Publishers must cater to casual gamers to stay relevant in increasingly crowded market

Lon Otremba

    Lon Otremba

As tablets, smartphones and netbooks proliferate, casual games are now becoming the portal for millions to connect to their social networks via the mobile Web without having to leave their games community or jump from app to app or game to game.

Thanks to developers who have perfected HTML5 and made advancements in the mobile browser, the casual game experience is now an "always on" pervasive state of operating on the mobile Web. Games are now the content leader across all mobile Web publishing. Soon, as next-generation aspects of social gaming kick in, casual games will become more addictive, more dynamic and easier for millions of users to access.

We have one of the largest gaming communities on the mobile Web, and it has been one of the stickiest online destinations for social casual games since 2005. Given the impact of HTML5 as a dynamic new technology and the convergence of mobile, social and gaming, we decided it was time for a rebranding that shifted away from our former company name "Cellufun" toward a name that more accurately reflects the fresh, technologically advanced approach our company is taking with its newest games, its overall user experience and our brand strategy going forward. 

As of April 2012, we are now called "Tylted,"  a name that came from a crowdsourcing contest where we asked our user community to submit and vote on a new name. Over 30,000 participated in the content and came up with "Tylted" upon which we are now building our brand. "Tylted" illustrates where we sit at the hub of social networking, casual games and the mobile Web.  

Indicative of the rebrand is our new title CuBug, a Tetris-style tile matching game that engages players with bots that capture bugs then hatch into virtual features like wallpaper that then can be gifted to other players in rainbow colors. While simple to play and addictively engaging, we think it also represents a leap in game capability for the mobile Web.

Among other things, it has full swipe/touch capability, is fully compatible with any HTML5-based device (phone, tablet or desktop) and is completely cloud-based so you can start a game on one device and switch to another. CuBug is also the kind of game that can monetize easily because of its social media and brand integration components within and around the game. Advertisers can engage with a highly-targeted audience of players chatting, comparing scores, exchanging points, customizing virtual goods and celebrating special occasions.

The addiction to gaming is not letting up yet, while gaming continues its 24/7 occupation on the mobile Web, there remains a massive audience of untapped casual gamers. We know they are out there. Typically 5 percent of users account for 85 percent of revenue from virtual goods traded in-game. There's another 25 percent of gamers who find appeal in casual games but don't play as often on the mobile Web.

As the games market becomes more crowded with new apps, state of the art mobile devices, players and advertisers, how do we stand out? We had to take hard look at our position and play to our strengths.

We had a foundation in HTML5 which gave us the ability to rapidly publish customized version of games that offered brands and agencies some of the best product placement and monetization opportunities for in-game advertising. We already give brands the option of integrating into different parts of the game from chat rooms and to score comparisons to customized virtual goods. But that's not enough.

Going forward, our success will largely depend on three factors: 1) shifting our virtual currency model 2) transforming casual users into avid users and 3) establishing a direct relationship with advertisers by delivering the measurable units that matter to them.

What is the best paradigm for audience building, engagement and monetization in the casual games future? For Tylted, it will mean focusing more on monetizing our virtual goods business that is quickly gaining traction beyond our hardcore fans. As a publisher it's our job to deliver the best possible in-game experience that will keep users across the mobile web occupied and engaged. We rely on our developers to create the games that can keep players occupied for hours. The use of anonymous personal avatars, in-game chat and the ability to share virtual currency have been critical factors to our success and we manage them well.  Now next generation aspects such as geo-location, connections, touch, virtual currency and 3D animation within the mobile browser are creating a new paradigm for developers to work with while providing behavioral insights about gamer motivation, decision-making and brand loyalty. That's why developers have "hero" status from our perspective.

A major factor in the ongoing success of Tylted is that each gamer must create an anonymous (and this is key) personal avatar that reflects personal interests and enables them to inhabit a virtual community where they can make friends, compete, have conversations, earn currency, court and even get married. Some of these players are even planning a funeral to say goodbye to Cellufun, on May 7. 

Putting the user first, creating new revenue sources, leveraging HTML5 and evolving along with the developments in the mobile browsers have been key factors in the success of our business and the reasons why Tylted will continue to be one of the top social games companies on the mobile Web. How well we embrace the mobile web will determine a precedent for games companies, consumers, brands and content creators to do the same.

Lon Otremba is the CEO of Tylted (formerly Cellufun).

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