Pocket Gems, a Sequoia Capital-backed mobile gaming startup, is eyeing a younger female demographic with a new game out today — Tap Campus Life. It puts the company in more direct competition with rivals like Crowdstar, which is behind fashion-focused Top Girl and Social Girl. Tap Campus Life is a sorority and fashion game where players have to build up a house by recruiting new members and decorating.
Like other freemium gaming companies, Pocket Gems should be facing some heat or downward pressure on valuations after Zynga’s tumultuous decline from a $14 billion valuation before its IPO to its current $2.5 billion market capitalization. In theory, that should dampen valuations for venture-backed companies that are comparable to Zynga across the board. But Pocket Gems says it has had its best month ever in terms of revenues, particularly with games like Tap Paradise Cove. Pocket Gems had the distinction of having two of the top 10 highest-grossing iOS games last year, so it has a very high bar to live up to.
“We’re in a space of all fast-followers but long-term lasting value will come from making new things,” said chief operating officer Ben Liu, who pointed to All Talk, a charades-like game where players have to describe an object without actually saying the word to another player. He added, “Maybe the Facebook game industry is sunsetting, but mobile is going to be huge.”
In Tap Campus Life, players have to recruit other women to join their sorority. Each of them has a different type of character. For example, a “Sporty” girl will level up through doing physical activity. There are quests like hosting “wine-tasting parties” and doing yoga. Each girl also has a set of jobs that she progresses through. A girl who starts out as a “ditch digger,” can level up to a plant nursery cashier then to a gardener and eventually all the way up to a landscape architect.
The monetization model is pretty standard for this genre of game. There’s an earned currency that gets picked up as the women work on their jobs, and then there’s a paid currency that can go toward buying clothes.
Pocket Gems, which is up to 140 employees, raised $5 million in Sequoia Capital back in 2010, and then there was additional financing from Redpoint Ventures.