As Moshi Monsters Hits 5 Years, Can It Pull Off Three New Games?

Five years after being started as a back-bedroom project by Michael Acton Smith, Mind Candy, the company that came up with the hugely successful Moshi Monsters kids game, has achieved a lot. Unusually for most UK consumer startups, it’s reached across the globe to become a global brand attracting 80 million registered users, up from 50 million in 2011.

Clearly this has been good for growth given that Mind Candy’s 2011 declared sales were £29m. But though tonight it celebrates its success with a lavish party for staff and guests, the company itself stands on a precipice, and the precipice is called mobile. That said, the company knows this, and plans to launch three brand new gaming worlds in the next few months.

In the company’s favour is a self-aware CEO. Acton Smith knows Moshi’s mobile and tablet, and its mobile offering is pretty weak, given that its target audience of young kids has switched almost overnight in the past two years to tablet-based games like Angry Birds, Plants And Zombies, Heyday and the rest. Moshi has done very well in licensing its characters for merchandise, generating half of its revenues from licensing and royalties deals this way – but that can’t last for long if the games themselves don’t satisfy its young audience.

Mind Candy CEO Michael Acton Smith admits that web site traffic has slowed as tablets have taken off, but he says the company is well positioned for the mobile future. Mind Candy has had a total of $10 million in funding from Index Ventures, Accel Partners and Spark Ventures.

While Moshi Monsters has 80 million registered users, it declines to release monthly active users, a metric used by most gaming companies today. It sounds like its getting ready for that shift of position.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Acton Smith said the company was making a big shift to a mobile strategy and that it was “vital that we crack this.”

Indeed, it’s looking like a seismic change at Mind Candy. Acton Smith says three entirely new worlds are being created which will build “entirely new IP.”

Moshi Monsters, however, will be kept “evergreen,” develop further onto mobile, and a full-length movie is slated for launch later this year.

“We are hiring aggressively for this” says Acton Smith.

The new games will be more broadly aimed at families, so parents playing alongside kids. “We’re big fans of Pixar and how it created movies aimed at the whole family,” says Smith, who has gained a reputation as a quirky and creative character, and is sometimes described as the Willy Wonka of London’s tech scene. The moniker works after a fashion – the Mindy Candy office boasts a tree house and a slide.

Moshi Monsters started out as an online world of adoptable pet monsters for boys and girls aged 6-12 back in 2008. It slowly crept to 1 million users before taking off in the summer of 2009 and growing by 1 new registered user per second. Moshi is biggest in the UK but has a global fan base. The top five territories are English speaking (UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand).

Mindy Candy has been on a roller coaster ride – almost closing in late 2008 when the business ran out of cash after blowing its initial funding on an Alternative Reality Game called Perplex City before Acton Smith sketched out the first Moshi Monster in a London cafe.