Update: GiftGaming recently put up a Seedrs crowdfunding campaign link. Check it out here.
One of the winners of the Techcrunch London Summer Meetup is a startup that deals with today’s issues of mobile gaming: in-app purchases and brand loyalty. Its name is GiftGaming.com and it’s a platform that makes it easy for mobile game developers to create self-service in-game ads and campaigns involving in-app purchases. It helps monetise ads without disrupting a player’s enjoyment.
In short, this is something the Asian games industry can benefit from.
A brief explanation of the system: GiftGaming‘s goal was to solve the problem where out of a number of mobile gamers in a region, only 1.5 per cent of them make in-app purchases. Conversely, ad spending is worth US$3.4 billion, while the in-game ads industry is worth close to US$2 billion. This is something people can get into quick with the help from the startup.
The platform itself lets brands pay for a person’s in-app purchase as long as they interact with their ads. Players get offers like a discount on in-game purchases and power-ups, or even a free gift at times when needed without any internal system fuss. GiftGaming gets its cut via commission.
But coming back to the earlier statement: does the startup have grand ideas of heading to Asia where the free-to-play market is ludicrously big? CEO Nick Hatter told e27 that he was toying with the idea of expanding into Asia. In his own words, the country is an “emerging market.” “Korea and Japan are certainly countries we will consider. We will hopefully achieve internationalisation, potentially with the help of UK Trade and Investment,” he added. When asked about which companies it wants to work with, Hatter, off the top of his head, named the bigwigs such as Square Enix, Capcom, Sony, and Sega.
The long road to relevance
So how long did it take for Hatter and his team to build up GiftGaming? “Around six months,” he said, “but that’s because we have other responsibilities and tasks to get on with. Part of the time is spent refining, getting out there, and talking to to potential clients. As Steve Blank said: “get the hell out of the office”.”
GiftGaming.com lets developers subtly bring in promotions and packages in-game without interrupting the player. Image credit: GiftGaming.com
Building a framework to accommodate these kinds of incentives and engagement on the fly is a challenge. “We didn’t want to build it just using PHP,” Hatter said. “We wanted to use the best tools available. After careful consideration, we went with Scala and Liftweb Framework.” The former tool is used by Twitter, while the latter is used by Foursquare; we’re very sure you’ve heard of those two apps before.
The next challenge the team had to consider was on making it easy to integrate for game developers. Thankfully, Hatter himself is an indie game developer. “I have integrated GiftGaming a few times now and it gets faster each time to integrate it. We want to make it as painless as possible for game developers. Also, making the dashboard easy to use for a non-technical person takes some thinking, as well as making it look easy on the eyes.”
It’s not like the startup doesn’t know what it’s doing: Hatter’s background is in internet security and advertising systems like OpenX, while his director of sales has 10 years’s experience in the sales and marketing field working for Procter & Gamble and Coca Cola. His advisor runs a business coaching company called Business Aspirations and doubles as a chartered secretary. “What is useful (about him) is that he is a much older and wiser, more seasoned businessman. He can help prevent us making some fatal mistakes,” noted Hatter.
Thinking beyond mobile
Despite its framework targeting smart devices, GiftGaming is attempting to reach games on all platforms. “The way I see it,” said Hatter, “game companies are already using advertising on console. For example, Battlefield 4 has adverts in it. Xbox has paid advertising in the form of content discovery.”
“I think gamers would rather they got something out of the advertising. Imagine if brands could “gift” you a free game on PSN for instance.” Of course, he agreed that these ads should be opt-in and non-intrusive.
A number of companies like Smaato approach using ads and RTX solutions in the wrong way. GiftGaming is a breakthrough step in the right direction; hopefully other companies can follow suit in the future.