Beyond Facebook: Game publisher Kabam moves for independence through Kongregate partnership

kabam logoFacebook is well regarded as the main hub for social gaming; the company’s top gaming partner, Zynga, makes up 12 percent of the networking site’s revenue. However, while Zynga seems content to make 90 percent of its own revenue through Facebook, one social gaming publisher, Kabam, is looking to move beyond its Facebook beginnings.

Kabam, founded in 2007 as Watercooler, is the company behind The Godfather: Five Families, Dragons of Atlantis and the popular Kingdoms of Camelot. According to Inside Social Games, based on the company’s recent quarterly bookings—which are up 10 times over its 2010—Kabam believes that it is second behind Zynga when looking at social game revenue

“The key isn’t about how many users you have,” said Kabam Chief Executive Kevin Chou. “It’s about how much money you are dragons of atlantismaking.”

Despite the company’s recent layoffs, this month, Kabam took it’s 450 employees to a new headquarters in downtown San Francisco, California. There it joins other big name social gaming companies like Zynga, 6waves Lolapps and Disney’s Playdom.

Kabam also announced an interesting new partnership in February with Gamestop-owned gaming portal Kongregate. The Kongregate portal provides free browser-based games; it boasts 16 million monthly uniques, and 28 million hours spent gaming by users. Kabam will initially bring three of its free-to-play games to Kongregate, including Dragons of Atlantis, with plans to bring The Godfather: Five Families and Thirst of Night.

The move is a sign the company is looking to become more independent from Facebook; an idea Zynga had been mulling in 2011 with its Zynga Direct/Project Z gaming platform but has been slow to enact.

While publishers find social gaming appealing due to the low up-front costs, the Facebook route requires game companies to typically spend a lot of money on advertising to hook new users. Other networks like Google Plus have been more helpful for promotion.

Also, Facebook gaming has predominately been a realm for casual gamers. While Kabam has targeted the loyal minority of hardcore gamers on the social network, the vast majority of new users attracted to Kabam’s games are coming from outside of Facebook. Kabam’s August 2011 numbers of 12.9 million active monthly Facebook numbers has recently shrunk down to 2 million. Users from Google Plus, Pokki and the Kabam web site comprise the rest of the player base. Alongside the Kongregate announcement, Kabam announced that its Kingdoms of Camelot will be headed to iOS.

godfather kabamKabam has two gaming pushes for 2012 and beyond. Chiefly, the company briefly announced a propriety framework it is calling Pyramid. The company built its reputation off of its asynchronous strategy games, but is looking to connect all of its user base, regardless of platform, in one synchronous environment; no barriers. The Pyramid investment has been large, but it means a game universe where players across multiple platforms such as iOS, Google Plus, Facebook, Kongregate, etc., will all be able to interact with each other in real time. On the company blog, Kabam writes, “The world is a big place, but we like to think that Pyramid will help make it a little smaller.”

Along with Pyramid, Kabam’s acquisition of Fearless Studios to push into 3D has not been wasted, and the company is enthusiastic about its future products having console-like 3D graphics. Kevin Chou believes that 3D is the next upgrade for social gaming and pointed to the work done with Unity 3D and Google’s Native Client as examples of the movement.

Images via Kabam.com

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