved no matter where they are. Big Fish’s move mirrors a big industry transition toward games-as-a-service instead of games-as-finished-products.

The key advantage of this is that Big Fish will finally be able to tap into Asian markets where piracy runs rampant. Treating games as one-off finished goods doesn’t work well there because there quite elaborate schemes for pirating games and even fraudulently buying virtual goods. There are networks of scammer who use fraudulent credit cards to help gamers buy virtual goods at a discounted price on Taobao or China’s eBay, for example.

“Historically, it’s been really hard for us to penetrate Korea and China,” said Will O’Brien, who is a general manager of cloud gaming and a vice president of business development at Big Fish. “It’s much harder to pirate a streaming service.” Companies like Nexon have built up enviable businesses (and profit margins) by tapping into PC gaming in mainland China.

As for Big Fish itself, there had been talk that the company was looking at an IPO. But it now sounds like Big Fish is keeping its options open, especially with the founder Paul Thelen re-taking the CEO role.

“We’re profitable and we’re not in a bad place to have some optionality,” O’Brien said, pointing to the fact that the company had enough capital to buy casino gaming studio Self Aware Games recently.

Big Fish has raised more than $83 million from Balderton Capital, General Catalyst Partners and Salmon River Capital.