Months after raising more than $280 million from Alibaba in a Series D round, Tango is looking to stand out in the messaging app space by committing $25 million to a fund to promote games built on its network and even make investments in exceptional developers.
This comes a bit more more than a year after Tango started making its own games and opened up its messaging platform to third-party game developers with the release of its software development kit. At the time, the company said that it was having such success with games running within its app that it would be ranked on app store charts in the games category.
Like Secret and other social apps, Tango keeps track of identity using your phone number and the contacts in your phone’s address book to build its social graph. This means that when you start up a game with Tango functionality, you don’t have to re-find your friends to add them in yet another app.
According to Jim Ying, Tango’s new VP of games publishing, acting as a social layer across dozens of games has increased user engagement two- to three-fold. A year into its efforts as a gaming platform, Tango has more than 40 partners and adds 2-4 games games per week. Ying says Tango plans to continue adding games at roughly the same pace with its new publishing efforts, though it will be aiming at bringing in more high-quality free-to-play titles monetized by in-app purchases.
The pitch to developers is simple: Tango has 200 million highly-engaged users who are used to trying out games featured in its messaging app. Like Facebook, it can get people to download a game with prominent placement of install ads and get users to come back through social features and even ads outside of their app.
Ying adds that they aren’t looking to promote or invest in “flash in the pan” viral hits like Flappy bird, but something that will keep gamers coming back to interact with their friends. While it’s taking submissions for its fund, developers making clones of the biggest hits should look for other opportunities.
Over the last few years, messaging apps have become ecosystems in themselves, offering chat, voice and video calling, games, stickers, music, and more. With gaming dominating app store downloads and revenue, becoming a game developer, publisher, and platform is a bet that the trend will continue and that Tango can carve out a niche as a place for people to play games together.