Today, I thought it would be interesting if I posted a conversation with one of the people I most respect in the social game industry, Johannes Kreibohm. He brings a different perspective and insight into the global opportunities for social game developers. Johannes is the founder and CEO of Plinga, a German based publisher of social games across multiple social networks. I have worked extensively with Johannes and find him one of the most thoughtful and energetic leaders in the industry.
Lloyd Please tell me a little about the history of Plinga, when you started it and what was your vision?
Johannes: Plinga was founded in 2009 and is based in Berlin, Germany. We were super excited by the stellar growth some of the US based social gaming companies were experiencing and wanted to create a company that could clearly shape this new social gaming industry. Given the fact that most of the early market entrants had their focus on either English speaking markets or on Asian markets we got started to establish a European leader in social gaming.
Lloyd: Who was your main investor and what was it that appealed to them about your plan?
Johannes: Plinga is backed by Rocket Internet, one of the most successful European early stage investors (further investments include Zalando, Groupon, eDarling) with deep knowledge in the area of online games (early investor in Bigpoint). We all agreed that social gaming was about to revolutionize the online games industry and that Plinga could significantly improve the gaming experience for European users. It has been a top priority for us from day one to offer high quality content, truly localized for European users.
Lloyd: What are the biggest differences between what you originally thought Plinga would be doing and how the company has evolved?
Johannes: We’ve experimented with several approaches towards content sourcing (mainly creation of own IP vs licensing) and content distribution (single-platform vs multi-platform) and have evolved into a leading publishing company with a broad multi-platform strategy. Today, we are live with 35+ games on 25+ social networks and game portals, in Europe and beyond.
Lloyd: What do you think is different about being based in Germany as opposed to California?
Johannes: On a macro level the startup ecosystem in California is certainly unrivaled; there is more capital available for startups, and the pool of talents is larger than anywhere else. But, US based internet companies tend to have a US-centric approach in growing their businesses (at least in the early years of existance) and this leaves room for competitors with distinctive local knowledge. For our very business Berlin has turned out to be a ‚close to ideal location‘. The city is well recognized being one of Europe’s tech start-up capitals and is by far the most international city in Germany. This setting clearly helped us to recruit top talents from around the world: In just 20 months, Plinga has grown to a staff of 80, from 15 different countries. Being based in Germany also helped us to establish deep relationships with our distribution partners, European social networks and game portals. And, being based right in between the US and Asia, where most of our content partners are located, is also helpful in our day-to-day communication with partner companies around the world.
Lloyd: What opportunities do you see for social game companies in Germany and overall in Europe?
Johannes: The social games market will continue to grow, in Germany and overall in Europe. As the market matures and quality of games increases, I expect growth opportunities to be best for companies, which offer truly localized games tailored to their specific target audiences. If developers decide to deploy on a number of networks and game portals then they have to make sure the game is adapted accordingly.
Lloyd. I noticed you have multiple titles in the top-10 on most of the social networks where you are active, how have you been able to achieve this success on different networks?
Johannes: Content really matters: We try to only add the best social games to our portfolio. Moreover, we invest heavily in support functions to increase user loyalty. At the end of the day, our users should know it’s worth trying a new Plinga game; the game will be of high quality and their concerns are being taken care of. And, last but not least, there are network effects: It is obviously easier to make a new game successful if you can promote this game within an existing user base, and it is more fun to play a social game for a single user, if more friends join the game quickly. Basically, new users get more and more valuable if you have multiple games in your portfolio.
Lloyd: Overall, what type of opportunities do you see off of Facebook?
Johannes: Publishing on multiple platforms has been and will be core to Plinga’s strategy. We believe social games will be played all across the web and they will be big on social networks – Facebook, but also local social networks – and with growing importance also on other web portals.
Lloyd: What do you find the biggest differences between these social networks and Facebook?
Johannes: Each social network is to some extent unique and differences between local networks (also among each other) and Facebook are huge: User demo, viral channels, user acquisition channels, competition among game developers, platform APIs, revenue share for developers, payment fees just to name a few.