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GMIC SV: Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam, Sees Great Opportunities on Social Gaming Front

With the Fireside Chat series of this year’s GMIC SV coming to a close, Douglas MacMillan, reporting for Bloomberg News, had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Chou, CEO of Kabam, about recent developments both at Kabam and on the social gaming forefront. We learned that in the year in which Zynga has struggled, Kabam is on pace to finish out with over $150M in revenue. The considerable strides Kabam has made are largely in thanks to Kingdoms of Camelot, their extremely popular game which is a high-grossing mainstay on the Apple appstore.

Although, Kabam had exclusively operated on Facebook prior to this year, this year they’ve diversified, moved to mobile, and spread out their offerings over several different platforms. In fact, under 30% of Kabam still remains on Facebook. What’s more astonishing is that 18 months ago 100% of their content was located on Facebook. When MacMillan asked Chou about his vision for social gaming Chou replied with an explanation for how, since 2009, Kabam has attempted to change the old standards. “I was really excited about the promise of a better consumer experience, where consumers could start playing a game for free and see if they like it or not. Then pay into it after they get value from the game and they’re entertained”, elaborated Chou. “It wasn’t so much about watching a sexy commercial about how great the new Call of Duty is and going out to pay $60 and saying I hope I really like what I get,” he continued.

An interesting distinction between Kabam and Zynga is the user base. Chou claims that the avid gamers, being those who also devote much of their time to console games, are playing Kabam games, but not Zynga’s. Kingdoms of Camelot showcases the different game mechanics used by Kabam. “We designed Kingdoms of Camelot as a game you could play for two to three hours. Instead of the fifteen minutes before your energy ran out, which became one of the widespread game mechanics of casual gaming” said Chou. It is Kabam’s approach that gaming is a mixture between art and science that result in such a successful product. Although creating games like Kingdoms of Camelot may be more expensive than the standard casual games, Chou explained that by consistently providing updates and new content over the past 4 years they’ve been able to spread out the total development cost over that time frame.

The advancement of mobile devices also has the Kabam CEO excited about future opportunities. He told MacMillan that they had been “blown away” by some of the new things they’d seen on mobile. He said that since “people have these devices on them at all times, retention rates are better than what we would generally see on the web.” Increased usage in Google Wallet and other mobile payment services also gets consumers one step closer to making purchases for virtual goods. “It is both a retention lift and a monetization tool” said Chou, regarding Kabam’s move to mobile devices. It’ll be very interesting to see how Zynga and Kabam compete with one another within the social gaming arena from here on out.

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