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The biggest problem mobile game developers have on the Android and iOS platforms is getting their games discovered. While iOS is crowded with a wealth of great titles, the less competitive Android Market suffers from a lack of overall visibility.
Enter Beijing-based PapayaMobile, which has more than 25 million users in its international social gaming network. The company, which earlier this year raised $18 million in venture capital financing, today with focused on Android titles with iOS opportunities on its future roadmap.
In this edition of Game Theory, we check in with PaypayaMobile’s Head of Developer Relations Paul Chen to discuss the company’s virtual currency program, Google DNA, and vision for how Android tablets will drive gaming development worldwide.
Appolicious: With 25 million users to date, PapayaMobile's social network has totally taken of with Android users. Without the aid of any marketing spin, explain the key factors in the company's success.
Paul Chen: Yes, Papaya has become a major tool for Android users to discover and play social games. Our accelerated growth in user base has primarily come from quality third-party titles integrating into our gaming network. As more quality games become a part of the Papaya network, Android users are naturally gravitating towards our platform and realizing that Papaya serves as a discovery tool for the latest and greatest social games through social recommendations. Developers continue to use Papaya as they see the high engagement levels within our social graph and recognize Papaya is the leader in driving viral, free traffic.
APPO: Are there any other mobile gaming platforms - iOS or otherwise - where PaypayaMobile can achieve similar viral success?
PC: There are two platforms in mobile that developers know they have the best probability of monetizing, iOS and Android. We have currently focused on Android to date, but as the developer community sees our success on Android, they have continually requested for us to enable both our social features and our social graph on iOS. Hence, iOS is a platform we have in our roadmap and we will be providing more details when available.
APPO: I'm sure it helps that the company's co-founder, Si Shen, previously worked at Google. How many former Googlers work for PapayaMobile? How significant the Google DNA is to your company's culture and operations?
PC: Actually, although our CEO and Co-Founder Si Shen originated at Google, we currently do not have any other office members that are former Googlers. Much of this stems from the fact that the majority of our team is based in Beijing where there is not as much Google talent to pull from. Nonetheless, the Google DNA pervades through our company. We hire smart, talented, and passionate people and provide them the freedom and resources to make a difference in the industry, much like Google. That will continue to be our culture as the Papaya business and team grows to new levels.
APPO: As Head of Developer Relations, what is the biggest grip you hear from game creators trying to achieve adoption?
PC: The biggest gripe I hear from other developers is application discovery, both on iOS and on Android. On iOS, the amount of quality games in the iTunes App Store continues to grow, making it more difficult for any individual game to standout. On Android, the competition is currently not as fierce, but getting Android users to find that latest and greatest app from the thousands of games in the Android marketplace in still a challenge. Also, as more quality titles are ported from iOS to Android, Android competition will also surely increase.
APPO: How do you detail your value proposition to them?
PC: The goal of the Papaya social network is to provide a forum for friends to introduce games to each other through various means (game invitations, player challenges, virtual good gifting, etc). As opposed to traditional app discovery (users trolling through app stores in an attempt to find the latest and greatest games) users on the Papaya network are recommending games to each other and simplifying app discovery. Papaya’s core value comes from our engaged community creating virality for our games at no cost to developers.
APPO: Earlier this year, PapayaMobile raised $18 million in venture capital financing. How are you spending the cash?
PC: We are spending this cash to improve our social network product offerings and grow teams in our various offices. In terms of product, we are focused heavily on improving mobile virality. For example, we are consistently monitoring the K-factor of our network and experimenting with new features to increase this number. In terms of team building, each of our offices will be increasing head count with talented acquisitions. In Beijing we are continuing to hire top notch engineers to drive creation of the latest and greatest products. In the U.S. and in Europe we are growing our business teams so that we can continue to communicate our value proposition to the developer community and increase the number of titles in the Papaya game portfolio.
APPO: How do you see developers embracing Android tablets today?
PC: Android tablets represent an amazing opportunity for developers for two reasons: it provides access to new markets around the world and the larger screen size allows for new levels of user interactivity. One of the most important aspects of Google tablets is that manufacturers now have an OS platform to address the mid-tier to low-tier tablet market which the iPad currently cannot reach. Because Honeycomb is free and open, various manufacturers from emerging market countries will use Honeycomb to create low cost tablets and target a new category of customers. This means countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China now have access to low cost tablet computers and enable game developers to reach entirely new demographics. In addition, larger screen sizes and resolutions will allow developers to take advantage of the additional real estate provided to them. The ability to combine friends lists, in-game chats, and player newsfeeds all in to one screen, simultaneously, allows for a new level of social interactivity for mobile games.
APPO: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the mobile media industry currently keeping you up at night?
PC: There are three big ones:
1) App discovery.
2) Creating the right mechanics in a particular app to maximize revenue.
3) Knowing how to address the fragmentation that currently exists in mobile (different operating systems, different app stores, different billing solutions, etc).