NQ Mobile turns focus to gaming with 'Gods & Dragons' for iOS

If you think NQ Mobile is only a mobile security solutions firm, think again. Security remains its bread and butter, of course: As of the second quarter of 2013, NQ Mobile's consumer mobile security business maintained a global user base of 372 million registered accounts and 122 million monthly active accounts. But the company's fledgling FL Mobile gaming unit has also enjoyed significant success with a series of iOS and Android releases targeting the booming Asia Pacific market. Nine FL Mobile titles ranked among the top 100 grossing applications in the Chinese outpost of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store during the second quarter, and its platform boasts more than 16.1 million active users worldwide, with additional downloads now eclipsing 10 million per month.

No FL Mobile release has enjoyed greater success than the free-to-play Gods & Dragons. Earlier this year, the 3D action-puzzle MMORPG--an apocalypse-themed title that challenges gamers to battle, collect and evolve more than 300 monsters--climbed into the ranks of the top five grossing puzzle games for iOS in China, Bhutan and New Zealand. NQ Mobile is now launching Gods & Dragons in North America, signaling its first attempt to capture the domestic gaming audience; the iOS version went live in mid-September, and its Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android counterpart is slated to follow in late October. NQ Mobile Chief Commercial Officer Gavin Kim spoke to FierceDeveloper contributor Jason Ankeny about the company's gaming aspirations, the keys to successful monetization and the importance of localization.

Gavin Kim

Gavin Kim on NQ Mobile's expansion into gaming: We celebrate the fact that the NQ Mobile brand is synonymous with security. We think it's a great place to come from as we expand the scope of the services we deliver. We consider ourselves a mobile platform business. Our core competency is acquiring and engaging traffic across our platform and monetizing that engagement.

We acquired FL Mobile in November 2012. We had made a previous investment in the company, and then we acquired the remaining 78 percent stake. Gaming lends itself perfectly to the company becoming a broader platform business. Gaming isn't so different from security: The tools to acquire, engage and monetize consumers are similar across security and gaming. Both are highly coveted from a consumer perspective and from a partner perspective.

We see our business as a traffic business. We're leveraging the internal knowledge the company has built to drive traffic across our userbase, and to cross-sell and promote our platform across different genres of products. We're one of the few companies with capabilities and breadth to do this.

Kim on Gods & Dragons: Gods & Dragons is the fourth FL Mobile game to reach the iOS top 10 in China this year, and it's now among the top five highest-grossing puzzle games of all time. We selected this game for our North American launch because the card-battle game genre is a trending category within gaming in general. Something I've learned is that game mechanics and categories are cyclical, and the market is very supportive of this type of game right now. It's also a beautiful game--it's the first card battle-style game with a console-style 3D treatment.

When you're talking about games published in China, direct translation doesn't work. You have to apply a secret sauce to make them successful in other markets. We programmatically changed the game mechanics. The social mechanics also changed for a North American focus. In China, monetization is more focused towards whales, but for the U.S., we're taking steps away from whales to equalize the gameplay and let all gamers get equipped very quickly. There's no preferential treatment for some players. It's open to everyone. We're not forcing monetization.

Gods & Dragons ranks in the top five grossing puzzle games for iOS in China and is coming to North America. See the site here

[Successful in-app purchase monetization] is mostly dependent on the gameplay itself. You want to create a sense of immediacy, then over time offer additional features and a broader social experience. The more sticky the game is, the more engaged people are, and the length of play and overall quality of the user experience correlates to your ability to extract dollars. The game should mature the more the user plays.

Kim on optimizing Gods & Dragons for iOS 7 and Android: We've definitely taken advantage of the new processing capabilities [in iOS 7]. This is a game that's heavy on graphics, and the more processing power you have, the smoother the game will run. Within the game itself, you can set and calibrate the graphics performance. That doesn't mean you won't enjoy it on earlier versions of iOS, however.

Gods & Dragons is available on Android overseas, and we're taking the same approach to bringing it to North America. Localization to most people means changing language packs. We don't believe that.

I would emphasize that localization is something we're uniquely capable of doing. Acquiring FL Mobile has given [us] unprecedented access to popular titles in other markets, developed in-house and from third-party partners. We're very excited by this--Gods and Dragons represents just the first of many titles we plan to roll out here in North America.

Kim's best advice for aspiring mobile developers: This is not anything terribly earth-shattering, but it all comes back to identifying a core consumer need or want. Building a product to satisfy that need is step one.

Building your product or app is fairly straightforward. The challenge is becoming more about acquisition and engagement of users. Finding the right platform partner to help you achieve those goals can help.

Developer Workshop is a series of profiles exploring the current state of the mobile marketplace from the point of view of the software developers mapping out its future. Each profile focuses on a developer with a compelling story to tell, and offers their perspective on what the industry's doing right, what it's doing wrong and how to make it better. Check out our previous workshops on Shazam, InfoMedia, Viigo, Meet Now Live, Shortcovers, Pint Sized Mobile, Geodelic, Spark of Blue Software, Tarver Games, People Operating Technology Booyah, Bolt Creative, Thwapr, Monkeyland Industries, Rocket Racing League, Vlingo, Advanced Mobile Protection, PapayaMobile, Taptu, GameHouse, Avatron, aisle411, Crowdstory, Outfit7, ADP, Locai, The PlayForge, Universal Mind, Khush, MindJolt SGN, Matchbook, Next One's on Me, Out of the Park Developments, WhosHere, Roaming Hunger, Inside News360, RotoWire, Glympse, PlayFirst, PicsArt, Digisocial, MapQuest, VMware, Sidecar, @Walmart Labs and Voxer.